Runner-up Freeride World Tour Champion 2014

Two days have passed since I competed in my most important event of the season last Saturday, the Verbier Xtreme, the finals of the Freeride World Tour. For the first time since I started competing on the FWT in 2010, I was skiing for the overall FWT Championship title after a very consistent season of three back-to-back podiums. Mentally I was feeling strong and ready to give it my all, deciding against skiing a safety line. I knew I had to place at least 2nd in order to improve my overall ranking made up of a 1st and two 3rd places.

The "Mini Bec", the Verbier Xtreme women's venue

The “Little Bec”, the Verbier Xtreme women’s venue

Unfortunately, I fell ill with acute bronchitis right before Verbier, forcing me to stay off skis for the entire week leading up to the big day, but by Saturday I felt strong enough to compete. A final inspection on Friday showed the Little Bec much changed since the snowfall and I decided my line was good to go.

To our dismay, the mountain guides had dug a snow pit right in the landing of the top standard air the women like to take on the looker’s right side of the face. We were assured that the hole would be filled up however and wouldn’t pose a problem for the competitors.

I took the hike of 60 minutes nice and easy, arriving at the start in time to take a look at the top of my line. I really didn’t like the look of the landing of my first air, the dug snow pit had created a large flat, compressed area of snow. I decided I needed to jump over it, but not too far either in order to still reach my second feature I had planned.

Then I was ready to start, and I was pumped to ski my line. Finally, after all the waiting, it was time! I line up my first air, but too slowly, landing right in the middle of the snow pit. Immediately after landing I get a huge compression, back slap and spin out of control. Three seconds into my line at the most important event of the season and I loose everything! Immediately I knew the chance at the overall title was lost, from one second to the next. It was such a crushing feeling to have such a stupid crash only three seconds into my run.

Then I decided I may as well continue skiing my line, it’s not every day you get to ski the Bec. That was hard to do since I was disheartened and a bit disoriented, but I did enjoy some good turns on the way down to my last exit drop. Here I made the second mistake of the day, not lining up the direction of my take-off correctly, landing across the fall line, which proved fatal in the punchy and wind-affected snow in the landing. I crashed badly and narrowly missed some rocks lower down in the landing.

Taking my last exit air on the Mini Bec

Taking my last exit air on the Little Bec, Photo: FWT Verbier Xtreme 2014, D. Carlier

Here’s the video of my run:


FWT14 – Run of Bib #2 Lorraine Huber AUT… von FreerideWorldTourTV

Congratulations to the Arlberg’s Nadine Wallner, who, amazingly, won her second FWT championship title in a row, and to Norway’s Pia Nic Gundersen, who executed a beautiful and enormous air with total confidence and style, winning the Verbier Xtreme 2014.

Freeride World Tour 2014 Overall Ski Women's Podium

Freeride World Tour 2014 Overall Ski Women’s Podium

Despite the disappointment of not being able to ski my line on the Bec as I had planned, I am very happy with my skiing this past season. I feel like I’ve made huge progress this year both technically and mentally, managing my first win on the FWT in Snowbird. Despite the challenging conditions, I was also able to thoroughly enjoy the competitions this year and had some great days skiing with fellow competitors.

I want to thank my family, my friends, my sponsors Lech Zürs, Kästle Skis, Bergans of Norway, Scott Sports, Snowlife Gloves, Pieps and Sportservice Vorarlberg, and all the people supporting me online who I don’t even know personally. You created an amazing pillar of energy for me which already made me feel like a world champion. I would have loved to win the title just for you guys who all believed in me.

I’m proud of the runner-up Freeride World Tour title, but it has left me hungry for more and I’m already looking forward to charging hard on the tour next year. I’ll be back!

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

 

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)