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!

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!

 

 

First podium at the Freeride World Tour

At the start of the winter, I was lucky enough to receive a wildcard for the 2nd – of a total of 4 – Freeride World Tour women’s stop, the SCOTT Big Mountain Fieberbrunn in Austria. The contest, also a 3-star Freeride World Qualifier for the men, took place yesterday in generally good weather conditions. The quality of the snow on the “Wildseeloder” face was good, however due to the lack of a good snow base, options were limited to 3 to 4 main lines. As many competitors discovered, there was often only a thin layer of snow on relatively rocky terrain.

Women's podium ski @ SCOTT Big Mountain Fieberbrunn

Female riders who chose a relatively easy line with good snow conditions, but able to ski fast and fluid, came out on top. Norway’s Ane Enderud, Freeride World Champion 2009, dominated with a fast line in the furthest couloir on the skiers right, incorporating several airs.  Sweden’s Janette Hargin also showed great skiing with no hesitation in a similar line, while I was placed 3rd by the judges for a fast and smooth line with one big air. New Zealand’s Janina Kuzma was close on my heels in 4th place with a well-skied, creative line she seemed happy with.

Excitement and nerves at the start of the race

Wille Lindberg dropping the same air as I did

Probably the most enjoyable competition run I have had to date...shredding the pow

In the men’s field, Austria’s Matthias “Hauni” Haunholder, a local of Fieberbrunn, and Switzerland’s Simon Andermatten, shared the podium with 2 quite different, but very impressive runs. Third place went to Austria’s Stefan Hofer, followed by my skiing buddy and fellow Austrian Stefan Häusl.