I started filming for the all-girls ski movie“Shades of Winter” at home in Zürs am Arlberg this week. Janina Kuzma from New Zealand joined me here to film some big mountain lines, cliff drops, powder turns and pillow lines. I’m really excited to be part of this project since filming for the all-girls ski movie “As We Are” in 2010. Although we haven’t had significant snow falls at the Arlberg during the past 10 days, the cold temperatures and windless weather have preserved the snow beautifully. There was a lot of sluff in the bigger lines with very stable conditions. Filming this week also provided me with ideal training for the upcoming comps in March.
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!
I just got home from the 3rd stop of the Swatch Freeride World Tour in Chamonix. I wish I could write something more exciting than what really happened at the comp: after hours of travelling, 2 weather days, inspection in challenging weather conditions, numerous riders meetings and interviews, getting up at 5:00am on the day of competition and pouring so much energy into one run, I had a stupid crash at the very start of my line by burying my ski tips into the snow. Sure it was quite flat light and there was a bit of a wind crust, but when I ski normally I rarely have crashes like that. It was super disappointing! My conclusion is that I’m simply too nervous. My plan of action to deal with my lack of contest experience is to ski as many comps as I can, there are a couple coming up in Austria during February before the 3rd FWT stop in Roldal, Norway: the Eric Themel Invitiational in Schruns and the 4-star Freeride World Qualifier in Hochfügen.
Regarding the competition itself, all in all it was a big success and a great experience to spend time on and off snow with some of the world’s best freeriders. Kästle team mate Jackie Paaso won the women’s event with a gutsy and strongly skied line, stomping all her cliffs smoothly and with confidence, so proud of her! Angel Collinson who is an amazing skier came in 2nd with a technical line and my room mate and line-discussion buddy Janina Kuzma from New Zealand came in 3rd with a fluid run and some stylish airs to the lookers right of the venue. The women put on a great show and the level of skiing was amazing!
The big mountain contest for the NZ Freeski Open was held today in the Motatapu Chutes at Treble Cone. Conditions turned out to be better than expected, with firm yet grippy snow. Shutting down after any bigger drop was very challenging today, so most skiers opted for more technical lines in steep and rocky terrain which is actually very suited to the chutes. I decided to ski the venue on my Kästle FX84 (84mm under the binding) which I usually use for groomers and firm snow conditions. I was able to come in third after a fast run with good technique. New Zealand Olympian Mitchey Greig came in 2nd with Janina Kuzma taking first place for the 6th time in a row. Yeah girls!
Womens podium NZ Freeski Open Big Mountain
The next contest in the NZ Freeride Series is the K2 Big Mountain Chill Series, a 2-star event from 25 to 29 August in Craigieburn and Mt. Olympus, followed by the Export Gold Extreme, a 3-star event in Mt. Ruapehu, which I will hopefully be starting at!
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.
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.
I woke up to the sound of my alarm at 05:45 am on Saturday morning: it’s big mountain finals day! Competitors staying in Wanaka had to make an early start to make it to the Remarkables near Queenstown at 8:00 am. The decision to relocate the finals to the Alta Chutes at the Remarkables was made yesterday due to the high avalanche danger still present at Treble Cone. I had checked out the venue together with my mate Janina Kuzma yesterday and had mixed feelings about it. Snow conditions were definitely good thanks to the southern aspect of the Alta chutes (the shady aspect in the Southern hemisphere), but I didn’t feel entirely comfortable with the sharks (rocks hidden in the snow) or the “rock garden” style of terrain. Here, “billy goaters” would rejoice in the many lines they could hop through and around the rocks. But I made myself stay positive, it definitely wasn’t a bad venue.
The finals venue, the Alta Chutes at the Remarkables ski area
Once I had chosen a line studying the photos I had made the day before, I definitely felt better. But during our inspection run, my heart sank. The main feature I had planned to drop was a no-go. The run out was much steeper and gnarlier than I thought – it meant I would have to straight line down the entire chute over rocks – too risky. Ok, I need an alternative…I quickly pieced together a new line, open but with some nice drops. More my style. Another quick look and I had to ski to the lift and hike up to the start. 10 minutes later I hear the head judge’s voice crackling over the radio: “the judges are ready for Lorraine Huber”. “Ok 5 seconds Lorraine”, you can drop in now.”
A few minutes before my start
I hit my first bump, land, arching turns through the chopped-up, heavy powder, spot my first drop: a shelf on my right, dropped it, so far so good. I ended up further right than I had planned, but could get back to the shoulder on my left without stopping my flow, I had slowed down considerably though. I lined up my next drop, stomped it, and then…I just skied past my final and largest drop! All too quickly I was down at the bottom, panting. 70 seconds of high intensity skiing, but I hadn’t managed to ski what I wanted. Bugger! Man was I disappointed! But I couldn’t stay disappointed for too long hanging out in the sun with my mates and watching some amazing skiing from the guys.
Rebecka, Janina and me after our run
After the comp I hiked back up the venue and skied my line again, this time as I had planed. For some reason I still haven’t managed to ski in competition as I usually do when skiing alone or with my mates. Finding out why is a great challenge, one that I’m working on right now. Lets see how I go in the K2 Big Mountain Chill Series coming up at the end of the month.
In the end I was stoked to come 3rd at this comp, and especially to compete with skiers like Janina and Rebecka, who are both competing in the Freeride World Tour 201o. Visit the NZ Freeski Open website for video footage and full results.