Posts Tagged ‘Freeride World Tour’

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

September 5, 2010
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.

Freeride World Tour Finals: Verbier Xtreme

March 25, 2010

This Tuesday, I witnessed the best freeriding ever seen during the last 15 years of the Verbier Xtreme competitions. The most famous and respected freeride competition in the world, this could have well been the most amazing freeride spectacle ever. 22 of the world’s best skiers and snowboarders were presented with perfect conditions on the extremely steep and rocky face of the formidable Bec du Rosse. I was in awe to watch the single-minded decisiveness and control the competitors executed while flying over 10+ meter cliffs in 45 to 50 degree exposed terrain. There weren’t just a few top performances, the majority of the field rode super strong. The breathtaking performances of Swede Kaj Zackrisson, ski, and Frenchman Xavier de Le Rue, snowboard, took them to the first step of the podium. 

The mystical Bec du Rosse, finals venue of the Freeride World Tour

The female competitors, a total of 12 skiers and snowboarders, competed on Saturday 20th March on the Shoulder of the Bec du Rosse. This is a much less steep and shorter face than the actual Bec, but nevertheless beautiful with many options, enabling the women to put on a great show for spectators. Female skiers used to start from the Bec in past years, and due to the increasing level in the women’s field this year, I’m speculating that they might be starting from the Bec again in future.

The female finals venue of the Freeride World Tour, the Shoulder of the Bec du Rosse

The win went to Norway’s Ane Enderud, securing her Freeride World Tour champion title twice in a row, followed by Jess McMillan and Olympic medallist Julia Mancuso, both from the USA.

Women's podium ski at the Verbier Xtreme, by DDaher

Although I’m so grateful to have competed on the first 3 Freeride World Tour stops this season, the disappointment is pretty big not to have qualified for next year’s Freeride World Tour by only 50 points! My overall ranking is 7th in the world, compared to my 2009 ranking of 11th. I can’t wait to compete in the tour again next year, and hopefully do better.

Nissan Tram Face Squaw USA – 3rd Freeride World Tour Stop

March 2, 2010

The 3rd FWT stop was held yesterday, Monday, on the Silverado venue in Squaw Valley USA. We couldn’t ski the ledgendary Tram Face due to the snow conditions. The wet snow from the day before was frozen solid from the temperature drop and clear skies during the night. Lots of competitors were feeling nervous about skiing the Tram Face, then we had a large slab avalanche which was triggered from a person walking on the ridge above, and that was the end of that. The Tram Face remains unskied.

The FWT venue in Squaw, Silverado. The start was right next to the High Camp building.

Instead, Silverado offered competitors playful terrain to put up a great show for the hundreds of cheering locals, with riders pushing the limits with a ‘best of two runs’ format. It was the strongest female field I’ve ever competed in, with the 10 top riders in the world competing. The high point of the day was the women skiers stepping up the game with a great level of riding, taking the same big cliff jumps as the men and creative line choices. Local Squaw Valley skier and Freeride World Tour wild card Jackie Paaso was without a doubt the biggest crowd pleaser. She took a massive cliff jump at the bottom of the face, faster and higher than most of the men, challenging them for the second heat. Ane Enderud skied a solid technical line, placing her in 2nd place, and Squaw local and ski movie star Ingrid Backstrom executed a balsy move with a difficult air into a transition.

Henrik Windstedt won it for the men’s ski and Xavier de Le Rue for the snowboard with Shannan Yates winning it for the women’s snowboard.

Jackie Paaso killing it!!! ©NISSAN TRAM FACE 2010 SQUAW VALLEY USA / C.MARGOT

After landing on a rock and crashing on my first run, I decided to ski the same line I had planned for my 1st run, this time giving it some more juice so I would clear the rocks in the landing on my second air. I cleared the rocks all right, flying way further than I had thought, which meant I was too low to access the line I had planned on the skiers right. So my line lacked good drops in the lower section. I came in 8th, which has moved me down in the Freeride World Tour 2010 ranking to 7th place. As only the top 3 female skiers are invited to compete in the FWT finals at the Verbier Extreme, it probably means I’ll be ending my competition season now.

All in all, it was such an honour for me to be skiing side by side with undoubtedly some of the best female skiers in the world, to be part of it. I had a great time.

First podium at the Freeride World Tour

February 14, 2010

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.

Competition Season 2010

January 24, 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:

Stefan rocks Röldal!

May 5, 2009

Hey guys, just wanted to share this with you: Stefan Häusl’s amazing run at the Röldal Freeride Challenge. He came 2nd and therefore won a wild card for the FWT stop in Sochi, Russia, next year.

Good on you mate, you deserve it!