This year’s Freeride World Tour came to a zinger of a climax in Verbier last weekend as the best of the world’s freeride skiers and snowboarders lined up to drop in to the super exposed Bec des Rosses face.
An impossibly blue and cloud-free sky made for perfect conditions for the spectators, and a few patches of variable snow for the competitors, at the Final stop on this year’s Freeride World Tour – Xtreme Verbier 2019.
As the helicopters shot back and forth to the top of the Bec des Rosses –the legendary face for the competition— you could sense the anticipation, excitement and all manner of nerve-jangling sensations rippling through the camp.
First to drop in the Elite competition, were the snowboard women and FWT history was made on the Bec. With the 2019 title was already safely secured, French snowboarder Marion Haerty laid down a relaxed, super-stylish run to secure a record fourth win on this year’s Tour. Marion is now a two-time Freeride World Tour winner having already picked up the overall title back in 2017. She was joined on the podium by Anna Orlova of Russia and Austrian Manuela Mandi.
Check out Marion’s winning run here:
The snowboarders were followed by the female skiers and the ever-increasing party vibe went up a notch when Verbier-local, Elisabeth Gerritzen went huge on her Faction Dictator 3.0’s to take the win. Italian skier, Arianna Tricomi, who was looking to secure the title in Verbier, had told me the day before that she wouldn’t take too many risks. With that said, I was surprised by the technical line she took, but the risk paid off as she finished second on the day to become back to back Freeride World Tour Champion! American-veteran Hazel Josie Birnbaum finished her last ever FWT event with a third placed finish.
Check out Elisabeth’s winning run below:
After an early start the crowd was at capacity –and a few beers down—by the time the boys got dropped off at the start gates. The snowboarders went first, led from the front by Jonathan Penfield who led from the front as he flew down the mountain, boosting off two huge cliffs. No-one could match his score and he held on to win. He was joined on the podium by fellow American Sammy Luebke in second and rookie Frenchman, Victor De Le Rue, who secured the overall title with third place on the day.
Check out Jonathan’s winning run here:
A personal highlight of the day for me was seeing the 54-year-old legend Steve Klassen send THE gnarliest line of the day! Steve actually won the first ever Xtreme Verbier, way back in 1994. Invited back to compete as a wildcard, some of this year’s competitors weren’t even born when he won his first title. He flipped and spun, dropping from the highest gate on a line that no-one else dared to take on.
Rounding it all off were the ski men. I had managed to grab a word with the leader going into the event, Markus Eder. Like his fellow Italian, Arianna Tricomi, Eder wasn’t planning to ‘take too many risks’ on the day. I’m not sure these guys are fully au fait with the definition of risk! Taking a unique line, Eder attempted a backflip that saw him land a bit too far back. This minor crash couldn’t be saved by a stylish 360 and he finished in sixth place on the day, but with enough points to secure the overall title – a second win for Italian skiers here on the FWT 2019.
On the day, the judges favourite run went to Frenchman Wadeck Gorak, who effectively straight-lined down the central couloir by launching off the biggest cliff, and followed it up with an enormous backflip. Leo Slemett kept the French flag flying, by securing second, with a very smooth backflip and a 360. 2018 FWT winner, Swedish Kristofer Turdell, put down one of the fastest runs on the day to join them on the podium.
Check out Wadeck’s balls-out winning run below:
After a season of seriously high quality riding, the FWT athletes let their hair down big style at the after party at the Pub Mont Fort but it won’t be too long before they’re back in training for next season’s event.