Tetonscapes: Going Big

Twenty-five athletes compete for the title of King or Queen of the valley’s most iconic (and terrifying) ski run.

By Maggie Theodora

CORBET’S COULOIR, A double black diamond run near the top of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (JHMR) tram, requires skiers and snowboarders to jump off a vertical cornice at its start. It has long been a test piece among expert and extreme skiers across the country. Skiers come to Jackson specifically to ski Corbet’s—or to stand at the top, decide the drop looks too scary, and back away. In 2018, JHMR made Corbet’s iconic status official when it invited twenty-five skiers and snowboarders to compete in the Kings & Queens of Corbet’s event. It has since become a favorite among athletes. “No other comp is like it, where everyone takes the same hit,” says professional skier (and the 2018 and 2019 Queen of Corbet’s) Caite Zeliff. “You really get to see the person in that space, and what they do with it says so much about them as a skier.” 

Last year, skier Veronica Paulson said a lot when she became the first woman to do a backflip into the couloir (this earned her the title of 2020 Queen of Corbet’s). In 2019, snowboarder Travis Rice hurtled himself off the lip and flew so far he landed almost halfway down the couloir (winning the King of Corbet’s title). Last year’s King of Corbet’s, skier Parkin Costain, entered the couloir via a double backflip.

In addition to everyone doing the same line, Kings & Queens is also unusual among freeriding comps because skiers and snowboarders compete against each other and because the athletes themselves pick the winners. (Usually skiers and snowboarders are ranked in separate categories and the judging is done by judges.) Jess McMillan—the 2007 Freeskiing World Tour Champion and JHMR’s senior events and partnership manager, who came up with the idea for Kings & Queens—says she’s always thought skiers and snowboarders were pushing the sport of freeriding together and that it didn’t make sense to separate them. “It doesn’t matter what’s on your feet,” she says. It does matter to her that the athletes push each other, and she thinks this happens at Kings & Queens. “The athletes are all competing against each other, but also supporting each other,” she says. “It is neat to see the dynamic created by having it be athlete judged.”

The fourth annual Kings & Queens of Corbet’s will be held one day between February 16 and 21, 2021. (The actual date will be selected based on conditions.) As of press time, JHMR wasn’t sure what the on-site spectator situation would be; usually you can watch from Ten Sleep Bowl, a black diamond trail off the Sublette chairlift. However, every single run, along with the awards ceremony, will be edited into a movie that will be made available to watch online at jacksonhole.com and RedBull TV (redbull.com) on February 28. JH

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