How To Start Freeriding

What Is The IFSA?

The International Freeskiers and Snowboarders Association (IFSA) is the primary sanctioning, judging, and ranking organization for junior and adult big mountain Freeride events in North and South America.

The IFSA is a governing and sanctioning body.
The IFSA DOES NOT produce events.

We operate in partnership with the Freeride World Tour (FWT) and mountain resorts that host IFSA-sanctioned Freeride events. The IFSA has built and unified a network of events that allow athletes to earn points and compete in regional, national, and world tour events. The IFSA represents the interests of athletes and allows them to have a voice in their sport. Your membership with IFSA supports our mission, our staff, and allows you to earn points for a ranking against riders in your division, and earn recognition in the sport of Freeride. To learn more about the organization, visit the About Us section here on our website.

The IFSA is still very much a grassroots organization, relying on the support of coaches, athletes, parents, volunteers, and event partners to execute our mission. Currently, the IFSA staff work year round to support:

  • The Scheduling & Organization of 120+ Freeride Events
  • 500+ Freeride Coaches
  • 2,900 + Junior IFSA Athletes + Parents
  • 1,200 + Adult FWQ Athletes
  • 60+ Event Organizers
  • 100+ Freeride Teams
  • Registration for all Freeride Events
  • Social Media Coverage
  • Syncing Rankings for All Events (up to 10 per week!)
  • All Marketing + Athlete & Coach Communication Emails
  • Answering up to 120 Emails Per Day in Peak Season
  • Maintenance of IFSA Website + Event Page/Registration Page Listings
  • Maintenance of the Rule Handbooks & Documentation
  • Event Organizer Training Materials
  • Scorekeeper Training
  • Serving the Volunteer Board of Directors
  • Conducting Monthly & Bi-monthly Board Meetings
  • Coordinating Logistics With Event Organizers

To compete in IFSA-sanctioned events, you must have an active and current IFSA membership.
Memberships are required and offered for juniors (under-19), Freeride coaches, adult Freeride World Qualifier (FWQ) athletes, and FWQ Collegiate athletes.
To determine which IFSA membership type you need, see the diagram below.

To view a schedule of upcoming Freeride events, click the Competition tab on our homepage. The schedule is typically unveiled in September or October of each year.

I’m ready to purchase my IFSA membership.
Now what?

Coaches, juniors, and FWQ adult athletes must purchase an annual IFSA/FWQ Membership to compete in sanctioned events in North and South America. Once a member, you can sign up for events with your username and password. As you compete, you’ll rack up points against riders within your division.


PURCHASE AN IFSA MEMBERSHIP


JUNIOR SERIES

IFSA Junior Athletes are broken down into three age divisions:

  • U12: Under-12. Athletes 11 years of age or younger on or prior to December 31st are eligible only for the U12 age category.
  • U15: 12-14 year olds. Athletes 12-14 years of age on or prior to December 31st are eligible only for the 12-14 age category.
  • U19: 15-18 year olds. Athletes 15-18 years or age or older on December 31st are eligible only for the 15-18 age category.

Athletes competing in the Junior Series will compete in the age category that relates to their age as of December 31 leading up to that competition season. Athletes cannot advance a division, even if their birthday is mid-season.

Athletes who are 18 years of age can compete in FWQ Adult/Collegiate Series events OR continue to compete in the Junior Series. However, once an athlete competes in an Adult FWQ event or turns 19 years of age, they can no longer compete on the Junior Series.

Junior Series Athletes need both an IFSA membership and their home regional membership. Take a look at our IFSA Junior Regional map below. Your geographic region is determined by the location of the states where you will be competing most often. This designation dictates how the points for your Regional Series finishes are calculated.

  • East: Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and New York
  • Rocky Mountain: Colorado and New Mexico
  • Intermountain: Idaho, Utah
  • Northern: Montana, Wyoming
  • Far West: California, Nevada
  • Pacific Northwest: Oregon, Washington, Alaska, (and Sandpoint + Schweitzer Mountain Resort, ID) NOTE: Teams and athletes out of Sandpoint, ID and Schweitzer Mountain Resort have been assigned to the Pacific Northwest geographic region rather than the Intermountain geographic region. The Schweitzer Mountain Junior Regional 2* will be considered a Pacific Northwest Regional Series event.
  • Western Canada: Alberta and British Columbia
  • Eastern Canada: Ontario, Quebec
  • South America: Chile, Argentina


JUNIORS: Join A Big Mountain Team Or Club if Possible

As a Junior competitor, joining a big mountain team or club will teach you how to safely participate in Freeride while providing you with invaluable mountain sense, heightened decision making skills, and a supportive community that shares your love for Freeride. You will also benefit from learning alongside riders that will be competing at your level. Joining a Freeride team provides valuable insight pertaining to line choice, IFSA judging methodology, and how to succeed in Freeride. See our list of 2024 IFSA Registered Teams.

JUNIORS: If you can’t join a team, register as an IFSA independent.

If joining a team as a Junior isn’t feasible or there isn’t one in your area, that’s OK; simply sign up as “IFSA Independent” when registering. We encourage independent athletes and parents to proactively seek information about freeride safety and judging protocol. This information will help athletes make sound line choices with safety as a priority in competition and practice.

JUNIORS: Overview

Once you have an active IFSA membership, you can begin earning points by competing in events. Athletes under 18 years of age will compete as Juniors, those older than 18 will compete in our Adult Qualifier Series. Register for IFSA events through the LiveHeats platform. Information about registration times and links to LiveHeats registration pages can always be found on our event pages. Upon purchasing a membership, you will be added to our email list to receive updates about registration dates, important deadlines, community announcements, etc. Please also follow us on Instagram and Facebook for important updates.

The IFSA will sanction over 110 Junior Freeride Competitions across Argentina, Canada, Chile, and The United States in 2023-2024. Our Junior Community has grown to over 4,000 members, including over 3300 athletes and over 700 coaches. The IFSA is proud of this growth and remains focused on meeting the evolving needs of our sport and membership.

The new Junior Series Structure provides competitive opportunities to athletes of all ages and experience levels, while encouraging a healthy amount of competition. The new structure improves access to competitive opportunities for experienced, proven athletes while maintaining access for athletes with little or no history in freeride.

The IFSA is sanctioning four types of Junior Events in 2023-2024:

  • 2* (formerly Regional) Competitions
  • 3* (formerly National) Competitions
  • 4* (Championship) Competitions
  • Friendly (Non-ranked, Non-seeded) Competitions

U12 SERIES

The IFSA BOD, under advisement of the Coaches Committee, decided to maintain the existing U12 Series Structure for the 2023-2024 Competition Year.

  • Unranked Series: No cumulative outcomes, focus on friendly single day competitions.
  • Unseeded Athletes: No cumulative organization of one U12 athlete over another.
  • Open (TimeStamp) Registration: First come, first serve Competition Registration.
  • Open Junior Freeride Championship: All U12 Athletes invited who have competed in at least one IFSA sanctioned competition during the regular season. 90 Total Athletes Accepted across all U12 categories.

There will be no U12 competitors at 3* events this season, increasing the number of starts for the U15 and U19 athlete communities.

U12 athletes making the transition to U15 categories will be given 10 seeding points, to validate their experience in IFSA competitions, and to increase their chances of registering for 2* events over athletes who have never competed.

 

U15 & U19 SERIES

The IFSA BOD, under advisement of the Coaches Committee, following a two year planning process, voted to enact a new U15/U19 Series Structure for the 2023-2024 Competition Year.

  • Ranking: Athletes have 52 weeks to accumulate points and maximize their Region 2 Ranking. In mid-April of each year, immediately following the Junior Freeride Championships, all Region 2 Athlete’s rankings are reset to zero, and a new competition year begins. An athlete’s ranking is the sum of their top three regular season finishes from their first four regular season competitions, and their JFC result.
  • Seeding: The Seeding List provides cumulative organization of one athlete over another, for the purpose of fair event registration. Seeding is different from ranking. An athletes’ seed consists of their top three point earning results from the previous 52 weeks, at the time of calculating the seed. Freeride utilizes a rolling seeding list, meaning that there is a perpetual addition of an athlete’s top 3 point earning results from the previous 52 weeks, no matter the calendar date on which seeding is being calculated or viewed. All events, 1* through 3*, Junior Freeride Championship (JFC) and Junior Freeride World Championship (FJWC), are considered eligible for seeding. The seeding list will be publicly available on LiveHeats so athletes and coaches can assess registration status.
  • Max 4 Ranked Events: Athletes have four competitions to build their regular season ranking. If an athlete participates in more than four events, these additional events are classified as “Friendly”. “Friendly” athletes can still achieve podium positions and receive event prizes, but no ranking or seeding points will be assigned. Note that “Friendly” athletes are only accepted to a competition once all other athletes have been confirmed.

Competition Registration

During registration for any event, every athlete will have 72 hours to complete their registration, and all athletes will be immediately placed on a waitlist.

  • 2* (Regional) Events: Once the 72-hour registration window is closed, the top-seeded athletes will be moved off the waitlist and confirmed until 50% of each division in the event is full. The remaining 50% of event starts will be awarded by registration timestamp (first-come, first-served).
  • 3* (National) Events: Once the 72-hour registration window is closed, the top-seeded athletes will be moved off the waitlist and confirmed until 90% of the event is full. The remaining 10% of event starts will be held until three weeks before the competition, to allow athletes who move up the seeding list during the competition season an opportunity to get a 3* start. Three weeks prior to the start of a 3* event, the 10% registration window will close, and remaining top-seeded athletes will be moved off the waitlist and confirmed until the event is 100% full.

Competition Registration Timelines

  • 2* (Regional) Events: Event registration will close between 4 and 8 weeks before an event, depending on the Region. Each Region is different, and the Regional Series Directors have been empowered by the IFSA BOD to select the 2* Registration timeline which best suits its population. Please see “2* Competition Registration” for more details and tips on registering your athlete.
  • 3* (National) Events: Event registration will happen the first two weeks of December, and will be facilitated by the IFSA Administrative team. There will be three blocks of 3* registration (the first four 3* events, the next five 3* events, and the final six 3* events). Please see “3* Competition Registration” for more details and tips on registering your athlete.

     

2* Competition Registration

The IFSA is composed of nine Regions, each with their own specific set of needs and unique influential dynamics. The Regional Series Directors will select a 2* Registration timeline which best suits their athlete populations, no shorter than 4 weeks before an event, and no longer than 8 weeks before a competition is held.

Regardless of when a 2* event registration opens, the process will follow the same steps, to assure consistency across Region 2 – The Americas.

  • Step 1: Registration will open on Liveheats, as scheduled by the Regional Series Directors (see above). All athletes who register are automatically placed on a waitlist.
  • Step 2: After 72 hours, registration closes, and no further athletes will be able to sign up for the competition.
  • Step 3: Once the 72-hour registration window closes, the top-seeded athletes will be moved off the waitlist and confirmed until 50% of each division in the event is full. (50% seeding)
  • Step 4: The remaining 50% of event starts will be confirmed by time-stamp, with athletes who registered the earliest being moved off the waitlist until all divisions in the competition are full. (50% open registration)

Credit Cards are charged at the time of athlete confirmation, along with non-refundable LiveHeats and IFSA fees. Cancellation before Step 2, the 72 hour registration window closing, is possible without penalty or charge.

For 2024, four Regions have elected to restrict 2* registration to athletes within their Region, so to guarantee enough starts for their local junior athlete community. These Regions are Intermountain, Northern, Rockies, and Western Canada. Once these Regions have completed the above registration process, they have the choice to reopen registration for 2* events to out of region athletes, should these events not be full.

If you are uncertain if your athlete’s seed is high enough to guarantee entry to an event through the “50% seeded invitation,” then register as early as you can during the registration window to provide your athlete the best opportunity to be invited through timestamp.

Some 2* events are incredibly popular, with over 250 athletes trying to sign up for 100 spots. Other 2* events have fewer athletes trying to register. If your athlete has no or low seeding, then signing up for a variety of 2* events could result in them getting more starts over the course of a season, and gaining more seeding points for future years of competing.

3* Competition Registration

3* Event Registration will take place the first two weeks of December, and will be facilitated by the IFSA Administrative team. All 3* events are filled through the seeding list – there is no open registration for these highly competitive events. Remember that athletes can compete in a MAXIMUM of three, 3* events during a season.

  • Step 1: Registration will open on LiveHeats, according to the schedule, and all athletes who register will be automatically placed on a waitlist. Immediately after registering, athletes will receive an initial email acknowledging receipt of their registration. It’s important to note that this email is solely a confirmation of receipt and does not imply entry confirmation.
  • Step 2: After 72 hours, registration will close, and no further athletes will be able to sign up for the competition until the 10% window reopens (explained below).
  • Step 3: Once the 72-hour registration window closes, the IFSA administration team will calculate the field sizes for all categories at these events, and communicate this information to all athletes on the waitlist.
  • Step 4: Waitlisted athletes will have 24 hours to either keep their registration active, or to cancel it without charge or  penalty.
  • Step 5: Then, top-seeded athletes will be moved off the waitlist and confirmed until 90% of each division in the event is full. Once the event hits 90% confirmed, the event registration will reopen, and all athletes not confirmed into the 90% will return to the waitlist.
  • Step 6: The remaining 10% of spots will be confirmed three weeks before a competition. The process for confirming these 10% will be the same as above. Registration will close three weeks before an event, a message will be sent to all athletes on the waitlist, and after a 24 hour period, athletes will be confirmed for the event based on the current seeding list.

Note: Credit Cards are charged at the time of athlete confirmation for an event, along with non-refundable LiveHeats and IFSA fees. For 3* events, there are two opportunities to cancel without charge

    • (1) During the first 24 hour waiting period between the event closing and the 90% athlete confirmation.
    • (2) During the second 24 hour waiting period between the event closing and 10% athlete confirmation.

Tip: To minimize cancellation fees, utilize the 24 hour window between registration closing and invites being made to manage your signups. It is your responsibility to cancel your athlete.

Junior Freeride Championship

Each season, in late-March, the top season ranked juniors will receive an invitation to the Junior Freeride Championships (JFC). JFC invites will be based on season ranking, not seeding.

  • Junior Freeride Championship: Points earned at JFC’s are added to every JFC athlete’s seasonal ranking. Points earned at JFC’s are also considered when calculating an athlete’s position on the 52 week Seeding List. It is possible that an athlete who does poorly at JFC’s could have three higher results at other competitions, so it is not 100% a rule that JFC points will influence an athlete’s seed. The IFSA also provides a JFC event specifically for our U-12 athletes and limited registration is rolled out on a first come, first served basis.
  • Freeride Junior World Championships: Points earned at FJWC’s are only considered for an athlete’s 52 week seed. The point value for FJWC results is the same as for JFC’s (uses the same points table). No seasonal ranking points are awarded to Region 2 athletes competing at the FJWC’s.

 


ADULT SERIES

Adult Qualifier Athletes

If you are new to Freeride, you’ll need to earn points to establish a ranking on the Qualifier Series Global Seed List. Invitations to Qualifier 2*, 3* and 4* events in Region 2 are dictated by your Global Seed List ranking, sometimes refered to as your 52-week ranking. Registration priority is given to ranked athletes in the order in which they are ranked. Once the ranked athletes who have applied either accept or decline, invitations to unranked riders are extended in the order in which they have registered. Earn points while competing, and your 3 best scores in a 365 day period will be used to calculate your seed ranking. In Region 2, 6 top tier athletes will receive an invitation to compete as an athlete on the Freeride World Tour for a shot at earning the Freeride World Tour Championship title.

Full-time College Student Athletes

If you are a full-time college student affiliated with a registered IFSA Collegiate team, you will compete in the same Qualifier Series events as any other Qualifier Series athlete. With an Adult Collegiate License you can attend events, rack up points towards your world ranking, qualify for the Freeride World Tour, and also earns points toward your member school’s ranking. The university with the greatest points at the end of the season is crowned the Champion of the Collegiate Freeride Tour.

When you go to purchase your IFSA Adult Qualifier Membership license, be sure to select: Adult Collegiate Tour and select your institution from the dropdown menu.
If you would like to register your university with the IFSA to compete for the Collegiate Championship Title, please contact support@ifsafreeride.org.

Qualifier Series Global Seeding List

The Global Seeding List (also called the 52-Week Seed List) is designed to ensure a high level of competition at Qualifier Series 4* events while providing registration priority to athletes with prior competition experience. The seed list ranks every athlete according to their top 3 finishes within a 52-week period. The seed list provides registration priority to competitors who have accrued more points and experience. The more points a competitor has, the easier it is for them to attend 4* events. Freeride World Tour finishes earn the most points, followed by Qualifier Series 4*, 3*, and 2* events.

NOTE: If you are an unranked athlete, you are much more likely to receive admittance to a 1* or 2* event while you work to build your seed.


Judging

How is my competition run judged?

Rankings are segmented by divisions (snowboarding and skiing) as well as gender (male and female. Further the Junior Series is divided into age categories (U12, 12-14 and 15-18). Upon entering Freeride competitions, you earn points based on your performance. The type of event will also dictate the amount of points earned. Junior National events award more points than Junior Regional events. For adults, Qualifier Series 4* events earn more points than 3* or 2* events.

IFSA wants to remind all our riders and athletes that the sport of Freeride is subjective. We strive to promote a fun and creative environment where athletes are comfortable pushing themselves safely and responsibly. We want to see athletes both having fun, skiing with soul, and most importantly, riding in control and within their ability.

Our expert judges score your performance on 5 criteria:

  • Line Choice: Higher scores are awarded to athletes choosing more difficult routes. Difficulty is determined by steepness, exposure, air, drops, snow, and course conditions.
  • Control: Competitors must remain in control at all times; loss in control will result in a lower score. Skillful recoveries will reduce penalties.
  • Fluidity: Constant direction towards a goal. This includes continuity, pace, and smooth transitions between sections of the course. Falling or stopping can have a negative impact.
  • Technique: Competitors are judged on style and turn quality relating to big mountain Freeriding.
  • Style & Energy: This encompasses the pace, energy and creativity with which a competitor attacks or descends his/her chosen line or route. Style focuses on execution of maneuvers.

Judges score rider between a 0-10 scale in each category. Each category score is added together to get the athlete’s total score for the run. To see more detailed information please visit our Athlete Handbook section.

IFSA prioritizes safety and enjoyment in freeride.

We recommend the following gear list and toolkit for all of our athletes to minimize risk and potential injury.

  • Helmet (mandatory)
  • Back protection (mandatory)/ body armor
  • Backpack with sturdy avalanche shovel and probe
  • Avalanche transceiver
  • Mouth guard
ifsa eagle logo mark

First time? Register here using your IFSA Member credentials.