Swatch Xtreme Verbier 2012

My goal of the 2012 season was to qualify for the Xtreme Verbier – the world’s most legendary and important big mountain competition from which the Freeride World Tour was born. The Xtreme Verbier is the final event of the Swatch Freeride World Tour, after which the Freeride World Tour Champions are crowned. After Fieberbrunn, I received a wild card to compete with the best riders on the mythical Bec du Rosse, a really big honour for me. Normally you would expect me to write how amazing it was to be part of such an event, that I was happy to be there etc. and a part of me naturally did feel that, but the other part of me almost dreaded having to compete here yesterday. I partially fractured my hip bone before Fieberbrunn and have not been able to ski much since the 7th March, trying not to aggravate the injury more than I have to. Having had to compete without being 100% has been really tough for me mentally (I competed in the 4-Star FWQ Nendaz last weekend, placing 4th). I just couldn’t get myself psyched up. Add to that that Verbier is one of the harder venues we’ve skied in the tour so far, and the pressure rises. Starting in Verbier as a wild card though also means you have nothing to loose, since wild card holders can’t earn points to advance them in the overall ranking. So it really means go for gold or nothing at all.

Inspecting my line with the women's final venue in the background

And now to my run yesterday: I chose the go for gold strategy, a line with 2 large drops which scored well last year. Current snow conditions actually didn’t allow many variations of line. I also knew I would find this line very easily, allowing me to ski it fast. After hiking up one hour on the previous day of competition, I was further able to inspect the take-off of my first air – not the landing however – from above. I was worried about rocks at the take-off, so my plan was to point my skis and take-off as quickly as possible. I had drawn bib number one and didn’t have to worry about deteriorating snow conditions. And point it I did, skiing fluidly over my first air. But I had miscalculated one thing: the snow was quite compact in the landing, and the ramp I landed on after the first air was somewhat sideways to the direction of my take-off. For bigger airs, it’s always best to land directly in the fall line or otherwise risk crashing, which I then spectacularly did. Luckily I could self-arrest before heading for some serious exposure. That’s one of the skills I have developed as a freeskier: to stop tumbling quickly! Since I had lost a ski, resulting in a “no score” from the judges, I just skied out of the venue after having recollected my ski. A part of me was relieved that it was all over, it sure was a lot of pressure for me to compete in my current condition. Congrats to Christine Hargin and Eva Walkner who slayed the line I had planned to ski despite varying snow conditions, placing 1st and 2nd respectively. Congrats also to Angel Collinson who killed it on the looker’s left side of the venue and placed 3rd.

8,500 spectators watched the event in Verbier and over 40,000 people watched the live stream on the Internet

Swatch Freeride World Tour Chamonix

I just got home from the 3rd stop of the Swatch Freeride World Tour in Chamonix. I wish I could write something more exciting than what really happened at the comp: after hours of travelling, 2 weather days, inspection in challenging weather conditions, numerous riders meetings and interviews, getting up at 5:00am on the day of competition and pouring so much energy into one run, I had a stupid crash at the very start of my line by burying my ski tips into the snow. Sure it was quite flat light and there was a bit of a wind crust, but when I ski normally I rarely have crashes like that. It was super disappointing! My conclusion is that I’m simply too nervous. My plan of action to deal with my lack of contest experience is to ski as many comps as I can, there are a couple coming up in Austria during February before the 3rd FWT stop in Roldal, Norway: the Eric Themel Invitiational in Schruns and the 4-star Freeride World Qualifier in Hochfügen.

Regarding the competition itself, all in all it was a big success and a great experience to spend time on and off snow with some of the world’s best freeriders. Kästle team mate Jackie Paaso won the women’s event with a gutsy and strongly skied line, stomping all her cliffs smoothly and with confidence, so proud of her! Angel Collinson who is an amazing skier came in 2nd with a technical line and my room mate and line-discussion buddy Janina Kuzma from New Zealand came in 3rd with a fluid run and some stylish airs to the lookers right of the venue. The women put on a great show and the level of skiing was amazing!

The competition venue in Chamonix