Freeride World Tour 2022: Event Four - What to Look Out For in Snowboarding
Get your schnitzel together as Snowboard Expert Jason Robinson gives you a peek at the peaks of the Austrian Tyrol for the first of two FWT final events.
Competition day for the fourth stop of the 2022 Freeride World Tour is confirmed for Monday, March 14th, a full day before the event's week-long weather window was even scheduled for. The event organizers must have made the call to run it early based on the temps that are forecasted to spike Monday afternoon and remain high all week. The weather is looking to get very warm, and even at an elevation of nearly 7,000 feet, we may see temps as high as the low 40s. With some precipitation likely on Tuesday the 15th, I believe it was the right call to get this event rolling before snow conditions decline any further.
The field of competitors is stacked with world-class athletes, and similar to what we have seen at the first three tour stops, sub-par snow conditions will not slow them down. Well, it may slow them down a little bit, however, much like the gas prices in Europe, I expect the level of riding to remain extremely high.
The competition is being held on a face called Wildseeloder in Fieberbrunn, Austria. The face is massive and has so many options for the competitors that if timing and conditions allow, it will be a best-of-two-run contest format, the only stop on tour where this is even conceivable. I’m hoping that the two-run format is the case because this will give riders a wider margin for error which usually boosts their confidence, potentially elevating their line or trick choice a bit.
This particular contest venue offers something for everyone, and especially for this field of experienced extreme snowboarders, it is a playground that will allow their diverse riding styles to really shine through. The mountain features some steeper, more technical terrain for the billy goats. There are areas with death-defying exposure as well as relatively safe chutes and open panels, both with ample snow coverage. There are cliffs and natural takeoffs for the more freestyle-minded riders, and there is even a massive backcountry halfpipe toward the bottom of the face—the likes of which even Shaun White would approve.
Another pretty unique advantage of having such a vast contest venue is that the slope aspect varies significantly from one side of the face to the other. The riders’ right side of the slope has a slightly more northerly orientation than the riders’ left side of the face does. What this means for the competitors is that the right side is much more shaded and may be holding cold powder snow if conditions align. If cold, quality snow is not available, then the riders’ left side gets a substantial amount of sun and should offer some soft, spring-like corn snow conditions. Of course, nothing really beats fresh, cold, powder snow, however, some nice corned-up slush is the second most rider-friendly conditions you could hope for. It is a beautiful thing that this face may have one, the other, or could possibly have both, so it’s a win-win situation here on Wildseeloder.
We saw half the field of competitors eliminated at the previous stop in Kicking Horse, BC, leaving us with just five men and three women advancing. However, to spice up that landjäger just a bit, they’ve added a couple of wild cards to the mix. Austria’s own freestyle phenom Werni Stock and Swiss superstar Celia Petrig will be joining the tour—for this stop only—rounding things off to an even six men and four women competing.
Amongst those eliminated in Canada were a couple of my favorites on tour. Both Victor de Le Rue and Manuel Diaz will sadly not be at the final two stops of the tour, and honestly, it’s a bit of a shock that neither one advanced to the finals. Both are absolute icons of the sport and have filmed some of snowboarding’s most memorable video segments of all time. Manuel is known for his high-speed, big mountain riding, he has logged numerous first descents, and has possibly sent some of the largest airs ever done on a snowboard. Victor, along with his countless accomplishments and accolades, is the current defending World Champ and a two-time Freeride World Tour victor. These two all-stars not making the cut is just a further testament of how really anything can happen on this tour and how it is truly anyone's title for the taking.
Coming into the finals, the women’s rankings are still pretty tight. It’s the U.S.’s own Erika Vikander who is currently leading for the ladies with a solid 20,000 points. Just behind Erika is Tiphanie Perrotin, of France, with a respectable 16,400, and in third, we have Austrian Manuela Mandl with 14,400 points.
Manuela Mandl has the home-field advantage, and just last year, she placed second here in Fieberbrunn behind 2018 FWT champ Marion Haerty, who—to Manuela’s advantage—is not on the tour this winter. Manuela is a tour vet. She is no stranger to the podium and knows exactly what it takes to win.
Tiphanie Perrotin, at twenty two, is the youngest of the women on tour. She is a yogi, an avid surfer, and more obviously a very talented and promising freerider. Her fluid and flexible approach to life, whether on or off snow, will be to her advantage as the potential for variability is high—putting the most adaptable riders at the top.
Erika Vikander has the obvious lead coming into the finals and perhaps an even greater asset as a self-proclaimed Viking. Knowing that Viking blood is coursing through her veins, it would be only natural that she conquers the competition field.
On the men’s side, there is one man with a considerable and obvious lead, Camille Armand. Camille has 18,000 points, and the rest of the field all have right around 13,000. However, I don’t expect him to be letting off the gas at all, and we will see him charging full throttle for that World Champ title. One of VdLR’s good riding partners, he has learned a lot yet brings his very own approach to riding big mountains. One of the strongest, most confident and technical riders on the tour, he will be one to watch out for here in Austria.
Another one of the guys that I’m really looking forward to seeing ride in Fieberbrunn is Blake Moller, the young gun on tour. Always seemingly fun and loose, this course will cater particularly well to Blake’s skillset and riding approach, with solid fundamentals and edge control for those tighter, more technical spots, yet plenty of style and send when approaching the more playful, freestyle oriented zones of the course.
Make sure to tune in to the live broadcast for Stop Four of the FWT. Plus, you can check back on Curated’s Expert Journal for the recap and highlights from this event as well as what to expect from the fifth and final stop of the Freeride World Tour going down in Verbier, Switzerland between March 26 through April 3rd.
If you’re interested in the skier side of the event, check with Ski Expert, Michael Dobson for all FWT event coverage. Whatever your preferred method of sliding down the mountain, there is a Curated Expert to help you get the most out of your next gear purchase.