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Some of the world’s best extreme skiers and snowboarders will hit the steeps of Crystal Mountain Resort from Thursday through Saturday at the International Freeskiers and Snowboarders Association sanctioned Freeride World Qualifier 4 Star competition, including Rachel Croft of Bellevue.

Croft, who now resides in Winter Park, Colorado, but still considers Crystal her home mountain is currently the top ranked in the Americas in freeride competition, which she started competing in 2012.

Expert freeride skier Rachel Croft who hails from Bellevue hopes to qualify for the World Freeride Tour from Thursday through Saturday at the Crystal Mountain Freeride World Qualifier event. Photo courtesy of Travis Poulin.
Expert freeride skier Rachel Croft who hails from Bellevue hopes to qualify for the World Freeride Tour from Thursday through Saturday at the Crystal Mountain Freeride World Qualifier event. Photo courtesy of Travis Poulin.

She will try to retain that position in this event that serves as the 2017 Northern Hemisphere Championships and hopefully allows her become eligible to compete in the Freeride World Tour.

The 2017 season has been a memorable one for Croft who finished on top of the podium at the Revelstoke Freeride World Qualifier 4 Star at Revelstoke in British Columbia, and took first place at the Taos Freeride World Qualifier 4 Star in Taos, New Mexico.

In 2016, Croft took third place at the Crystal Mountain IFSA 4 event, and eighth place in the Freeride World Qualifier 3 Star event at Revelstoke in British Columbia. She took time off from competition in 2015 season.

Freeriding isn’t for the faint of heart as competitors create their own lines down steep mountainsides, which are pre-planned by each competitor prior to their runs. They are scored based on line choice, fluidity, technique, control, and style as they ride down the terrain filled with trees, cliffs, rocky spots, chutes, ledges and gullies.

“I aspire to reach the podium at multiple Freeride World Tour Qualifier events this season, and to use my competition experience to encourage my athletes to wholeheartedly devote themselves to the sport,” Croft said.

Her parents Dick Croft and Lynne Murakami Croft are both avid skiers, and Croft began skiing when she was two-and-a-half-years-old at Crystal Mountain Resort. She spent a lot of her younger days skiing with the Rokka Ski Club that has a ski and snowboarding school at The Summit at Snoqualmie and a lodge at Crystal Mountain.

“During my sophomore year of college (at the University of Washington) I realized that life is too short to spend every day sitting at a desk, so I changed my major in order to graduate a year early and move to a ski town,” Croft said. “I relocated to Keystone, Colorado, where I was introduced to the rails and jumps that Crystal lacked, but I retained my passion for the steep, technical terrain of my home mountain.”

She first got the bug for freeriding when her friends in 2012 showed her some footage from the Freeride World Tour.

“I immediately signed up for as many qualifiers as I could and have been hooked on competing ever since,” she said. “When I moved to the Tetons to train with some fellow competitors, I was offered the opportunity to coach freeride for the Teton Valley Ski Education Foundation, which gave me the experience I needed to land a job with the big mountain team at the Winter Park Competition Center.”

Coaching has allowed Croft to share her love of big mountain skiing with future “Freeride World Tour” title contenders and has improved her skiing immensely.

Other notable events in Crofts’ career include first place at Grand Targhee Rail Jam; and first place at Grand Targhee Slopestyle Competition in 2014; and first at Taos Rails on Bales Rail Jam in 2012.

Croft graduated from Newport High School in 2006 where she was a National Merit Scholar, and played varsity soccer, track & field and gymnastics. She graduated from the University of Washington in 2009.

The snowboard qualifying will be on Thursday, ski qualifying on Friday, and finals for both are Saturday. For more information on the freeride event at Crystal Mountain, go to https://crystalmountainresort.com/event/adult-freeride-world-qualifier-fwq-2017/?instance_id=731.