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

Freeride World Tour Fieberbrunn

This past weekend, the Freeride World Tour riders experienced the amazing organisation and hospitality of Fieberbrunn, host to the 4th FWT stop. Unofficially, Fieberbrunn is considered the best stop of the tour, featuring a contest village set-up where up to 2,000 spectators watched the competition on Saturday. As in past years, we competed on the Wildseeloder mountain, with the females starting this year on the lookers left side of the venue. The snow conditions on our venue where excellent with around 20cm of fresh powder, the weather blue bird. The women put on an amazing show, skiing fluidly and without hesitation over the features and drops. We were filmed with a cineflex camera from the helicopter, you can check out the best runs here.

The women's venue on Fieberbrunn's Wildseeloder

I felt really good about this competition; I knew the conditions were great and we could see almost the whole run from the start, making orientation in the face easy. Also the venue was relatively easy without any exposure or unknowns, so us girls could really rip it up! I started as second last female and was able to watch most of the runs from above, but this didn’t change anything about my line choice since I really like to focus on the line I planned and not my competition. I like that about freeriding: it’s about you and the mountain, not about beating your opponent with killer instincts as is required in sports like tennis or boxing, so it suits my personality. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very competitive, but more in a way of always wanting to do my best, not necessarily of wanting to beat everyone else. So back to the comp: I chose a fluid line in the fall line with 3 solid airs with the goal to ski it fast, stepping it up from my performance in Röldal. And for the first time, I managed to do just that: aggressive and confident skiing in a competition situation. I was really enjoying my run, slashing the wind lip in the top section of my run twice and getting some great powder turns in, taking all my drops without hesitation and stomping everything cleanly.

Getting some pow (Freeride World Tour Fieberbrunn, Photo Jeremy Bernard)

After my last drop I took a lot of speed into the last slope before the finish, and then disaster struck! The snow changed from powder to crud and the slope became significantly steeper, I was just carrying too much speed and got bucked into the air, bounced off the snow once in a spectacular looking crash, because onlookers thought I was about to collide into a tree. I can’t tell you how disappointing and frustrating that stupid crash was, especially after such a strong run and since I really needed a good result in Fieberbrunn to a) qualify for the finals in Verbier and b) qualify for the Freeride World Tour 2013. I’m not letting myself get down about it though. I still feel like I’ve made progress and I’m trying to remember the bigger picture and that all these experiences are a necessary process in order to reach the top. The judges told me if I had not crashed, I would have places third or fourth, and that is encouraging. Eva Walkner had a great run and placed 1st, Christine Hargin from Sweden placed second and Janina Kuzma from New Zealand third. Congrats girls! The excellent news is that I’ve been selected to receive a wild card for the finals in Verbier!! My goal this season was to make it to Verbier, so I’m over the moon about it. I will have nothing to loose in Verbier and will give it my all. Stay tuned!

 

 

Freeride World Tour Chamonix: 4th place

After an amazing day of fresh powder and fun cliff drops last Friday with my mates in St. Anton, I received a call saying I have a starting place at the Freeride World Tour in Chamonix. This is an amazing chance for me and exactly what I want: to compete alongside some of the best female big mountain skiers in the Freeride World Tour. Luckily, Saturday was inspection day so I had enough time to drive to the French mountaineering and skiing capital.

On Sunday I was the very last person to start which gave me a chance to watch the first male skiers and snowboarders on the day of the event. It had snowed 30 to 50 cm 2 days before, but before the snow fall the south facing aspects were known to have been very icy. The result was that the fresh snow was sliding off the hard old layer. Forerunner Martin Winkler skied from the top of start 2, the starting choice of the majority of the competitors, and triggered a soft slab avalanche coming into a steep flank. Only a sheet of ice was left. Although I knew snow conditions were variable and challenging, and after much debating with fellow competitor Jess McMillan who ranked 3rd in the FWT 2009, I decided to pull through with the original line I chose from starting gate 2. I skied my line fairly fluently considering the conditions. To be honest I was happy to have stayed on my feet and land the 2 cliffs I had planned. New Zealand’s Janina Kuzma and I had a very similar run but finally the judges decided the place Janina 3rd since she skied over more exposure than I did. Fellow Austrian skier Eva Walkner skied a fast line placing her in 2nd position, and the winner of the day in the end was Jess McMillan! Her decision to not shred the gnar, but shred the pow, payed off with an original line over some nice airs from starting gate 1. Overall the level of girls skiing was very strong.

Checking my line ©NISSAN FREERIDE DE CHAMONIX-MONT-BLANC 2010 / T. REPO

©NISSAN FREERIDE DE CHAMONIX-MONT-BLANC 2010 / D. DAHER

The competition in the male field was intense. In the end Candide Thovex, international freestyle legend, persuaded the judges with a super fast and fun line also from starting gate 1. Swedish Kaj Zackrisson is one of the veterans on the tour, and a Chamonix local since 10 years. The strong skier took second with an extremely powerful and consistent run, taking clean and big air. American rising star and newcomer Tim Dutton impressed the judges as he chose an original line down the face; creative, exposed and finding the good snow. My mate Stefan Häusl had the run of his life and came in 6th after some huge aggressive airs. The most consistent run among the snowboarders was Austrian Mitch Toelderer’s line, with an interesting line interpretation in the middle, steep section of the course, and taking two solid airs towards the end. Austria is looking pretty strong for this year’s Freeride World Tour!

Next stop for me are some Freeride World Qualifiers in Flaine, France and Engadin, Switzerland and then the Freeride World Tour in Fieberbrunn which is going to be amazing! Fieberbrunn has finally received some fresh snow and conditions there are good.

“Pentes de l’Hôtel” face at the Brévent ski area