Freeride World Tour 2022: Event One - Highlights
This stop at Baqueira Beret was one for the record books. Follow along with Ski Expert Mike Dobson as he covers the major skiing moments of the Freeride World Tour.
The first stop at Baqueira Beret was one for the record books. The men’s and women’s ski athletes came out swinging and threw down some incredible lines to get the season started. We saw the first rider to land a double backflip in competition, terrifying falls, and death-defying cliff drops. The rookies and young guns ultimately stole the show and came out with big wins at the first stop. Here were some of my favorite moments that left me leaping off my couch and yelling at my laptop.
Women’s Ski Highlights
The 2021 FWT defending champ was the first to hit the slopes for the women’s ski side. Elisabeth was fast and fluid out the start with her effortless style. She lined up into a feature they were calling “the cheese grater,” a raised section between multiple cliffs that was peppered with thinly covered rocks and flanked by mandatory airs on nearly all sides. Elisabeth flowed quickly through this section with two quick turns to check her speed and pointed it off the bottom for a large air into untracked snow. Unfortunately, she got caught up in variable snow, shedding speed in the run-out, and went down briefly on her side. Her run scored a 56.67, all but guaranteeing she would not be on the podium.
After her showdown with Elisabeth Gerritzen last season that separated the two by a mere 20 points and landed her a number two spot in the overall rankings, Hedvig is back and stronger than ever. She came charging hard out of the start gate, speeding through the shallow rocky upper section of the course and working skier's right. Hedvig lined up two smaller airs, each with right safety grabs—one off a wind lip and another off a small rock outcropping. This set her up for her final larger cliff drop into a couloir which she sped out from aggressively onto the apron and into the finish. Her run wasn’t quite as impressive as her show stopper from Andorra last season but scored an admirable 75.33 which earned her a second-place finish.
Jess Hotter is a freerider from New Zealand and another rider from the women’s field who can take the win on any given day. The beginning of her run showed much promise, taking a similar line as Hedvig to the skier's right of the “cheese grater” and airing off the same wind lip. After her first air, she cut back quickly skier’s left for a cross-court air off the only open side of the “cheese grater” area landing just right from where Elisabeth had stomped earlier. Jess was able to hold on through the variable snow though and began lining up her next hit. As she approached the close-out cliff feature she lost her footing and was sent tumbling down the rock face below. Luckily, after her skis were retrieved, she skied away seemingly unscathed, but her run was a strong reminder of the sheer difficulty and potential danger these features pose.
Zuzanna had a standout rookie season last year with a first-place finish at Fieberbrunn and ended the season in third overall. She seemed to carry that confidence from her performances into this season with a solid and consistent run. Zuzanna was smooth and very controlled in her skiing, choosing a nearly identical line as Hedvig to the skier's right of the course. Zuzanna aired off the same two wind lips with a left safety grab off the second and lined up the same cliff to drop into the couloir. Zuzanna didn’t showcase the same speed and aggressiveness in her line as Hedvig but she was very smooth and in control the entire time, earning her a 73.33 and the third-place spot on the podium.
Olivia is a high-intensity rider not afraid to take chances and was a young gun featured in my “What to Look Out For” article. At only 20 years old, Olivia returns this year for her second season on the tour after her 2021 rookie season was cut short due to injury. She showed a lot of promise in her rookie year, and it clearly seems like she’s back at full strength and riding better than ever. Olivia showed aggression and control as she came out the gate. She flowed down skier's right where she straight aired a small feature. This set her up to link two big cliff drops back-to-back which she connected with a single turn, demonstrating her strength and control in the variable conditions. Olivia’s run scored an 80.00, and she took home first for the women’s side.
Men’s Ski Highlights
New Zealand’s own Craig Murray showed up to Baqueira Beret with something to prove. His playful aggressive style showed through right from the start—popping shiftys, tail drags, and slashing turns as he made light work of the shallow rocky upper portion. Craig worked skier's left on the course and threw a quick left three off a small feature into a narrow rocky corridor. He speed checked twice, worked right, and spun the opposite way, throwing a big right cork three off a nearby cliff feature which he stomped with ease. Craig continued to flow back towards the skier's right, setting up for an additional left 360 followed by a small fast air out to the bottom. His run scored 90.00 and gave him a third-place finish on the day.
A rookie on the tour this season, 21-year-old Abel Moga of Spain gave an incredible display of talent, guts, and creativity in his line choice. Abel flowed far to the skier's left and ripped two quick airs linked to a third with a single turn, even squeezing in a quick safety grab off the third. Abel remained in control and continued to charge hard skier's left, lining up and stomping a massive drop that was easily one of the largest of the day. He left the crowd—and myself—roaring with excitement. Abel sped off into the flats, tossing in a left three safety grab just for the fans. Abel’s risky line paid off big time scoring 93.33 and a huge second-place finish to start off his rookie season.
Max was the wildcard addition at Baqueira Beret and is the youngest competitor in the FWT, at only 19. I highlighted him in my “What to Look Out For” article, and man, he did not disappoint! In his first run out of juniors, Max stomped the first double backflip in tour history and made it look easy. His run exuded confidence right out the gate, charging fluidly down to his first feature where he aired a double off a wind lip that sent him flying over multiple rock outcroppings. He took several turns, remaining in tight control to set himself up for a big slightly corked left 360 with an immediate air in the run out that nearly threw him off. Max held on though and skied to the finish, celebrating while onlookers and announcers went wild. Max’s run scored a 96.67 and he took home the win for the men’s side.
The hometown hero at Baqueira Beret, Navarro made sure to put on a show for the fans in true Aymar fashion. Anyone who’s watched the tour in the past years knows Aymar’s name is synonymous with going fast and taking risks. His line choice at Baqueira Beret was nothing short of insanity. Aymar was the only rider to drop from the second start gate far off on the skiers left of the venue. This section looks nearly unrideable. It is steep, rocky, and immensely technical with massive amounts of exposure below. Aymar dropped into his line, trying his best to keep his inside edge as he worked through the impenetrable terrain. As he worked his way down further to the skier's left, a rocky step-down to a second air over a cliff into a third air through a narrow choke flanked tightly with rocks seemed to line up below him. Aymar pointed it and went full throttle. He cleared the first air, but the second pushed him into the backseat and onto his back in the landing. He then went tomahawking down through the final air and choked at the bottom, narrowly missing the rocks on either side as the crowd gasped and screamed. Aymar popped right back up though, and his hometown crowd erupted with energy as he gathered his skis. An unbelievable showing from a true FWT legend!
The first stop of the Freeride World Tour at Baqueira Beret was an absolute blast. The venue holds a ton of potential lines, and I hope to see it featured again in the future. The veterans held their own, but the young guns truly showed up to ride and threw down some of the most exciting runs I’ve seen in years. I can’t wait to see what the riders have in store as the season progresses.
Be sure to follow the Freeride World Tour YouTube channel for inside looks at the action, and be sure to check out the full replay on YouTube or at Freeride World Tour for the full energy and madness that unfolded at Baqueira Beret.
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