Freeride World Tour 2022: Event Four - Highlights in Snowboarding
Let’s take a quick look into Stop Four of the 2022 Freeride World Tour and the highs and lows from the Tour's first finals event in Fieberbrunn, Austria.
Once again, the high level of riding at Stop Four of the Freeride World Tour in Fieberbrunn, Austria left me in awe and dropped my jaw. The competing athletes' ability to adapt to any and all conditions is commendable, and yes I know, it’s quite the cliche, but in my eyes, much like in the presumed eyes of their mothers, all of the competing athletes were winners at this event.
This was the first of a two-stop final, and the point structure for this event has increased by twenty-five percent, going toward the athletes’ overall tour standing. This means that Stops Four and Five will have a noticeably higher impact on the tour ranking, allowing riders that perform well here to climb the ranks faster or increase their lead by that much more.
The legendary venue in Fieberbrunn is named Wildseeloder and is one of the longest-standing competition venues on tour. I’d mentioned in my “What to Look Out For” article for this event that there is no known translation for Wildseeloder from German to English and well, as far as I know, that still holds true.
The conditions on competition day were indeed variable and changed dramatically throughout the day, adding another layer to the variability! The snow started out with some pretty big differences from one side of the slope to the other. Lookers’ left of the face was mostly shaded, holding some decent pockets of soft powder snow throughout the event, and remained mostly unchanged as the day progressed. The viewers' right of the venue received some pretty major sun exposure, and at the start of the day, which began with the skiers, the snow was still pretty firm and unforgiving.
The two-run format led to it being quite a long day, and by the second run for the snowboarders, the right side of the face offered what appeared to be some extremely fun and rider-friendly conditions. The riders that were incorporating the changing snow conditions into their line choices between runs one and two were setting themselves up with a pretty clear advantage for the best-of-two run format.
Women’s Snowboard Highlights
The two women that really stood out to me and appeared to be drawing inspiration from the film Talladega Nights, bringing that Ricky Bobby “If you ain't first, you’re last” mentality were Manuela Mandl and Tiphanie Perrotin. These two ladies rode fast and took chances!
Manuela looked extremely clean and confident off the top. She rode with speed and control above some serious life or death exposure. As I watched rider after rider take very similar lines down the top half of the venue, it was refreshing to see that Ms. Mandl chose not to follow the herd off the main cliff drop. Instead, she opted for an untracked chute and was rewarded with some soft snow. She linked some of the best-looking powder turns of the day and reached an absolutely mental level of velocity as she blazed out of the couloir.
Unfortunately, Manuela showed us a downside of variable snow conditions, and as she was flying down the slope, she crossed from the shade to the sun. In a split second, the snow conditions changed drastically, and at those incredible speeds, it was just too much for her to transition smoothly. A small bobble resulted in one of the gnarliest crashes of the day. It’s hard to say with certainty, but she may have simultaneously been given a concussion and podium finish! She ended the day just behind Erika Vikander with a third-place medal and presumably a pretty serious headache.
Tiphanie took the top spot for the ladies and for good reason. One of my favorite moments of the day was how Tiphanie rode through a tight and technical chute. Both men and women had tried to navigate the chute, but no one pulled it off with the style and grace that Tiph rode it with. She approached it with speed and flow, entering the dangerous and exposed chute with confidence, managing her sluff like a true veteran. Her time in the water seemed to have helped her through this one as she essentially surfed her sluff down this highly consequential line.
Tiphanie rounded off her run with a solid air, punting herself like a human football through a goal post between two trees. Undoubtedly the winning run, she rode clean top to bottom, ending up closing the gap quite a bit between her and tour leader Erika Vikander which really ups her chances at earning the title of “World Champ” at the fifth and final stop next week in Verbier.
Men’s Snowboard Highlights
The men kept things interesting and had me guessing all the way up to the end of the day. Ultimately it was barrel seeker and sleepy smooth operator Blake Moller that took the win.
Blake brings an energy to the tour that hasn’t really been present before now, and he always appears to mostly just be chilling out there. On run one, Blake was so nonchalant that he caught an edge just above the main cliff, and without losing his composure, he just flowed with it. He put down a quick break-dancing-style backspin just a few meters above the rocks, stood up for a split second, checked himself, and went straight into the air over the rocks.
It was his second run that earned him the W though, when he rebated the main cliff drop, approaching clean and executing flawlessly this time. Building confidence and momentum as he continued down the face, Blake hit a couple more nice airs and finished strong with style and flow.
Not a contending run top to bottom, it was wildcard Werni Stock who had my favorite air of the day. After coming into the top chute with a bit too much speed, he had taken himself out of the running for a podium finish. This didn't stop him from sending it though, and he ripped fast down the rest of the face. What first looked like a smaller, mellower air, turned into a serious long-distance send. It wasn’t the highest air, but Werni just kept going, possibly surprising himself by how much ground he covered. With a high-speed take-off, the frontside shifty took him about forty feet, but he was still going. He sort of rebalanced himself mid-air, transitioning into a backside shifty for the final thirty feet or so. This was the biggest air of the day for the snowboarders, and the air awareness Werni brings to the table made this seem pretty casual to the untrained eye, yet it was possibly the most impressive snowboard moment of the day.
The results shook out pretty tight, and it was Ludovic Guillot-Diat (aka Ludo) who claimed third with the very first snowboard men’s run of the day and Cody Bramwell who kept it suspenseful, nailing a well-rounded run right at the end of the men's second runs that earned him a second-place finish.
Women’s Top Three Rankings:
- Erika Vikander
- Tiphanie Perrotin
- Manuela Mandl
Men’s Top Three Rankings:
- Blake Moller
- Camille Armand
- Cody Bramwell
Check out the full finals rankings for the women here and men here.
Another stop is a wrap, and the riders now get a little much-needed time to rest their nerves and bodies before the fifth and final stop kicks off in Verbier March 26th through April 3rd.
The two-run format that this huge venue in Fieberbrunn allowed for really helped make the event. The conditions were a significant challenge, and for the riders to have the ability to get two runs on a course that was only getting softer and more playful as the day went on proved to be beneficial for both competitors and spectators alike.
For more insightful articles and Freeride World Tour Coverage please check back in with me at Curated’s Expert Journal or reach out to a Snowboard Expert if you have any questions about snowboarding or snowboard gear.