Ski and Snowboard Club Vail freeskier Finn Griffith goes out on top
18-year-old claimed IFSA overall title with North American Junior Championship win
It’s probably safe to say Finn Griffith’s freeride career is only beginning. That being said, the Ski and Snowboard Club Vail big mountain star is leaving the junior ranks the same way John Elway and Peyton Manning left the NFL: on top.
Griffith took the 2023 International Freeskiers Association (IFSA) North American Junior Championship title on April 8 at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in Golden, British Columbia, securing the IFSA 15-18 overall season crown in the process.
“He just kept working hard, had some great results through the season and ended it on a really high note,” said SSCV head freeride coach Matt Luczkow. After placing sixth at the Freeride Junior World championships in Kappl, Austria, on Jan. 23-26, which pegged the best European athletes on the FWT Junior circuit against the best skiers on the North American equivalent IFSA tour, Griffith came home and won back-to-back domestic competitions at Grand Targhee and Copper Mountain.
“He came back from junior worlds I think pretty confident because that’s a big stage and it’s really out of our comfort zone over there and he still skied really well,” Luczkow said.
“I think that was really validating and confidence-boosting for him because he really kind of sticks with his game plan and his style of skiing.”
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Griffith doesn’t force flashy aerial maneuvers in the one-run, big mountain format, but relies on speed and smoothness to woo the judges.
“He really stuck to his style this year and wasn’t so concerned about tricks, but really just executing flawless runs,” Luczkow said. “You’ll see him ski these lines and he’ll go bigger than other people but make it looker smoother… and do it faster.”
Having graduated out of the junior division, Griffith will likely set his sites on the Freeride World Tour, which he can qualify for via the Freeride World Qualifier tour next year. Griffith is the first overall winner Luczkow has coached in his six years at SSCV, and he believes Griffith could join Kevin and Jack Nichols as the only SSCV freeskiers to compete on the FWT.
“I hope so,” the coach said. “I think it’s likely.”
Luczkow said Griffith’s performance has raised the expectation level amongst the seven athletes on the 15-18-year-old squad he coaches. Andrew Forstl finished the year second in the Rocky Mountain region standings (behind Griffith) and 16th overall.
“He’s the youngest in the category and he still skied very well,” Luczkow stated of Forstl’s performance at the NorAm championship. On the girls side, Kate Pitkin came to Canada ranked first and still wound up fourth. “That’s her best finish ever and next year we’re hoping she can do even better,” the coach continued.
The torch will be handed down to Forstl, but Griffith’s influence, especially amongst the 30 or so 12-15-year-olds who looked up to him as a role model, was special.
“I’ve been very proud of him this year for the example he’s set for the team,” Luczkow said of Griffith. “We’re going to miss him, but I think what he’s done this year has given a lot of the kids a lot of confidence. So, you know, there is some lasting effects of his presence on the team going forward.”
His coaches and teammates weren’t the only ones to recognize Griffith’s radiating love for people and skiing, either. After he climbed to the top step of the podium in British Columbia for winning the event and again for claiming the season overall, he was afforded a third chance on account of earning the coveted “Mayor of Freeride” title. Voted on by competitors at the NorAm final, the award honors the individual most liked and respected by peers for embodying enthusiasm for the sport.
“It was cool — not only is he winning these events, but people like him out there,” Luczkow said. “He’s a good ambassador for our club and sport.”