After three contested stages out of six, the Swatch Freeride World Tour will host its next competition in Røldal, a hidden pearl of southwest Norway. With the four categories men and women, ski and snowboard, the world’s best freeride athletes are scheduled to compete Saturday 25 February. Looking at the overall ranking, the most noticeable fact is the top five on the ski men’s ranking being season wild cards or newcomers. As a young and constantly evolving sport, it is not surprising that several new athletes on the tour have been showing some consistent, top-level freeriding. Established athletes will need to step up their game to defend their coveted spots.
The Swatch Freeride World Tour in Røldal is a new stage on the tour but has been an existing competition since 2001, as the Røldal Freeride Challenge. A Freeride World Tour Qualifier (FWQ) since 2008, Röldal still hosts a FWQ event in end of April. With the interesting terrain and great organisation it has been a popular competition in Scandinavia, attracting the very best. Top international riders like Kaj Zackrisson (SWE), Ane Enderud (NOR), Pia Widmesser (GER), Torgrim Vole (NOR), Emilien Badoux (SUI), Erik Sunnerheim (SWE) and Jaclyn Paaso (USA) have all taken victory in previous editions.
Swiss snowboarder Emilien Badoux, currently 5 th on the FWT ranking, won Røldal in 2010: "I am really happy to go back to Røldal for a FWT stage, meaning the level will be even higher! I don’t know what face we will ride and what it will be like this time of the year but the terrain back there is really playful and I think we will see some freestyle moves and a lot of air".
Aurélien Ducroz (FRA), 2011 Freeride World Champion ski, had a tough start of the season but is confident after his fourth place in Courmayeur: "It’s cool to see so many new guys pushing the sport and shaking us around a bit. But I’ve been preparing for the next competition. Everything feels better since Courmayeur and I feel good on my skis. It took some time to get started but I’m getting there. I don’t know anything about Røldal but I’m really happy as I’ve never skied in Norway! It’s great to have new stages on the tour and Scandinavia means big freeriding countries. I don’t think the guys who previously competed here are favoured, it’s our job to inspect new faces and ride them".