Women’s Progression Days 2014

28 women attended the Women’s Progression Days by Lorraine Huber in Lech am Arlberg from 10.-12.01.2014. As I was introducing the guide team in the Ambrosius Stüble on Thursday night before the first day of skiing, I felt so proud to have attracted such a large and good group of skiers to my annual women’s program this year. It is what I had envisaged from the start, but it took a number of years and some real determination to get there.

Women's Progression Days by Lorraine Huber, Pic: Lisa Fail

Women’s Progression Days by Lorraine Huber, Pic: Lisa Fail

Luckily for us, it snowed Thursday and Friday night and the WPD guides Geli Häusl, Angelika Kaufmann, Liz Kristoferitsch and I found many untracked and challenging runs for the participants. The first day was our safety day, involving brushing up on the essential avalanche rescue skills such as beacon search, using the probe, the right shovel technique as well as a simulated group rescue situation. Participants also received ski technique training during day one with plenty of input to work on for the following two days. Ski technique, choosing lines and skiing variable terrain and snow conditions were the focus for day two and three.

Participants were photographed by Lisa Fail and filmed by cinematographer Balint Hambalko who made a fantastic edit of the WPD 2014 right here:

I’m still buzzing from all the positive feedback and general fun and laughter the women had together at the Women’s Progression Days. Besides the great skiing, the best thing was the many new friendships formed with like-minded women who also love to ski. See you at the Women’s Progression Days 2015!

 

 

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 😉

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

 

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!

Go Big or Go Home

Since my last blog update almost a month ago, I feel like I’ve come a really long way in terms of my competition performance, albeit still without results to show for it. At the end of February the whole Freeride World Tour met up in Kirkwood, California, for the 3rd stop (4th for the men) of the tour. I knew it hadn’t snowed there for weeks and that tricky snow conditions would be waiting for us. Combine that fact with the great snow and weather conditions we still had at home, and you need to be very focussed about staying motivated. Still, it’s a lot of fun to compete without any pressure and I wanted to use the opportunity to start in Kirkwood as a great training experience as well as to get to know the face for next year. I traveled with my friend and training buddy Stefan Häusl and we had the whole travel logistics dialled. The trip over went smoothly and we were all rested and acclimatised in time for the comp on 27 Feb.

Cirque Kirkwood

The “Cirque”, competition venue for the Freeride World Tour in Kirkwood

I wanted to do a line on the venue that included the top portion of the face, taking a side door entrance above the lower portion of a double – I knew the snow would be solid ice there but at least you know what to expect. Then I chose to continue over a large drop which I knew would be firm in the landing, but I thought it was doable. I was pretty scared about this line, so scared in fact, that the night before in bed my heart was beating like mad every time I imagined jumping over the airs. But in the end the excitement to do these airs remained, and I decided to go for it. If it’s only the fear that’s in my head and heart I usually change lines.

Kirkwood cliff drop

Getting some air in Kirkwood (copy: Freeride World Tour, D. Carlier)

I was feeling pretty good on competition day, although the nervousness in the morning is almost enough to make me sick. My top air went beautifully and I jumped the second air fluidly, finding my take-off without a problem. The air was huge! On landing the impact was big, I had more weight on my right ski than on my left and couldn’t hold it and spun out of control. What a shame! I had chosen the all-out strategy and this time it didn’t work out for me. Jackie Paaso won with a really nice and fluid line, one of my favourite skiers Christine Hargin also had a pretty bad crash, but fortunately didn’t hurt herself.

Second Victory in Hochfügen!

After a disappointing run at the 4-star Freeride World Qualifier in Engadin on 31 January where I placed 4th, I was determined to give it my all at the 4-star Freeride World Qualifier in Hochfügen, the fantastically organised Big Mountain Hochfügen. I came into the contest knowing that a first or second place would clinch the deal for a spot on the Freeride World Tour 2014. At the same time, I didn’t want to put pressure on myself by thinking too much about results. A mental game!

Snow and weather conditions were perfect; the right conditions to choose a big air to impress the judges. Sweden’s Matilda Rapaport, who has been skiing very consistently this season with a podium at every contest, and Austria’s Nadine Wallner, who has placed second at stop 1 and stop 2 of the Freeride World Tour this year, were also at the start, as well as some other experienced female skiers. I knew it was time to step it up.

I chose a line I could ski very fast in the top and middle section, coming into a steep section of around 45 to 50 degrees in the bottom part of the venue and ending in a big cliff drop. I chose this specific cliff because the landing had a perfectly clean run-out, although I knew the run-in would be very skied out with bib number 42. There would also be sluff to deal with, which can be compared to a small loose snow avalanche. It can knock you off your feet so you have to think about where the sluff is going to fall down to make sure you’re out of the way.

Big Mountain Hochfuegen Venue

The competition venue “Ostwand” at the Big Mountain Hochfügen, a gorgeous face!

For this contest I was very well prepared, I had studied photos and previous competition videos for the past two days and I could visualize my line in my mind and how it would look like from a skiers perspective. Being well prepared helps me feel less nervous at the start, and I was looking forward to skiing the amazing, fresh powder and dropping my big cliff at the bottom. I skied my run almost just as I had planned with a lot of fluidity, landing all my drops cleanly. It was an amazing feeling!

Big Mountain Hochfuegen_Straight line

My goal was to ski fast. Photo credit: Michael Neumann

Big Mountain Hochfuegen_Lorraine Huber_Cliff

Committing to the last drop in my run. Photo credit: Michael Neumann

I knew it was a good run but I didn’t allow myself to think much about what result I would get until the prize giving ceremony at 4pm. When my name was called out last of all for the top of the podium, I couldn’t have been happier. All the hard work, all the perseverance and all the determination were worth it now. And lets be honest, winning is so much more fun if you’ve made it back through the tough times, right?  

Big Mountain Hochfuegen, Podium Ski Women

The podium ski women at the Big Mountain Hochfügen (f.l.t.r. Matilda Rapaport, Lorraine Huber, Laure Vailley)

KJUS KLUB Freeride Camp St. Anton

This weekend I skied with 11 participants of the KJUS KLUB Freeride Camp in St. Anton am Arlberg from 27 to 29 January. The group of men and women were awesome, the vibe great and the skiing level high. On day 1 we took advantage of the perfect weather and booked a helicopter to the Mehlsack, one of only 2 allowed heliskiing drops in all of Austria – both of them in Lech am Arlberg. Most of the KJUS KLUB skiers were first-time heliskiers so there was plenty of excitement and nerves in the air.

Heliskiing Mehlsack, Lech am Arlberg

Heliskiing Mehlsack, Lech am Arlberg

Snow quality was great although we had to keep a sharp eye out for rocks – we still have below average amounts of snow at the moment. Other classics around here followed: Spielmäder, Liezen and a run out towards Juppenspitze. We were stoked!

Lisi getting fresh tracks skiing the Mehlsack, Lech am Arlberg

Lisi getting fresh tracks skiing the Mehlsack, Lech am Arlberg

On Day 2 Andy Thurner guided us on a beautiful tour to the Rendelscharte – Malfontal. This is good choice for long, gentle slopes where you can still find powder many days after a snow fall. The afternoon was spent photoshooting with photographer extraordinaire Sepp Mallaun – an amazing chance for the KJUS KLUB participants to have professional skiing pictures taken of them. Everyone was stoked! And I realised how much I love coaching again and seeing people stoked on skiing. Thank you all for joining us – we’re definitely organising another freeride camp at the Arlberg next winter!

My mate Tom and I, stoked after our run in the Malfontal

My mate Tom and I, stoked after our run in the Malfontal

AS WE ARE Film Tour

Last year we filmed our very own girls ski movie, “AS WE ARE”, which is currently touring around Europe. „AS WE ARE“ is a celebration of women’s skiing in a male-dominated world of sports where female athletes are notably absent in most ski movies. The 48 minute full-HD film is more than just great ski action in the backcountry. It tells the story of six freeride girls who started their journey as strangers and end up becoming fast friends, a journey which takes them to the best snow and backcountry terrain in the Alps.

AS WE ARE Film Tour Poster

AS WE ARE European Film Tour presented by Gore-Tex®

– Innsbruck/AUT            27.10.10, 20.00 Metropol Kino Innsbruck

– London/GB                        28.10.10, Freeski Film Festival, Clapham Grand, London

– Hartkirchen/AUT            30.10.10, 20.00 Musikschule Hartkirchen

– Salzburg/AUT            05.11.10, 20.00 SN Saal Salzburg

– Vienna/AUT                        18.11.10, Vienna Freeski Film Festival, WUK

– Amsterdam/NED            19.11.10, Dutch Freeski Film Festival, Amsterdam

– Ebensee/AUT            26.11.10, 19.30, Arbeiterheim Ebensee

– Kitzbühel/AUT            08.12.10, Special Event mit Casino Spielkapital

– Lienz/AUT                        10.12.10, Lienz

– Rosenheim/GER            14.12.10 20.00 Ballhaus Rosenheim

The Movie – Fact Sheet

Athletes: Laura Bohleber (SUI), Lorraine Huber (AUT), Sandra Lahnsteiner (AUT), Giulia Monego (ITA), Melissa Presslaber (AUT), Pia Widmesser (GER)

Producer: Sandra Lahnsteiner

Camera: Mathias Bergmann from sweetshots, Kenny Cowburn

Director and Editor: Mathias Bergmann

Film locations: Gastein (Aut), Lech am Arlberg(Aut), St. Jakob i.D. (Aut), Hochfügen (Aut), Verbier (Sui)

Length: 48min

Format: Full HD pro

Click here for all information, our trailer, and upcoming tour dates.

Girls Ski Movie “AS WE ARE” Trailer

You might have noticed that women are rarely featured in ski movies. So a year ago, five of my friends and I decided to make our own all-girls ski movie, and we’re proud to present you the trailer of “As We Are”. We traveled, skied, planned and lived together last season, visiting each of our home ski areas. The result is beautiful action footage in some of Europe’s best ski areas, and an inspiring tale of a group of girls having fun in the mountains. Get out there girls and go for it!

Athletes:
Laura Bohleber (CH), Pia Widmesser (GER), Lorraine Huber (AUT), Giulia Monego (ITA), Melissa Presslaber (AUT), Sandra Lahnsteiner (aut)

Producer: Sandra Lahnsteiner
Director: Mathias Bergmann
Camera: Mathias Bergmann, Kenny Cowburn
Editor: Mathias Bergmann sweetshots.at

Lorraine podiums again at the Engadinsnow!

The Engadinsnow is undoubtedly one of the best freeride events in Europe, running for the 8th time this year. For me it was the first time I was to compete on the legendary Piz Corvatsch, a north face which instils respect in even the most seasoned riders. I was feeling nervous while waiting for the cable car to take us to the first pylon, from which we abseiled down to reach the top of the face.

The Piz Corvatsch north face of the Engadinsnow

The women were to start after the men, which gave us ample time to check our line from the start and watch some of the male skiers and snowboarders in action. I decided to go for a fast line with a small but exposed air on a ridge before dropping another small but fast air into a couloir. I exited the couloir at full speed, probably over-excited, and wasn’t able to hold myself together for the next turn, which resulted in a full somersault before I was back on my feet and heading towards my last air, which I stomped. Although I was disappointed about not staying on my feet, I was happy with the rest of the line, which I skied fluently and aggressively. First place went to my Girls Ski Movie filming buddy, Pia Widmesser, for a smooth and controlled line, while France’s Olivia Benoit skied into 2nd place with a very technical line in steep and exposed terrain. New Zealand’s Sam Smoothy stole the show in the male ski field with a fast and aggressive line including some difficult airs, followed by French men Mathieu Imbert and Thibauld Duchosal.

From left to right: 3rd Lorraine Huber, 1st Pia Widmesser, 2nd Olivia Benoit

Engadinsnow Winner Sam Smoothy. Yeah bro!!

Visit the Engadinsnow website for complete results as well as great heli and cable camera footage of each rider’s run.