Mastering the Little Bec

Competing at the Verbier Xtreme, the Freeride World Tour finals, is different from any other tour stop. The terrain is extremely steep and rocky, with a lot of sluff and consequences if you fall in your run. Jumping a cliff in this terrain means you fly a lot further and get very fast after your landings due to the steepness. Add to this the huge spectator and media interest (the FWT is expecting 100,000 viewers to be watching the live stream online) and you’ve got every reason to feel nervous up there at the start. More than ever I had to remind myself that we’re just skiing here and it’s just a run, not the final day of judgement ūüėČ

The women's venue to the lookers right of the Bec du Rosse at the 2013 Verbier Xtreme, taken on inspection day

The women’s venue to the lookers right of the Bec du Rosse at the 2013 Verbier Xtreme, taken on inspection day

The female competitors were flown to the start by heli because the hike up was deemed too avalanche dangerous and exposed by security, a call I was very grateful to hear. We were six ski women and five snowboard women at the start, including three wildcards given to Matilda Rapaport, Estelle Balet and me. We were all really quiet at the start during the wait for the flat light to improve, the tension was palpable. I was the last girl to ski the Little Bec which I actually liked since it gave me a chance to get a bit of a feel for the conditions. Generally the snow was excellent, nevertheless there were sections to be aware of, such as the take-off of my first air which was peppered with rocks.

Dropping my first air in extremely steep terrain

Dropping my first air in extremely steep terrain (copy Freeride World Tour, J. Bernard)

I was able to ski my line as planned with the goal to ski as fluidly as possible on the face. I had some bad memories of the top air where I crashed above exposure last year, but I knew conditions were much better this year and I adjusted my take-off angle somewhat. My top air went really well without getting caught on the pepper and I landed cleanly. I was very fast upon landing, the light was quite flat and I was surprised by a small fracture from a slab avalanche which I couldn’t see. All I had to do now was ski down the gut to my second and bottom air. As I had expected the snow here varied quite a bit due to old sluff which had set up and become firmer than the fresh powder. After jumping over my bottom air without hesitation I became so fast, all I could do was straight line out of the venue and loose speed once the terrain flattened out again. I was super happy with my run and very happy to be at the bottom all safe and sound!

I came second behind Matilda Rapaport who’s line was very similar to mine with¬†Nadine Wallner¬†coming third with another solid run. Congratulations also to Nadine who won the overall title this year with very consistent and strong skiing, very impressive for her age and for being on the tour for the first time!

The female ski podium for the Verbier Xtreme 2013 (f.l.t.r. Lorraine Huber, Matilda Rapaport, Nadine Wallner)

The female ski podium for the Verbier Xtreme 2013 (f.l.t.r. Lorraine Huber, Matilda Rapaport, Nadine Wallner)         copy: Freeride World Tour

 

Freeride World Tour Finals: Verbier Xtreme

This Tuesday, I witnessed the best freeriding ever seen during the last 15 years of the Verbier Xtreme competitions. The most famous and respected freeride competition in the world, this could have well been the most amazing freeride spectacle ever. 22 of the world’s best skiers and snowboarders were presented with perfect conditions on the extremely steep and rocky face of the formidable Bec du Rosse. I was in awe to watch the single-minded decisiveness and control the competitors executed while flying over 10+ meter cliffs in 45 to 50 degree exposed terrain. There weren’t just a few top performances, the majority of the field rode super strong. The breathtaking performances of Swede Kaj Zackrisson, ski, and Frenchman Xavier de Le Rue, snowboard, took them to the first step of the podium.¬†

The mystical Bec du Rosse, finals venue of the Freeride World Tour

The female competitors, a total of 12 skiers and snowboarders, competed on Saturday 20th March on the Shoulder of the Bec du Rosse. This is a much less steep and shorter face than the actual Bec, but nevertheless beautiful with many options, enabling the women to put on a great show for spectators. Female skiers used to start from the Bec in past years, and due to the increasing level in the women’s field this year, I’m speculating that they might be starting from the Bec again in future.

The female finals venue of the Freeride World Tour, the Shoulder of the Bec du Rosse

The win went to Norway’s Ane Enderud, securing her Freeride World Tour champion title twice in a row, followed by Jess McMillan and Olympic medallist Julia Mancuso, both from the USA.

Women's podium ski at the Verbier Xtreme, by DDaher

Although I’m so grateful to have competed on the first 3 Freeride World Tour stops this season, the disappointment is pretty big not to have qualified for next year’s Freeride World Tour by only 50 points! My overall ranking is 7th in the world, compared to my 2009 ranking of 11th. I can’t wait to compete in the tour again next year, and hopefully do better.