Freeride World Tour 2022: Event One - What to Look Out ForPublished on 07/15/2022 · 7 min readSki Expert Mike Dobson gets us hyped for Event One of the 2022 Freeride World Tour, going over the key athletes to keep an eye on.
Photo by Clément Bucco-Lechat
It’s finally that time of the year again, and here at Curated, we’re more than excited for the return of the Freeride World Tour. The first stop on the FWT for 2022 is a new addition to the rotation. Baqueira Beret, located in the Spanish Pyrenees Mountains, is known for its world class terrain and deep snow (when it decides to fly). In coastal mountain ranges with maritime snowpacks, temperatures are often near the freezing mark and can fluctuate greatly between upper and lower elevations impacting snow quality across the mountain. Baqueira Beret is no different.
The summit has a solid current snow depth of around 275cm this season with the base at around 170cm. Temperatures have been hovering above and below the freezing mark as of late, leaving the lower mountain with wet snow conditions during the day and the upper mountain with packed powder depending on aspect. About 135cm of snow fell from January 8th to the 11th, but with sunny days, cold clear nights, and no snow forecast in the days leading up to competition, it’s fair to assume that athletes will be skiing packed powder at best at upper mountain with a potential freeze-thaw crust lower down depending on temperature and radiation effects.
As anyone who has watched the FWT in the past knows, athletes ride the mountains no matter the conditions. With lots of terrain at Baqueira Beret filled in and accessible, it will be interesting to see how the conditions impact rider’s line selection, especially since for many, this will be their first time skiing this venue.
The Skiers to Watch
With 11 female riders and 20 male riders competing in the FWT on the ski side this year, there’s a lot of competition and different riding styles going head to head. Here are some big names, new and old, to keep an eye on.
On the women’s side:
The defending 2021 FWT champ, Gerritzen has an effortless fast fluid style that only comes from years of building confidence on big steep faces. Makes a lot of sense once you realize she grew up skiing Verbier. Gerritzen’s showdown with Hedvig Wessel last season was one for the ages and brought an unbelievable level of excitement to the final on the Bec de Rosses. Look for her to bring her mix of freestyle and freeride into the mix this season as she competes with the incredibly stacked women’s field.
Hedvig had huge 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishes last season at Andorra, Fieberbrunn, and Verbier respectively but lost the top seat on the podium by a mere 20 points. Probably the closest finish I’ve ever witnessed in my time watching the tour. Hedvig is a hard charging beast of a skier. Her massive backflip at stop one in Andorra last season in shallow wind-scoured snow was unbelievable and is emblematic of the high intensity brand of freeride skiing she brings to the table. Hedvig is sure to bring the heat again this season.
3. Olivia McNeill
At only 20 years old, Olivia was a rookie on the tour in 2021 with her last minute addition as a wildcard after some big finishes in the FWQ in 2020. What Olivia may lack in experience, she more than makes up for in confidence, hitting massive cliffs at the first stop in Andorra last season. Unfortunately her 2021 season was cut short by a leg injury. It’ll be exciting what she brings to the table this year if she can stay healthy and put a full season together.
Lexi Dupont is a new addition to the tour for this season. While most riders cut their teeth in the FWQs, Lexi has spent the majority of her career on the film side, filming with the likes of freeski legends Poor Boyz Productions and big-box production house Warren Miller Entertainment. In the last few years, the tour has brought on more notorious or famous names like TGRs Tim Durtschi or freestyle skiing great Tanner Hall, only to see them struggle to lay down podium quality runs. Having spent the part of the last decade filming as a professional, it’ll be interesting to see what Lexi can bring to the table.
On the men’s side:
FWT 2018 champion and defending champ from 2021, Kristofer Turdell is no stranger to the podium. He’s known for his technical line selections that he rides with intense speed and fluidity combined with big drops and cliff hits. Though Turdell has a more traditional freeride style, he still peppers in the occasional 360 or massive backflip. His come-from-behind victory at Xtreme Verbier last season made for some classic FWT drama and demonstrated that you can never count him out.
2. Ross Tester
Ross made a huge splash in his rookie year on the tour last season with 1st place finishes at Ordino-Arcalis and Fieberbrunn setting him up for a major showdown with Kristofer Turdell at Xtreme Verbier to see who would bring home the title of FWT champ. Ross has some serious freestyle chops and air awareness, combined with a playful, fast, and fluid style that is sure to turn heads. Look for him going big again this year with styled out cork 3s and big flips. At only 22, if Ross continues on this path, he’s sure to make a big name for himself in the freeride scene.
FWT champ of 2020, Isaac’s another younger freestyle savvy rider who’ll certainly be one to watch for this season. His switch overflip off the top at Andorra in 2020 (called switch misty 5 by the announcer) quickly gained him notoriety and for good reason. Isaac has a deep bag of tricks with a hard charging style to match. His time on the FWT was cut short last season with a knee injury but this year he’s back, healthy, and ready to showcase his skills.
4. Léo Slemett
Another former champ of the tour returning from a knee injury. Léo stood atop the podium back in 2017 but hasn’t been able to quite put together a full season of top performances since. He also has a good combination of freestyle and freeride skills albeit not quite in the same vein as Tester and Freeland. If Léo can stay healthy and ski his best, he’s sure to be a major contender this season.
The “Mayor of Stomptown,” Reine is known for skiing straight, fast, and going huge off cliffs no one else (except maybe Aymar) is looking at. Reine came roaring onto the freeride scene in the 2010s, winning the FWT in 2012. Since then he’s been knocking at the door with a handful of 2nd and 3rd place finishes overall, and if he’s healthy, you can never count him out. Reine brings a level of excitement to the tour that few can match and is sure to be a blast to watch this year.
6. Max Palm
A wildcard addition for this season, Max Palm was the junior FWT champ for the last two seasons and at 18, will be the youngest rider to ever compete on the tour. Max has a more newschool freeride style and it will be interesting to see what he brings to the table to compete against the stacked field of veterans.
How to Watch
Tune in live at freerideworld.com or their official YouTube channel to stay up to date on the action and follow along as we continue to cover the Freeride World Tour this winter! I’ll be providing highlights of the athletes’ performances from every stop, as well as in-depth analyses of the mountains, what to watch for among the competitors, and the rivalries that shape up as the season progresses.
If you’re looking for a new setup and would like to check out some of the gear of your favorite riders, reach out to Ski Expert like me here on Curated and we’ll help you dial in your setup.