The women's skiing category was particularly exciting today, because it was decisive of who is qualified for the next stop which will take place in Haines, Alaska (USA) on March 14th. Two Americans, Jackie Paaso (USA) and Hazel Birnbaum (USA) were in the “hot seat” ranking 6th and 7th respectively, and both made it in. Hazel showed a very decisive run today with great action earning her the top score of 78.75 and her first FWT victory.
"I was pretty nervous coming in to today. I fell in the last event. I really wanted to go to Alaska and represent our home country", Hazel said at the bottom. "I just wanted to stay on my feet. Last time was a pretty big ego-crash. I can't believe I won. Now I'm going to celebrate with my friends - I'm going to my home state of Alaska!".
Eva Walkner (AUT) continued her streak of podiums with a second place and a score of 75.00, laying out hard, dropping aggressively into the steep part, almost using the features to steer her down the steep top section. The 3rd place was taken by Francesca Pavillard-Cain (USA) who started out with a nice big air off the top lip, continuing playfully with a traversing air towards the skiers left and putting another good size air into the middle section. A solid run scoring her 72.25 out of the 100 points possible.
The man of the day was Sam Smoothy (NZL) who scored an impressive 91.25 and took the 1st place in men's skiing. He picked the skiers right of the face as one of the only riders, linking the spread out snow pads with big air in excellent flow, keeping breath-taking action all along the face.
A happy Sam, who sees his possibilities of qualifying for Alaska re-opening, found confidence to send it in the conditions that he said were close to what he knows from home in New Zealand: "Going into Andorra, I really needed a good result. I just felt right at home here. I'm super psyched – it was an all-or-nothing run and it worked for me".
With bib number 2, Jeremie Heitz (SUI) set the standards for the day right off the bat with a score of 82.00. He laid out a fast, fluid run starting with a very technical jump into the steep couloir, impressing the judges right away. Only Sam's spectacular line could beat that and left him with the second place.
Finally the stomp master, Reine Barkered (SWE), confirmed his podium from Chamonix-Mont-Blanc with a line close to Jeremie's, giving him a score of 81.25 squeezing him in just ahead of Rodney George (USA) who had a score of 81.00 in a very tight top field.
Reine is now leading the current standings and said he is feeling more relaxed about the upcoming events: "Today I was actually not nervous at all in the beginning – and then I got up to the start and got really nervous for some reason. Surprised though, I had a pretty straightforward line I think – but of course you don't know if you are going to ride it well. Snow was okay and I got most of my features in and landed clean I think and it went really fast so I'm super happy with a 3rd place here today. This of course, puts me in a really good position now for the Tour with a 2nd and a 3rd place it should be really good – I think – so it definitely takes a lot of pressure off for the upcoming events opening up so I can really go full charge, with a no holding-back-kind of riding".
The snowboarders put on an impressive show taking advantage of the diversity of options on the face and showing mastery of their technical skills. Jonathan Charlet (FRA) received the highest score of the day with 90.00. He dropped into the steeps with a perfect 180 off the wind lip up top and continued down the in beautiful fast-paced turns, making the steep part look very easy before making an exit jump out of the couloir. He spiced up the middle section with a feature pulling a grab, finally ending his spectacular line stomping a playful bottom air and yelling with happiness, claiming it, as he went through the characteristic black Swatch arch into the Finish.
"I'm absolutely stoked! I felt great coming down. Snow had turned good and I had perfect grip. I took all my airs as I wanted", he explained, calming down his excitement a bit before talking about the continuation of the season: "I stay calm for now while hoping to obtain that ticket to Alaska".
Flo Orley (AUT) showed some of his best action ever in a very original line. He started out with a big, highly exposed air crossing over to a very narrow couloir before hitting more big airs. A line that showed a complete repertoire of skills and gave him a score of 86.50.
"I'm super stoked to be here in Andorra – the mountains look very much like home. The terrain in the area where I went is just like my home mountain and the snow softened up so I could do what I wanted. When I saw the score I was like the happiest man on the planet", said the experienced rider showing that he is still able to send it big time.
The third podium place went to Ralph Backstrom (USA) who received a score 83.75 with a line similar to Jonathan's at the top and playing it a little more safe at the bottom, "putting another result in the pocket to get to Alaska" as he said was his game plan.
The female snowboarders seemed to enjoy the many smaller features cramming in good action throughout the face. Most impressive today was Estelle Ballet (SUI) who showed both very technical turns in high speed up top in the steep section, and fun action playing with the features on the lower part. She got a high score of 83.00 putting her in 1st place.
"I'm really excited and I had a lot of fun competing today! I rode just like I would have, when I'm out with my friends - no pressure!" she said. With regards to Alaska, Estelle continued: "Of course I feel more and more confident about the continuation of the season and Alaska which is getting closer!".
Elodie Mouthon (FRA) successfully linked her turns and smaller features in good control, earning her a score of 79.50 and a 2nd place.
Shannan Yates (USA) took almost the same line putting in few but strategically well-chosen airs. She obtained a score of 76.75 and the 3rd place, thus keeping the lead of the current standing.
SNOWBOARD Highlights from FWT15 Vallnord-Arcalis por FreerideWorldTourTV