Freeride World Tour 2022: Event Two - Highlights
From the clean airs to the gnarly falls, Ski Expert Michael Dobson shares all the major moments from Stop Two of the Freeride World Tour in Andorra.
Ordino-Arcalis in Andorra is a perennial favorite and holds many venues for athletes of all styles to showcase their skills. This season, the mountain faces that usually see action did not have the snow quality to host competition. The organizers had to act on the fly and worked with various local guides, as well as athletes from the men and women’s side, to find an all-new venue to hold this year’s competition. This meant that all of the riders were new to this face and were all at an equal disadvantage when it comes to experience with the terrain features.
The venue the organizers decided on is known as Pic de les Planes and features an east/southeast facing aspect. Since there was no fresh snow to work with, the east and south facing terrain of Pic de les Planes has the benefit of receiving solar effects from the morning and into the afternoon, softening up the refrozen snow just enough to allow for more aggressive and exploratory riding.
The terrain and snow quality still seemed to give lots of riders difficulty which was reflected in the large number of men’s and women’s riders either not putting down their ideal run or going down hard and losing their skis.
Women’s Ski Highlights
Jess showed a lot of promise at Baqueira Beret but fell after getting caught up in mixed conditions. At Stop Two in Ordino-Arcalis, Jess started things off for the women’s side and was able to put down a solid run to get things going. Her run worked to skier's left of the venue and was a clear demonstration of the fluidity of her riding and control. Jess had one small air early on, remaining in tight control, and linking two turns to set herself up for a moderate air over some rocks and exposed ground that would prove to be the downfall for a large handful of women’s riders later in the day. Jess handled it with ease and continued to work to the skier’s left. After some fluid line navigation, Jess lined up a nice medium-sized cliff to put an exclamation on her run that sent her straight-lining with tons of speed towards her final feature and the finish. Jess scored a 76 and took home first place for the women’s field.
Lily is a rookie on the tour and the youngest competitor on the women’s side at only 19. Lily was the second rider down the course, following up Hotter with a fluid air-filled run of her own. The upper portion of Lily’s run was more or less identical to Hotter's, featuring the same first two airs to the skier’s left. Lily was able to pepper in some shiftys though, demonstrating her control and comfortability in the air. The second half of Lily’s run stayed towards the center of the venue where she was able to work in three additional airs with some more shiftys tacked in. None of the airs were quite as large and fast as Jess’ though, and Lily ended up with a 73, enough for a third-place finish on the day.
Olivia was one of our riders to look out for in Andorra after her big first-place finish to start off the season. Olivia’s run started quite similar to Lily and Jess’ towards the skier's left. However, Olivia opted to go wide skier’s left for the second air and took it cross-court to the right to set up the rest of her line. She worked her way up over some large windlips to the skier's right and lined up a large cliff no one else seemed to be looking at. Unfortunately, she took a hard back-slap on the landing that left her in the backseat for a considerable bit of time as she fought to regain control. After getting her skis back under her, Olivia was fairly conservative through the rest of her run, flowing smoothly done to the finish. Olivia scored a 54, not enough to land her on the podium this time around.
Hedvig looked as confident as ever in Andorra. A strong aggressive rider and a fan favorite, Hedvig has made a name for herself, stomping cliffs with ease and going big. Her run started similarly to the others mentioned, but Hedvig opted out of the second air and continued to work the fall line in the center of the venue. Hedvig had a nice medium-sized drop here that she stomped with ease, showcasing her unparalleled strength and conditioning. Her last main feature was the cliff that Jess Hotter closed her run with, and like Hotter, Hedvig handled it and charged off to her last small feature and the finish. Hedvig approached a few features near the middle of her run looking like she was getting ready to hit them, only to pull away at the last minute. It seemed to me that she was looking to have some additional airs in her run but wasn’t sure about their feasibility once approaching them. Hedvig’s run scored a 69.33 keeping her just off the podium at 4th place on the day.
After a disappointing fall in variable snow to start her season in Baqueira Beret, the second stop in Andorra was vital for Elisabeth. She needed to put down a solid run to keep her in contention and help inspire confidence moving ahead to Kicking Horse in Canada. Elisabeth started her run very similar to the others, as well. She worked far skier’s left for a cross-court approach to the second air, similar to Olivia McNeil, but taking it from a higher point for a larger air. She proceeded to work far skie’rs right, then far skier’s left, scoping out windlips along the way to catch and throw shiftys. After several airs, Elisabeth went far skier’s right and found herself a unique air that set her up for a nice moderate-sized cliff to close out her run. Elisabeths flowy and unique line choice earned her a 74.67 and a second place finish on the day.
Men’s Ski Highlights
Ross came into Andorra with something to prove. His uncharacteristic fall at Baqueira Beret was surely a disappointing start to the season for him, and he needed a strong finish at Stop Two if he wanted to make it to the finals and have a shot for an overall podium finish. Ross refused to buckle under the pressure and threw down a top notch run. He started his run slightly skier’s left with a big backflip off the side of the air that went on to give the women’s field a heap of issues. He quickly lined up a double air squeezing in a safety grab on the second hit. Ross continued to the skier’s left catching air off a windlip for a smooth left cork 3 that he landed with ease. Ross lined up an additional double with a small first air followed by an immediate medium-sized feature which he proceeded to backflip. He sped away and hit the final small feature skier’s right to close out his run. Ross’ run was fast, fluid, and packed with tricks, scoring him a 89.67 and clinching a second-place finish.
Joan is an Andorra local and was a wildcard addition for the day. There was much speculation about what the young Andorran had in store considering his wealth of experience in the region's mountains. Joan’s run looked quite promising from the start as he aggressively lined up features with speed and confidence. As Joan approached his second larger feature, he aired off a windlip above a cliff band and hucked a backflip. Joan was short on air and nearly completed the rotation on the backflip before he cleared the top of the cliff. Unfortunately, this resulted in him smashing his body on the rocks and sending him tumbling down the snow below where he came to a motionless rest. Emergency services were deployed immediately and Joan was airlifted to the nearest hospital. He posted a follow-up on Instagram and appears to be okay, but his fall was a frightening reminder of what happens when things go wrong in the mountains. I have to give a big shout-out and thanks to all the first responders and emergency service workers on the FWT and those out there every day who dedicate their time and risk their lives to keep us safe.
The big sending rookie from Spain put on a major show at Andorra. Abel opted for the same entry to his run as the majority of the men’s field, with two airs to get things started. After his second air, Abel carried as much speed as possible flying towards the skier's right and airing off a shallow windlip for a massive step-up air that landed him on top of the ridge to the skier's right. Abel took awkward air off the ridge, landing on one ski, just barely keeping it together, and setting up his final air off a large cliff feature. Abel back-slapped on his final air, running out to the small almost obligatory air at the bottom which he aired out larger than anyone. Unfortunately for Abel, he was docked some significant points for his control issues and ended up with a 71.33 that kept him out of the top 10.
Always consistent with a fast and fluid style, Pollard had a strong showing at Andorra this year. The ripper from Alta, UT chose a similar entry to his line to the rest of the field with two moderate airs to start things off. Pollard continued to work towards the skiers left, airing a nice left 360 off a windlip and then gapping between windlips a bit further down skiers right. Pollard quickly wrapped around skiers right to set himself up nicely for a moderate cliff feature that was the highlight of Jess Hotter’s run, off which Pollard threw another clean left 360. He sped off to the bottom for the small obligatory air and the finish. Pollard’s run earned him an 84 and a third-place spot on the podium.
The young freerider/pro-kiteboarder brought the heat this year at Andorra. Maxime took a similar entry to his line as the rest of the men’s field but was able to huck a 360 off the first small feature. Maxime charged ahead full speed off the second air and opted for the same massive step-up gap that Abel opened up earlier in the day clearing it with ease. Maxime chose the identical air off the top of the ridge that gave Abel some trouble but instead opted for a massive backflip which he was able to stomp pretty cleanly. He worked his way down continuing to hug to the skier’s right, finding a nice moderate-sized air where he threw a clean left 360 with a safety grab and ran out to the finish. Maxime’s run scored a 92.33 and he took home first place.
As we head to Kicking Horse in British Columbia, the current top 10 in the overall rankings point wise for the men’s side are:
- Maxime Chabloz
- Andrew Pollard
- Carl Regner Eriksson
- Abel Moga
- Max Palm
- Ross Tester
- Craig Murray
- Jack Nichols
- Leo Slemett
- Aymar Navarro
And the top 5 for the women’s:
- Hedvig Wessel
- Olivia McNeil
- Jessica Hotter
- Elisabeth Gerritzen
- Zuzanna Witych & Lily Bradley
There are some notable big names missing from the top 10 for the men’s side i.e. Turdell, Freeland, and Barkered. If they hope to make it to Fieberbrunn, they’re going to need major performances at Kicking Horse. I’ll continue to keep you up to date with all the FWT action as we move forward to Stop Three and see who will progress to the finals but be sure to check out freerideworldtour.com and subscribe to their YouTube channel for everything FWT.
I hope everyone following along is enjoying our coverage and having a blast this ski season. Hopefully, the ski season continues to pick up steam and more storms continue to roll in. Whether you’re cruising groomers, crushing powder at your home resort, dialing your tricks in the park, or taking advantage of the lower avy danger and looking to hit the backcountry, if you’re looking for new gear, Curated’s Ski Experts like myself have the knowledge and know-how to get you paired with the best items for the job at the lowest prices around. Give us a shout and see what Curated is all about!