Freeride World Tour 2013

During the Freeride World Qualifier in La Clusaz, I received a wildcard for the next three stops on the Freeride World Tour. Just before my Women’s Freeride & Yoga Camp, I competed in Chamonix and placed 4th with a solid run in good conditions:

Tomorrow I’m flying to Kirkwood, California, to compete in the next Freeride World Tour stop. Thanks to my good results on the Freeride World Qualifier tour this year, I already know that I’m qualified for the Freeride World Tour 2014 so I can compete without pressure in Kirkwood and get to know the face there. Wish me luck!

Sweet Victory in La Clusaz!

Last weekend I was able to place first at the 4-star Freeride World Qualifier in La Clusaz, France. Conditions we’re excellent: 50cm fresh powder and blue skies. We couldn’t inspect the competition venue as planned the day before due to bad weather. With bib number 12, I only had 10 minutes to decide which line I would ski. I pictured the line in my mind on my way to the start; luckily I had some time in the cable car. Usually, that would have made me very nervous, as well as the fact that I was competing on new skis – the Kästle BMX118 in 183cm – but on this day I was calm and confident. I skied a fluid and perfectly executed run with 3 cliff drops and a steep, technical middle section and scored a run of 8.80 points. Sweden’s Matilda Rapaport came 2nd and Geli Kaufmann from Lech came third, a fantastic result for Geli.

La Clusaz competition venue

La Clusaz competition venue

Women Ski Podium La Clusaz Radikal Mountain 2013

Women Ski Podium La Clusaz Radikal Mountain 2013

This victory is my first since 2009 and it is an especially meaningful one to me after a difficult 11/12 season of crashes and small injuries. The season before that I was battling a long term illness and basically had to quit skiing for the season. I started believing that although I was a good skier, I just wasn’t cut out for competition. Now though my hard work and dedication is paying off and I’m so very happy.

Boys La Clusaz 2013

Revelling in some male attention after the competition in La Clusaz

Last chance at Röldal Freeride Challenge

After a  Freeride World Tour season of ups and downs and multiple crashes, I headed to the Röldal Freeride Challenge in Norway at the end of my season in hope of gaining more points to qualify for the Freeride World Tour 2013. I had a second and fourth place at two 4-Star FWQ events, and knew that I needed at least a second place to qualify for the tour through the FWQ ranking system, where the top three girls earn themselves a spot on the FWT13. After many weather and snow condition complications, typical for Röldal, the final day of competition was held on a south facing face close to the Röldal ski resort. Conditions were tricky due big cracks in the snowpack and avalanche debris in many of the run-outs (the areas under the landings of cliffs), but the snow was softening up us we made our ascent of 60 minutes to the start.

Finals venue on Saudasvingen for the Röldal Freeride Challenge 2012

I decided that conditions weren’t on for dropping cliffs in the steeper, more impressive lookers right of the venue, but those Norwegian girls sure showed me otherwise! Pia Nic Gunderson (1st place) skied a hard and fast line in the steepest area of the venue, stomping a scary cliff above a no-fall zone and holding it together through horrible avalanche debris in her run out. Ex-racer Tone Jersin Ansnes (2nd place) also skied fast in the steep and technical part of the face, and Anne May Slinning (3rd place) chose a difficult line with a big drop despite her broken arm. Nadine Wallner from the Arlberg, Austria, also had a great run showing super solid skiing, but unfortunately she crashed on her last cliff and lost a ski. Too bad! Anyway, she has still made it to the Freeride World Tour next year after a successful FWQ season so all is good.

f.l.r.t. Lorraine Huber, Pia Nic Gundersen, Tone Jersin Ansnes, Kristina Slinning, Matilda Rapaport

I chose an easy line with 6 small jumps on the lookers left of the venue, it was enough to place fourth, with only 0,4 points separating me from Anne May Slinning. I was happy at least because I skied the line I had planned and found all my features, but as soon as I was in the finish area I realised I had made a mistake by choosing to ski lookers left. In the end this means I’m not qualified for the Freeride World Tour 2013, but I’m not giving up! I will be competing next year in one form or the other, more news on that later.

As for the male skiers, the conditions sure were tricky to air anything bigger. Out of the 20 skiers that were able to start, 9 crashed mostly due to not being able to hold their speed after their landings. Sadly, there was an accident when a competitor landed in a big crack in the snow pack, and immediately after that a speed rider (small paraglider with skis) had an accident in the face, ultimately forcing the organisers to cancel the competition. There are hence no results for the men ski category.

Conditions really weren't on for anything bigger at the Röldal Freeride Challenge 2012. Here you can see a competitor receiving medical attention after a crash which crushed his ankle.

Big changes to the Freeride World Tour 2011 – for better or worse?

The organisers of the Freeride World Tour, into its 4th year, have recently announced some big changes for 2011. This blog is about how these changes might affect female ski and snowboard competitors. Previously, male and female competitors participated on the tour stops together, skiing or riding the same venues, with the exception of the finals in Verbier. For 2011, female competitions will be integrated within Freeride World Qualifier (FWQ) events, with the final in Verbier as in previous years. The FWQ events, totalling 14 ski and snowboard events held mostly in Europe, were created to give the next generation of freeriders the opportunity to qualify for the FWT and compete with the world’s elite. So for next year, the women will be fighting it out for points in the FWQ events to decide the undisputed Freeride World Tour Champion. Should this really be seen as a step backwards for the women as the first online reactions of the female riders have shown?

Jackie Paaso clearing her winning air at the FWT10 stop in Squaw, USA

On the positive side, the level of women’s competition will increase due to the larger numbers of female competitors allowed to start at any one event. In the final at Verbier 2010, 23 male skiers competed compared to 7 female skiers. A larger female starting field will progress the sport. Furthermore, there will still be an undisputed female Freeride World Tour Champion at the end of the season, which apparently, is the whole point.

On the negative side, the women may yet again be marginalised at FWQ events as male competitors are given priority on a competition and media level.  There will likely also be financial implications for the women. Whereas competitors are payed to start at the FWT events, the FWQ events have no such financial support. If competitors can’t afford to do as many FWQ events as others, it puts them at a disadvantage (NB: the top 3 results of an unlimited amount of FWQ11 events will determine which riders are qualified for the finals in Verbier).

The role of the women in the Freeride World Tour previously has been insignificant. Media interest has primarily focussed on the men’s competitions. The highly expensive cineflexx camera for example, operated from a helicopter, was reserved for filming the men only at the FWT stop in Chamonix. Furthermore, the Eurosport 26 minute highlights of each FWT stop covered men’s competition only, never even mentioning that women were also competing. One must conclude therefore that the women, on a business level, don’t add any additional value to the FWT events so long as they are thrown in with the men. In this constellation, the men are the show, and it’s not doing the women any favours to have them tagging along.

The solution is a separate world tour for the women, such as the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour in women’s professional tennis or the ASP Women’s World Tour in professional surfing. Separating the women from the men allows the creation of an entirely new product which becomes attractive to a new group of sponsors wishing to advocate their women’s line or products. Such an event can be furthermore geared to women’s specific media. On a competition level, the venues and judging can be designed to progress women’s big mountain skiing and riding to the highest degree. It seems that FWT management is heading in the right direction. The organisers state that “female competitions will be featured (in 2011) within their own media showcase with on-line video features and a specific 26 minutes highlights show”.

Finally, I think it’s very important to appreciate what the FWT organisers have done so far for the sport in regards to making it more professional, especially in the eyes of the media. It’s by no means an easy job to do. The female competitors have worked hard to represent the sport well, and together we can make the FWT even better in future.

3rd Place FWQ: Freeride de Flaine

After 2 days of filming in Lech Zürs with the girls for our Girls Ski Movie it was off to France again for a Freeride World Qualifier in Flaine, for which I was prequalified for the finals. A total of 10 female skiers and snowboarders were qualified for the finals. The finals venue offered numerous options and features to hit, but proved quite difficult to orientate in due to the characteristic rollers and convex shaped terrain, which makes finding take-offs challenging.

The finals venue at Flaine

A 1.5hr hike awaited competitors before their start for the Freeride de Flaine

Snow conditions were on our side with 50cm of fresh powder, very rare contest conditions indeed, but the initial blue bird skies clouded over around midday. As a result the women’s field was moved down to better light and started their run half way down the face. Unfortunately, I had a major bum check in my line but still managed to place 3rd after banking some nice pow turns and landing a double, as well as a nice air at the bottom of the line. Sweden’s Janette Hargin skied a fast and fluent line to the top of the podium and Australia’s Hanna Fisher cruised into 2nd place. The male field made the most of the great conditions, choosing huge air and often technical lines in order to impress the judges. French men Mickael Bimboes and Bertrand Clair placed 1st and 2nd respectively, while Finnland’s Joonas Karhumaa, telemarker extraordinaire, took out third.

1st Janette Hargin, 2nd Hanna Fisher, 3rd Lorraine Huber

Competition Season 2010

During December and January I’ve been training hard in Lech Zürs to get into the best possible shape in time for the competition season. The biggest highlight for me will be the women’s Freeride World Tour stop in Fieberbrunn, Austria, for which I received a wild card. It is an honour to ride with the world’s best female big mountain skiers and my chance to show what I’m capable of. Fingers crossed! Furthermore, I’m one of 3 women prequalified for the finals at the Engadin Snow, a 3-star Freeride World Qualifier which earns riders double the points of a 2-star Qualifier event.

Check out this impressive teaser to get you pumped for the FWT in Fieberbrunn from 11 to 18 Feb:

1st place Export Gold Xtreme, Mt. Ruapehu

From Temple Basin we drove in convoy with Smoothy and Pete to Blenheim, stayed the night at Pete’s place and took the ferry the next day from Picton to Wellington.

Ferry ride from Picton to Wellington

Ferry ride from Picton to Wellington

The obligatory fish and chip stop on our way to "the Kune"

The boys catching up on some reading on our way to "the Kune"

Our destination: Okahune, the town at the southern gateway to the Tongariro National Park World Heritage Site, at the foot of Mt. Ruapehu. One of the world’s most active volcanoes which last erupted in 2007, Mt. Ruapehu is actually New Zealand’s largest ski area offering two different ski areas: Turoa and Whakapapa (and yep, you pronounce the “wh” as an f). The latter was to be our playground for the next week, which is the perfect description for it. Never before have I seen so many cliff bands and rocks to jump off.

The Turoa ski field side of Mt. Ruapehu

The Turoa ski field side of Mt. Ruapehu

Perfect corn snow conditions in the sunny aspects prevailed,  however the take-offs over rocks had melted so far back that one could only ollie over features with a truck load of speed to take any air. Challenging for spoilt me, used to skiing in Europe. Oh and did I mention that it’s pretty exposed here?

Terrain at the "Policemen's" for the Export Gold Xtreme

Terrain at the "Policemen's" for the Export Gold Xtreme

We had 2 comp days – the weather gods truly blessed our event as so many good weather days here are unheard of – 2 runs each day, a total of 4 runs, with the 2 highest scoring runs going toward the final score. I skied a nice solid 1st line in some exposed terrain, the snow had softened up by the afternoon and it was great! For 1 day now I had been eyeing a straight-line at the bottom of the venue which required you to ollie into it blind. I decided after much lining up and psyching myself up, that I just had to do it.

My line on comp day 1 for the Export Gold Xtreme

My line on comp day 1 for the Export Gold Xtreme

I felt really good during my second run and decided to go for it. After all, I had everything lined up and it has just got to be here, right? Well without hesitating I launched myself – I knew I didn’t even have to go that fast to make it over the rocks into the straight line – and landed with both skis smack bang on the rocks. Aaarrrrggh! The moment I touched down I tried jumping right off the rocks again, did a forward somersault and miraculously just skied out of it, albeit in a lot of pain. I got a good smack on my upper back and neck, ouch!

The boys put on an awesome show, with Geoff Small in the lead but plenty of younger skiers on his heels. Sam Smoothy had a scary crash above exposure on his first line but got it together for a second solid run. Pete Oswald skied a really nice, technical line no-one else attempted, airing over exposure onto a small snow pocket followed by a gnarly straight line requiring a whole heap of commitment. Mt. Ruapehu local Nathan Johns skied mostly in the fall-line, straight-lining basically through the gnarliest terrain and just able to hold his speed together during the second half of his run. Click here for the video of comp day 1 on snowtv.

My goal for comp day 2 was simply survival skiing: on pain killers and after much icing I hiked up to the start for my run. I pretty much decided already that this was going to be my only run for today, so I wanted to make it solid. On inspection even the smallest drop seemed kinda big to me, I was hurting and not really having much fun but I had to get this run done to get a score and those Freeride World Tour points. I choose to ski the venue on the skiers left today, with an obligatory cliff band to drop in the middle. I was so nervous at the top of my run, but my nerves settled as soon as I was given the all clear to start. Now I could just concentrate on my line, which I (almost) skied as I had planned. Nice!

Smoothy managed to come out on top by a mere 0.2 points after an awesome and very balsy line. Geoff Small had the crowd cheering with a 360 over his last cliff, the guy can spin! All in all it was an amazing show and an awesome after party.

Click here for the video of comp day 2 on snowtv.

Women's podium ski

Women's podium ski

Smoothy and I got the cash!

Smoothy and I got some cash!