Addison Rafford and Megane Bétend: Flight formation

At the end of the 2022 Freeride World Qualifier (FWQ) season, two of our ambassadors earned a promotion to the Freeride World Tour (FWT).

FWT is as close to a freeride world championship as it gets. The competition brings together 30 skiers over 5 stages to crown the best of the world’s freeriders each year in Verbier, on the Bec des Rosses. Competing on the FWQ last winter, the second division that gives access to the FWT, Addison Rafford finished first in the US circuit, and Megane Bétend got second on the European tour. We asked our two crows a few questions about their season, their equipment, and their future.

Morgan Bétend won her ticket to the FWT by finishing second on the European FWQ circuit

Blackcrows : Can you tell us about your skiing history, from your very first time to this season?

Morgane Bétend : My parents are mountain people, so I naturally started skiing at the age of 2 and I was soon racing in competitions under the banner of Mont Saxonnex, my little village in Haute Savoie. I scored some results but was never really passionate about alpine skiing. I went on until I passed my ski instructor’s diploma, and then came to Chamonix for high school and stayed there ever since. I started to freeride, skiing in the wild mountains, and I loved it straight away!

At the end of the 2015 winter, my ski instructor colleagues got me to a freeride competition, a 2* event in Les Arcs. I had never been so stressed at a starting gate, but I finished on the podium for my very first race. I told myself that I would like to do it again.

After getting my university degree, I wanted to give myself the chance to ride on the FWT. I thus did put a lot of things in place: a rigorous physical training, a coach on the skis, and I got myself some free time. In 2020 and 2021, I had my two best seasons finishing first in France and 2nd overall in the FWQ.

«This winter is the culmination of everything I’ve put in place and the sacrifices I’ve made to get here. »

Morgane Bétend’s parents are mountain people, she started to ski early on

Addison Rafford : I was born ‘n raised in the mountains. With my feet stuffed into the smallest boots my dad could find and a sticker pack to mod out my much like cantaloupe helmet, I was well on my way down an icy New England slope. espite having east coast blood, my true roots come fromIdaho.

With Bald Mountain in my backyard and my playground the Sawtooths : skiing quickly became a lifestyle. I found myself drawn to mogul skiing, not because I wanted to prematurely break in my knees for a lifetime of destruction, but initially because I saw it was the program with the least amount of structure.

I didn’t want rules or to have to wear a tight suit. The Freestyle team checked all these boxes and more, and so with that, I hopped in the van playing Andre Nickatina with a piece of cardboard in place of the rearview window and didn’t get out until 7 years later when something that appeared to be even more undisciplined yet authentic came across my radar: Freeride skiing.

I threw my Fischer skis out and picked up a pair of blackcrows camox birdie. I was 17 when I registered for my first big mountain comp. I was hooked instantly by the culture and people surrounding the sport.

I finished out a successful season and the following year I went to college in Bozeman, Montana, where I then tried my luck in the Freeride World Qualifiers circuit. I came in too hot and didn’t put down a complete run all season. COVID happened. I took the year off and skied for myself, and for one of the first times in my life, my skiing wasn’t reflected in numbers written by a judge. I came into the 21/22 season hungry for many things. I wanted to compete again, travel, party, go skiing with my friends, make some more friends, and have a good time doing it all. I wanted to win but wasn’t going to let it affect these other experiences that seemed much more valuable than standing on top of a podium. I didn’t compare or overanalyze, I skied for nobody but me, and I qualified first for the Freeride World Tour 2023.

Picture by Amy Jimmerson

« I wanted to compete again, travel, party, go skiing with my friends, make some more friends, and have a good time doing it all, » says Addison Rafford about her 21.22 season

Blackcrows : how do you train before the season starts?

Morgane Bétend : I always do sports, but from the end of summer and throughout the autumn I follow a more specific program with the help of my physical trainer. There is a lot of training in the gym followed by outdoor recovery on my bike or on the trail but also all the other activities I like: hiking/paragliding, yoga, climbing, mountaineering, mountain biking.
For the last 4 winters I have been training with Greg Liscot, head coach of the Young Rider Crew in Chamonix. Greg is a former professional skier, he has a lot of experience in the field and is very committed to his athletes. He has helped me to regain my confidence and I am constantly improving, which motivates me to work even harder! Our training sessions are structured according to the conditions and needs. We can do technical skiing and jumping as well as trajectory and line work.

Addison Rafford : I train primarily at EPIC, a fitness center in Bozeman,Montana, with some of the best coaches in the game. Paul Herberger, owner, and certified badass, has me training with intent, building my strength and agility, while also largely focusing on injury prevention.

« I get my ass handed to me just about every single day I go in, nonetheless, they have played a significant role in my confidence and ability on skis. »

Additionally, much of my “training” comes from a number of other activities. I spent three months in Fiji last spring working on a TV set lugging well over my body weight in camera gear through the tropics. When I’m not freelancing, I spend my time hopping from one backyard mini ramp to the next and trying to keep up with my Pops in the loose rock of some 12,000ft peak.

When I choose to spend time in the water, I usually get a pretty good workout alone from
being pummeled by just about every wave that comes my way. I play a mean game of mini-golf and can guarantee if I get my hands on a bowling ball, something will be knocked over.

Morgane Bétend riding down the Angélique in Chamonix

Blackcrows : What is your most important piece of gear?

Morgane Bétend : Until two winters ago I only used the atris birdie 178 cm. It’s a versatile ski that adapts to all types of snow. This winter I took the anima birdie 182 cm. Although its more physical because they are wider and taller, they are more stable and I feel solid on them, especially when I’m jumping cliffs. I used only these skis during the FWQ finals, despite the very different snow conditions from one competition to another. Another essential element: my heated socks (Lenz brand if you want to know everything). I’m really cold sensitive and there’s nothing more unpleasant than skiing while being cold.

Addison Rafford : I ride my Camox’s almost every single day, they are my go-to all-mountain ski. I find them to be a bit more playful than the Atris, another model I ride fairly often. If a venue has a decent amount of fresh snow I usually opt for the Atris over the Camox. They charge a bit harder and carry some more width, offering a bit more stability when landing a big drop into deep snow. I am stoked to be adding the new Anima’s to my quiver this upcoming season.

A 1st place in the infamous Nendaz freeride last season for Morgane Bétend

« I need to hear the sound of my skis on the snow, the wind whistling through my helmet. I associate the sound with my sensations »

Morgane Bétend in Norway a few years back

 

Blackcrows : do you ride with music in competition or elsewhere?

Morgane Bétend : I never ride with music. I’ve tried but I find it logistically restrictive and I like to be able to hear the elements around me when I ski. I need to hear the sound of my skis on the snow the wind whistling through my helmet. I associate the sound with my sensations. When I am about to go, I think about many things, my line, will I make it? Is this the right choice? I also think about what the others are going to do but I quickly refocus. Although we are competing, I always try to be proud of myself and do the best run possible. I isolate myself at the top, warm up and close my eyes, visualising my line as I will ski it.

Addison RaffordYou won’t catch me a day going without music. It is responsible for the way I ski and how I feel doing it, it gives me my style, confidence, energy, flow, everything. On comp day, in preparation for my run, I rely entirely on music. Aside from my skis, headphones are arguably the most important, if not most valuable, piece of equipment I need to perform my best. I listen to a very large variety of music, but when you see me in the start gate, 50 Cent or Kodak wouldn’t be a bad guess.

Morgane Bétend navigating icy slabs in the Bassin d’Argentière above Chamonix

Blackcrows : what do you think of this year’s events, your favourite runs?

Morgane Bétend : Last year we only had 3 competitions, in Switzerland (thanks to COVID), which all counted for the general ranking. There was no room for mistakes. This year the system has changed, the winter was divided into several stages. The first one was to be part of the final with the first 9 girls qualified on their 3 best results. Once in the finals, the counters were reset to zero: the first 2 girls of the play offs would qualify for the FWT. The first stage of the finals took place in Nendaz, I wanted to repeat the same performance as last year with my first victory on this face. I did not go for the same line at all because the conditions were completely different and I could jump bigger and go in the middle which is steeper. This remains my favourite face and run of the season. After that there was Jasna where I missed the first qualifying place by a little bit, and then suspense until the end…

Addison Rafford : I don’t usually reflect on my own comp runs. Once I am through the corral that’s the last I’ll think of it, but when I look back at this season I have a lot to be proud of. Crash or not, I wouldn’t change a single one of the liness I chose to drop into.

Addison Rafford ride her Camox’s almost every single day « they are my go-to all-mountain ski » Picture by Dan Armstrong

 

Addison Rafford carrying gear for her summer job in the Fidji islands. Picture by Chris Ellison

« I have never traveled outside of North America to ski. »

Morgane Bétend competing in Obergurgl, Austria in 2018

 

Blackcrows : what are your expectations for next year?

Morgane Bétend : I know that the hardest is yet to come, I was already motivated but now I am even more so! It’s almost time to dream of a world champion’s title. At first I would like to stay on the FWT, you have to be in the top 6 after only 3 competitions to hope to race the finals and qualify for the next season. I also really want to ski the famous Bec des Rosses in Verbier. For me it is the most beautiful freeride face in the world..

Addison Rafford : I have never traveled outside of North America to ski. I am beyond excited to see another side of the world and be doing what I love to do most surrounded by the best in the game. I hope I can keep the mindset I had this season, though, as long as they have guys that like to shoot the shit up in the start gate, I should be okay. I’m more concerned about learning how to properly look through a pair of binos than the actual visual inspection itself. Should be a time! I can’t wait to get on snow and rip with all the Euro-crows.

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