Last February, freeskier Veronica Paulsen won two titles at once: She became the reigning Queen of Corbet’s and the first woman to ever land a backflip into the high-altitude couloir.
This year, she thinks some competitors might be coming for her title. Asked whether she thought another female athlete would try to land the same trick during the Kings and Queens of Corbet’s huckfest Thursday, Paulsen said she did — and she had an idea of who might.
“There’s this new girl Sophia that’s going to be in the comp,” Paulsen said, referring to Sophia Rouches. “I stalked her on Instagram, and the first photo I saw was this massive backflip.”
So the competition begins.
Backies, spins, grabs and plain old airs will be on the menu this afternoon when 27 notorious air hounds descend on the infamous chute atop Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
Standing high in the sky at a hair under 10,500 feet, Corbet’s sits just below the summit of Rendezvous Mountain. Mountaineer and ski instructor Barry Corbet’s prediction bequeathed the rocky enclosure its name in 1960 as he scouted what would later become the resort. He saw the chute and, as legend has it, said, “Someday, someone will ski that.”
And ski it they have.
Kings and Queens is just the latest — and, perhaps, most formal — iteration of competition in the couloir. This will be its fourth year, and in the past few competitions, women have gone big. Caite Zeliff’s massive straight air won her the 2019 title, reprising her coronation from the year before. Paulsen’s successful 2020 backflip made her the new queen — gaining her headlines across the ski industry. Parkin Costain, the 2020 king, told the Jackson Hole Daily that female athletes have been “stepping it up.”
“I think that maybe there’ll be less and less of a divide between the men’s competition and women’s competition,” he said. “It’s gonna be just a bunch of humans hucking it into Corbet’s.”
Paulsen agreed women are raising the bar, year after year: “The progression that we’re seeing is pretty quick.”
The goal of the comp, of course, is coronation. But it’s also a chance to get deep into — or high above — one of the most iconic lines in resort skiing. Closed for two or so weeks before the big day, the run is more or less untracked for the first few skiers and snowboarders to hit the hill.
“I like hucking myself into Corbet’s, and this is the best way to do it,” Paulsen said.
This year, things were looking hairy a week or so ago after a wind event scoured the couloir. Jess McMillan, the resort’s events and partnerships manager, said that “wasn’t good.”
“If the contest was last week, we would have rescheduled,” she said.
But the resort’s park and pipe crew got to work. The team added a few new features to slow athletes down and counteract the bulletproof, wind-scoured slope. They also broke up the surface a bit so any new snow would stick. And then the snow came.
One hundred-thirty-eight inches of the good, white fluffy stuff fell in Rendezvous Bowl between Jan. 26 and Tuesday. McMillan said that has dramatically improved conditions.
“At this point, I think it’s going to be epic,” she said.
Costain agreed but said the weather, which is looking cloudy, could scale down the tricks.
“I think everyone, if it is fully socked in, will tone it down a bit,” he said, “just because it wouldn’t be safe to send it when we can’t see the ground.”
The skier said he’s been thinking about this year’s high-elevation showdown since the day after last year’s competition.
He hopes to defend his crown, but acknowledged this is “the most intimidating but fun week of the year.”
“It’s just so much anticipation,” he said. “Also Corbet’s is really scary when you look down at it, knowing you’re about to air into it.”
Paulsen is also looking to defend her title. But she said one of the reasons why Kings and Queens is the only competition she participates in is because it’s laid-back.
“It’s no politics,” she said. “Just huck your meat into Corbet’s and have fun.”
People can watch the competition from the base of Ten Sleep Bowl, though the number of in-person viewers allowed will be limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Otherwise, the whole shebang will be broadcast for free on Red Bull TV starting at 1 p.m. Monday.
You can also follow this writer on Twitter (@heybarnold1) for live, day-of updates.
Winners will be announced Saturday night over Jackson Hole Mountain Resort's social media. Its Instagram handle is @jacksonhole. Find the resort on Twitter at @jhski.
This article has been updated with new information: when the results will be announced. — Ed.