Swatch Freeride World Tour by The North Face 2013 (FWT) came to an end with jaw dropping action on the mythical Bec des Rosses face in Verbier, Switzerland. The four Freeride World Tour Champions were crowned at the end of a six-event global series. For the 18th edition of the legendary "Verbier Xtreme" the athletes took on the challenging face with great skill. Thousands of thrilled spectators onsite and more than 180'000 viewers on the live webcast watched the spectacular show go down in real time.
Only the highest ranked 2013 FWT athletes and a few exclusive wild cards qualified for the steeps of the infamous Bec des Rosses. With a solid base, thanks to great snow conditions all season and the additional fresh snow earlier in the week, the intimidating face was in great condition to provide a world-class venue for the riders.
The final event proved once again that the 2013 season of the Freeride World Tour has taken the sport to even higher levels of progression. The most notable evolution is the spectacular mix of freestyle trickery with fast riding testing faces without holding back fluidity and control. More "traditional" big mountain chargers are still rewarded when they approach the competitions full throttle without hesitation.
Victory on the Bec des Rosses and the race for the Freeride World Champion title was a true nail biter, playing out with the five last riders of the day. Kevin Guri of France skied a spectacular high speed run landing a big air, which put the Frenchman on the top spot of the day, with a score of 86.33 points. Guri, age 23, was elated taking both his first victory and podium of the year at the prestigious
The battle for the overall title kept the fans in suspense till the very last rider out of the gate, Reine Barkered (SWE). The solid Swede and 2012 Champion took second with an outstanding run on the "Bec" but it was not enough to hold on to the title. Drew Tabke (USA), finishing an exceptional season with a sixth place at Verbier, was crowned the new Freeride World Tour Champion.
Tabke, a veteran of freeride competitions, won the season's first competition in Revelstoke (CAN) and never let go of the top spot on the overall standings. Tabke's style of riding could be described as a benchmark for the 2013 season; a very talented skier, capable of mixing freestyle tricks and big mountain skills on the same run with solid hard charging but still very fluid skiing.
"This is what I've worked for throughout almost 10 years of competition. Verbier couldn't be a better place to do it. It's a lot of time we put in. We all dedicate a lot of our lives to this so to have it come around is a big payoff for sure. There is a lot of amazing history in freeriding that has pushed us to this moment and I'm really excited to see what will happen the next few years too".
Ralph Backstrom (USA) doubled it down by taking victory and winning the World Champion title with a close to flawless run on the Bec des Rosses. Scoring the high points of 93.67. Backstrom charged down the face right out of the start gate, taking several impressive airs. The battle for first was severe, as several potential champions were putting it all on the line to earn the top spot. Big mountain rider Aurélien Routens' (FRA) confidence almost paid off, but he still managed to take second in front of his countryman and defending World Champion Jonathan Charlet in third.
Ralph Backstrom, probably the most consistent rider of the field, has been close to the Freeride World Tour title for several years. The talented American was very moved to finally have reached the top spot: "I've got no words. I'm pretty emotional. I've had a lot of years trying to get this. I've been second a few times and really happy to finally take down the whole tour! There have been a few ups and downs this year, first winning in Revelstoke and then quite a variable season, so I'm really stoked to end on a high note here in Verbier".
After her rookie success, taking second at Fieberbrunn-PillerseeTal (AUT), Matilda Rapaport of Sweden received a wildcard to Verbier only two days ago. She continued her streak by dominating the women's field on the intimidating face, starting the run with an impressive cliff drop, charging down with very solid riding and several big jumps. She took the prestigious victory by scoring 84.67 points. The second wild card of the day, Austrian Lorraine Huber, skied a similar line and scored second place with 81.0 points.
Austrian Nadine Wallner (AUT) could have played it safe in Verbier as she already had secured the World Champion title after her victory at Fieberbrunn-PillerseeTal. But once again she demonstrated consistent, strong skiing, finishing third. Wallner, who qualified for the tour through the Freeride World Qualifier system, was still overwhelmed by her performance: "It's hard to believe it. It's my first year on the tour and I did not expect to win the overall title! I was focusing on each contest. Every competition is special and I was really stoked to ski the Bec des Rosses for the first time in such great conditions!".
In a tight and very competent field of women snowboarders, Elodie Mouthon (FRA) came out on top on the Bec des Rosses with the high score of 86.33 points. Her fast, aggressive riding paid off, linking several great airs in a fluid line. The local rookie Estelle Ballet (SUI) earned respect by taking second in front of season favorite Margot Rozies (FRA) even though both riders had similar impressive runs down the powder covered face.
With the win in Verbier and a total of four podium finishes, Elodie Mouthon, managed to grab the Freeride World Champion title on her first year on the tour. "I am really thrilled to both win here today and win the world champion title. It's my first season on the tour and I am happy with my overall results at each event. It helped me build confidence coming in to the finals today. I felt good on the face and my goal was to do a fluid but challenging run".
Nicolas Hale-Woods, FWT General Manager Europe wraps it up: “Year after year the athletes keep on enthralling us at the Verbier Xtreme. The Bec des Rosses is unique and we’re very proud to be on our 18th edition of the event! The level of riding has been amazing all season. The sport is progressing every year. With hundred thousands of people now following the tour, either live on the Internet, onsite at events or in the media, the sport has grown to a higher level of international recognition. The spectacular riding, the international representation of athletes, the high quality imagery we produce and the wish to step it up at each event has allowed us to reach an all time high regarding spectator figures and media coverage. Now, with solid partners and resorts, we can already confirm that we will announce the 2014 in weeks to come",