Thursday, February 26, 2015

Team Europe Wins 2015 Swatch Skiers Cup


After enjoying powder and bluebird conditions for both the Backcountry Slopestyle and Big Mountain events, the 5th edition of the Swatch Skiers Cup was concluded today with Team Europe winning the famous Skiers Cup trophy. This brings the ongoing historic score of the event to 3-2 to Europe.
Just as it has always been the intention from the two co-founders of this unique competition, Sverre Liliequist (SWE) and Kaj Zackrisson (SWE), this week has been characterized by a spirit of brotherly challenges rather than intense competitiveness. However, when the battle is on the brothers bundle up for their team.
Today's battlefield was the Big Mountain. Held on a face only accessible by helicopter, riders from both teams showed off their skills and joy of skiing in face-off heats just like in the Backcountry Slopestyle event. The heats were divided into two rounds where each rider had to meet a skier from the other continent in a duel, fighting for 1 point for their respective teams each time.
Team Europe went into today's event with a 10 to 8 lead taken in the Backcountry Slopestyle yesterday. Today they repeated their success with another 10 to 8 victory, leaving the total score at 20-16 to Team Europe.

Most runs of the first round were dominated by tricky snow conditions and the riders having to feel where they could charge and where to be smooth and light. There were a few exceptions with for example Swatch Proteam member Samuel Anthamatten (SUI) showing his peers the hidden jewel of the mountain by a gap that did not look rideable. Linking it into a fun overall use of the face and playing with the many wind-created formations, it left little chances for his opponent to beat him. Besides winning the point, his run also earned him big cheers from both teams.
Loïc Collomb-Patton (FRA) also put on a run that stood out in his heat against the playful Sage Cattabriga-Alosa (USA). In Loïc's usual no-hesitation-style, he put all show ingredients into a fluid run with no signs of balance issues.
The fastest paced run of the day, packed with action was delivered by Rory Bushfield (CAN) who made it looked like the face had been groomed just for him, showing his acrobatic skills as well.
The first round ended 5-4 with Team Americas getting one more precious point behind in the overall. The second round could thus begin at an overall score adding up to 15-12 to Team Europe, counting yesterday's BCS points.

Lagging 3 points behind, with an overall score adding up to 15-12, Team Americas went motivated into the second round with their captain, Seth Morrison (USA) taking the first point against European Team Captain, Julien Regnier (FRA) with his signature backflip in the first heat. However, in the next two heats, the stand-ins for Sven Kueenle (GER) and Richard Permin (FRA) took home two more points for Team Europe: one was event co-founder, Kaj Zackrisson (SWE), who was on fire with what he afterwards called "monkey skiing". The other was a spectacular run from Freeride World Tour rider Nicolas Salencon (ARG/FRA) in a playful freestyle mode. In heat 4 and 5, Sage Cattabriga-Alosa (USA) and Logan Pehota (USA) did what they could to bring back hope to their team. Both delivered sweet lines, taking points from the two strong Europeans, Samuel Anthamatten (SUI) and Sam Favret (FRA). Tanner Rainville (USA) then confirmed Team Americas' determination beating Nicolas Vuignier (SUI)and taking the score to a close 16-17 behind Team Europe. Team Americas thus needed to take two more wins of the remaining three heats. Andy Mahre (USA) and Fabien Maierhofer (FRA) kept the suspense with probably the most even heat of the day, ending up to the advantage of the Frenchie. The next face-off was an imposed all-or-nothing strategy for Rory Bushfield (CAN) when Loïc Collomb-Patton (FRA) stomped a second full repertoire run, underscoring why he is the World Champion in this discipline. Rory went for it but crashed after an ambitious attempt at backflipping in a huge jump turn, thus putting a definitive end to Team Americas chances of keeping the trophy.
Loïc Collomb-Patton who delivered impeccable lines in both heats commented in the finish area: "Technically, it's the same approach as for a run on the Freeride World Tour, but the atmosphere is really special for this competition. We are all together during this week, Europeans and North Americans alike. We both push and challenge each other. For my second run, Samuel [Anthamatten] helped me a lot choosing the line and I skied more or less his line – just in a different way".
Since the battle was settled by then, Dana Flahr (USA) and Sverre Liliequist (SWE) decided to ride together in their heat, in the spirit of the event. Co-founder, Sverre used the occasion of this last heat to sign off the event with a big front flip just before the finish.

Freeride World Tour General Manager, Nicolas Hale-Woods (SUI), who delivers the structure behind the event was left inspired after a week with these superstar riders:
"The level of skiing is amazing – but what strikes me most is the good spirit between the teams", he commented. "It has been really interesting to witness how the guys helped out each other. This morning I saw the young Logan Pehota being coached by Cody Townsend about his line for example. That's the spirit that makes this event so special and we will do our part to keep it that way".

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