Swatch Freeride World Tour by The North Face 2013 (FWT) at Fieberbrunn-PillerseeTal, Austria. The fifth and last event prior to the grande finale in Verbier (SUI), saw intense competition at the highest level.
After a week’s waiting period, due to difficult snow and weather conditions, the sun finally came out at Fieberbrunn-PillerseeTal. With blue bird skies and a 20 cm cover of fresh snow on the 600-metre Wildseeloder north face an action-packed contest went down on the long and demanding face. Riders had to negotiate a mix of deep powder, wind affected snow and hard layers.
The battle has been tough all season as more than 80 competing athletes have had one thing in mind: to make it to the finals in Verbier! The spots are few. Only the top 12 men skiers, five men snowboarders, five women skiers and four women snowboarders qualify to the last and final competition. The competition at Fieberbrunn-PillerseeTal was their last chance.
Impressive speed and solid riding on the difficult venue was significant among the men skiers. A new name finished on top of the podium in Silas Chickering-Ayers, only 20 years old! He took an impressive lead and his first podium of the season, scoring 81.33 points with an outstanding run. The execution was complete when he perfectly landed two huge cliff jumps and skiing fast in full control from top to bottom.
With the season’s fierce competition, Silas Chickering-Ayers does not make the cut to the finals in Verbier but claims he still needs more experience to take on the extremely challenging face of Bec des Rosses.
Swedes Wille Lindberg and Reine Barkered once again made it to the podium with a very similar approach to the mountain, well known as Barkered’s signature style of high speed, no hesitation, solid skiing and big air. Lindberg managed to knock his country mate off the second place with 80.67 points over Barkered’s 79.0 points.
Drew Tabke (USA), seventh at Fieberbrunn-PillerseeTal, has been leading the overall standings more or less all season and is in the hot seat for the World Champion title. He still needs to perform in Verbier to stay in front of fellow competitors like Julien Lopez (FRA) and Reine Barkered (SWE), currently third and fourth on the overall standings. One of the season favourites, Jérémie Heitz of Switzerland, is sitting in second position overall but had a very unfortunate fall today, leading to a bad leg injury.
American Sammy Luebke is having a good season with constantly progressing results at each event, taking 10th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd and finally a win today in Fieberbrunn-PillerseeTal! A well-earned victory of 81.67 points for Luebke, who rode an impressive fall line approach, involving a serious cliff jump off the edge of a steep spine.
Frenchman Jonathan Charlet took second, scoring 80.0 points by executing a dynamic run, combining big mountain skills at the top section and clean freestyle riding at the bottom. With today’s result Charlet just makes the cut to Verbier, taking the last fifth place. Charlet’s fellow countryman, Aurélien Routens, took his third podium of the season, once again proving confident of his typical style, fast, committed, big mountain riding, which today included an impressive straight line through a steep chute. Scoring 76.67 points and a third place, Routens, climbs to a second place on the overall standings. One of the season favourites Ralph Backstrom (USA), did not quite make it today with a 13th place, but is still hanging on to the overall standings, sitting on third coming in to Verbier.
Austrian Nadine Wallner has been riding consistently all season and leading the overall standings prior to Fieberbrunn. She certainly was on fire in front of her home crowd taking the first win of the year at home turf! Skiing a strong line with explosive style and good air, she placed herself on top, scoring 75.0 points.
Matilda Rapaport of Sweden had a sensational start on her first ever FWT competition. She skied an aggressive and clean line all the way to the finish line, with a score of 64,33 points and a second place. Currently standing second on the Freeride World Qualifiers, she received a wild card invitation to the event. Jacklyn Paaso (USA) was the first rider out of the gate today and skied a fast, dynamic line on the untouched face, taking third place with 64.0 points.
Despite a 7th place today, Pia Nic Gundersen (NOR) is still second on the overall standings. Reigning Freeride World Champion, Christine Hargin of Sweden was absent at Fieberbrunn-PillerseeTal, after hurting her knee a few days prior to the event. She is still holding on to third place overall and hopes to make it to the finals in Verbier.
The snowboard women put on a great show with the top riders pushing the envelope on the Austrian venue. The Mouthon sisters of France had the two most impressive runs putting them on the top spots of the podium. First placed Elodie Mouthon executed a stand out run, riding very confidently with an aggressive and high-speed approach, directly in the fall line and taking big air, giving her the score of 70.0 points. Her sister Anouck Mouthon had a complete different line choice but also rode powerful, fast turns down the venue, scoring 62.67 points. In third place and a score of 60.0 points, American Casey Lucas rode a smooth line including a big jump.
Current tour leader Margot Rozies of France took sixth place today, keeping the suspense alive in the race for the World Champion title. Elodie Mouthon (FRA) and Shannan Yates (USA), sitting in second and third position overall, will give Rozies a run for her money in Verbier.
Next stop: Freeride World Champions to be crowned in Verbier, Switzerland
All the excitement comes to a head at the sixth and final stage, the Swatch Xtreme Verbier 2013 by The North Face, March 23, 2013. The four Freeride World Tour Champions will be crowned at the 18th edition of the “Xtreme” when the athletes take on the legendary and notorious Bec des Rosses, considered the pinnacle of freeride competitions.