FWT Fieberbrunn Frustrations

After 7 days of waiting for better snow and weather conditions, we finally could compete on the Wildseeloder at the 4th stop (5th for the boys) of the Freeride World Tour 2013. As always, we were welcomed and treated like real stars in Fieberbrunn and the local organisation team was simply fantastic. We passed the time during the waiting period just fine though, skiing together, jumping off anything we could find in the warm, slushy snow, extended pool, stretching and sauna sessions in our hotel, some partying, meeting new people at The North Face tent in the expo area, and even sight seeing in Innsbruck. I went home for a few days to spend my birthday in Lech, and then it was on! The last days had brought fresh snow and Saturday was going to be bluebird.

Wildseeloder

The “Wildseeloder” at Fieberbrunn, with the women’s venue on the looker’s left, taken before the snow falls

The day before the comp we didn’t see the face due to thick fog, so that meant that the girls, who were starting first, would have only around 30 minutes the next morning for one last look at the face before hiking up to the start. That made it a bit tougher, but luckily the face is easy to orientate in. On contest day, we got up at 5:00am in order to have a good breakfast and go up with the first cable car at 6:15am. Seeing the Wildseeloder that morning, I ruled out the big cliff I had planned to take due to the not so ideal snow conditions. The take-off looked bony (i.e. only covered only by a thin layer of snow) and the landing looked like a sheet of ice, although a little lower down there was some good, blown-in powder. Instead I opted for a smaller double I knew would be fine to take, and, if skied fluidly, would still score well with the judges.

Start gate FWT Fieberbrunn

Ready to rock and roll! (Copy Freeride World Tour Fieberbrunn, J. Bernard)

I skied really well in the top and main section of our women’s venue on the lookers left of the Wildseeloder, taking a first double without hesitation and continuing on to a further double over a cliff band. After the airs I got a lot of speed and the snow varied from powder to sheets of ice. I was at my limit but still in control. I took a fair bit of speed over my last air, feeling confident that the landing there would be soft. I was wrong. I landed on pure ice and didn’t have a hope in hell to absorb the huge impact. Looking at my run on video at home, I realised that I did everything right, had a good amount of speed over my air, maybe not hitting the transition perfectly, but with good form in the air, I just didn’t calculate with the landing being so hard. Looking on it now after watching all the runs, I could have had a top scoring run by just popping over that air almost from a stand-still or by even just skiing down to the finish line without taking any further features, but you don’t know that at the start, you just have to give it your all to land a good scoring run. That’s the really frustrating part, and I was so close this time! I was feeling pretty down yesterday, but after waking up today the world always seems to be in order again. My goal after my run in Chamonix was to ski faster, and I’ve certainly achieved that, so I’m heading in the right direction and I’m going to stick with it!

The great news is that I’ve received a wildcard to the Freeride World Tour finals in Verbier and I’m so excited about that!! I won’t be able to score any points to improve my FWT ranking, but I will have the opportunity to compete at the most famous and mythical freeride competition in the world, on a beautiful face. Last year I also received a wildcard to Verbier but I was injured and more scared than anything else. This year I’m going to really enjoy it, I’m heading there already tomorrow. The snow conditions are looking really good, so stay tuned!

Freeride Project: Mission III Granatenkogel

What started out to be a super short notice decision turned out to be one of the best runs of my season. The 3304 meter high Granatenkogel in Obergurgl, Ötztal, was the goal of our third mission for our documentary movie “The FreeRide Project”. Our crew consisted of Mitch Tölderer, Bibi Pekarek, Martin Mcfly Winkler, Flo Edenberger, Xandi Kreuzeder (photografer), Carsten Darr (camera) and myself.

We knew the conditions were perfect: Mitch had checked the face a couple of days before and on the 21st April we headed up with the last chair lifts in Obergurgl so we could make camp at around 2500 meters in the Gaisberg valley and make an early start tomorrow. The ascent was 743 meters in total, ending in a great hike over the ridge to the summit which we reached in 2,5 hours. The run down was incredible, the snow perfect for skiing top speed. It was the fastest and one of the best lines of my season and I was visibly bouncing with energy from the experience for the following 12 hours.

Freeride Project: Mission II in Sellrain

Getting the best lines often involves lift or heli access. But sometimes the most rewarding runs are the ones you reach using your own two feet. Mitch Tölderer, Bibi Pekarek, Flo Edenberger and myself set out on a mission a few days ago with the intention of telling a story about the trials and tribulations of accessing high alpine freeride lines without lift or heli access. Our mission took place in the Sellrain valley, 30 minutes outside of Innsbruck, starting from Haggen. The idea we had involved hiking up to 2550 meters where we wanted to make base camp for 2 nights. From our base camp we could access 2 impressive faces with multiple freeride lines.

After only the first 100 meters I seriously thought I wouldn’t make it. My backpack, filled with a thick down sleeping back, air matress, skiing and safety equipment, food, water, a change of clothes and fuel, weighed over 30 kilos, more than half of my body weight. My glutes where aching already. The 800 vertical meters ahead of me which would otherwise seem like an easy stroll where grueling to say in the least. However, after I repacked my backpack to make it more top heavy I felt much better. A good pack is essential. The 800 vertical meters took us a good 4 hours (normally I would hike this in half the time). In two sections we were forced to take off our skis because of the steepness of terrain and icy conditions. However, eventually we made it!

After a break we busied ourselves with setting up camp. This included shaping an even surface for our tents and setting those up, and building an area to cook food and water. I have slept in the snow before, in a snow cave, however never in a tent. Thankfully I had a very high quality goose down sleeping bag and air matress but even then I was quite cold the first night.

I had an excited and nervous churning in my stomach the next morning. What will the face and conditions be like? Will the effort and toil pay off? “Face 1” as we called it was accessible after a short hike of 45 minutes. We left our skins at camp and boot packed up the steep ridge. I found it hard going after the hike yesterday, thankfully I drank heaps of water the day before.

I wasn’t disappointed. The snow was good due to the altitude and aspect of the face. Lower down the warm weather and strong sun had made the snow to dangerous wet mush. After studying our lines we skied them one after the other and watched our buddies from below. Half the fun is watching your mates have a great time! Harry Putz was in position to film us. Here’s my first line:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Go8TQMg7Ifo]

After a warm up line I chose quite a more technical line, dropping in through a small chute lined with rocks. Lucky, didn’t hit any! Then a hard turn to the skiers left to get away from the slough. 3 big turns, then some smaller ones…keeping my speed…and launching off a 5 or 6 meter cliff at the bottom of my line:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1ylwWSxIOo]

It was so much fun. After 3 lines I was exhausted and although there were more lines to do, I was only interested in getting back to camp and having something to eat and drink.

The following day we hiked up to “Face 2”, another North facing ridge. I couldn’t make it work today. The lines I chose were too hard for me, although on a normal day I had the ability to ski them. Maybe the hiking and sleeping at high altitude was taking its toll. The face was also sloughing like crazy, but the snow was good.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6WG5YFkgvM]

I still had fun and enjoyed watching Bibi who ripped an amazing steep line with 3 drops. She showed no hesitation and was strong on her feet, awesome! We all put on an action packed show and Harry was stoked with the footage.