The steep and unforgiving Northeast face of the Bec des Rosses, towering to 3233m above the popular Swiss ski resort of Verbier, is often considered the gatekeeper to the prestigious title of world champion on the Swatch Freeride World Tour. The legendary venue hosted the 21st edition of the world championship in the seminal event that is often credited as giving birth to the freeride movement.
Three wild card riders combined with the 27 remaining qualified riders from the five-stop tour after the final cut-off in Haines, Alaska last week made their way back across the Atlantic for their last possible opportunity to contend for the world title. After a dramatic season full of surprises and shake-ups, the champion was crowned in three categories based on their best four results this season.
Sammy Luebke (USA – Snowboard Men) already solidified his title at the previous competition in Haines, Alaska and was joined by newly crowned world champions Eva Walkner (AUT – Ski Women) and Estelle Balet (SUI – Snowboard Women). Due to high winds and low visibility on the Bec des Rosses, the ski men category was unable to run.
Riders hiked and climbed their way up the exposed ridge leading to the summit of the competition venue early this morning amid challenging visibility and fleeting light with strong winds. A generous yet tardy winter season produced plentiful snowfall for the Valais region of the Swiss Alps, with unique weather patterns and winds depositing snow on the peak where it had been absent in years past.
The women’s venue departed from two alternate start gates on the Petit Bec and offered female competitors beautifully appealing spines and couloir features with excellent snow and clean cliff landings. The intimidatingly steep summit pyramid of the Bec des Rosses challenged male riders with cryptic and technical line entrances to more forgiving slopes below where a multitude of cliffs offered competitors ample opportunity showcase their talents in the air.
It was a memorable day for the snowboard men category as Sammy Luebke (USA – 1st Place Xtreme, 1st Place Overall) solidified his status as one of the most legendary riders to grace the Tour, with an incredibly technical line down the middle of the face with huge stomped airs, permitting him to culminate his incredible season with a double victory. Flo Orley (AUT – 2nd Place Xtreme, 2nd Place Overall,) also had a justifiably satisfying end to his season as the 40-year-old demonstrated his experience and power after he stomped one of the most impressive lines of the day all while donning a gorilla suit. A man that has triumphed many times before on the fabled face, Xavier De Le Rue (FRA – 3rd Place Xtreme), showed the world why his reputation precedes him as he gave his privileged wild card the honor it deserves with his trademark charging. Despite rookie Jonathan Penfield’s (USA, 7th Place Xtreme, 3rd Place Overall) less-than-desirable result in Verbier, he still managed to secure the last spot on the overall champion podium despite a loss of control during his run.
Loic Collomb-Patton (FRA) is the new men ski world champion of the 2016 Swatch Freeride World Tour.
The men ski category of the 2016 Swatch Xtreme Verbier did not run yesterday due to high winds combined with low visibility on the Bec des Rosses which prevented competitors from dropping into the face. An unfavorable weather forecast for today and the rest of the weather window terminating on April 10 has resulted in a decision to cancel the 2016 Swatch Xtreme Verbier ski men category.
The overall rankings from after the Haines, Alaska event will be honored as the definitive standings for the 2016 Swatch Freeride World Tour. Congratulations to the riders and thanks for an incredible season.