Freeride World Tour 2022: Event Five - What to Look Out For in Snowboarding
The Grand Finale of the grandest freeride competition is here! Snowboard Expert Jason Robinson talks you through the rocks and helps you navigate your way in Verbier.
The fifth and final stop of the Freeride World Tour has historically been in Verbier, Switzerland, and contest day has been confirmed for March 26th. The Verbier Xtreme, as it’s called, not only puts the X in Extreme but it takes out the E, so you really know they mean business.
Personally, I’ve always scoffed at the coffee drive-thrus that decided they are going to make up a new way to spell “espresso” by adding an X in some head-scratching manner. I don’t take the butchering of words lightly, but in the case of the Verbier Xtreme, the rephrasing is not only justified, but I’m fully backing it. This is hands down the most Xtreme freeride contest of all time, and the standard spelling of extreme simply does not do it justice.
Besides the maniacs you may see wingsuiting off of the top of the face, the reason the Verbier Xtreme is indeed so Xtreme is because of where it is held. The legendary Bec des Rosses is the tallest, steepest, and most dangerous venue on the FWT, demanding respect and absolute precision from the athletes that are bold enough to drop in. At first glance, the Bec appears to be made of more rock than snow, and it requires close analysis to even see the lines off the top that actually go, connecting you to the slightly more snow-covered bottom half.
This legendary face stands over 2,000 feet tall and varies between 40 and 60 degrees. This is not exactly the place I’d want to find myself in subpar snow conditions. On good snow years, it is littered with hazards, requiring skillful navigation and impeccable board control to make it down safely, but on a below-average snow year with no new snow in weeks, it is going to be Xtra dangerous.
The lines are of life-or-death commitment, presenting mortal consequence. Studying and sticking to their line will be essential for the athletes riding the Bec, and beyond that, the biggest challenge this face presents is the necessary yet difficult task of managing their speed. These athletes will need to know Xactly when and where they will find enough snow to slow themselves down without hitting rocks or hard snow.
Another particularly dangerous aspect is the fact that the FWT is a contest, so some riders may feel the pressure to not take things too slowly. Let’s just say that the athletes will be in my thoughts and prayers as competition day approaches.
The above video has just been released, and I’m happy to learn that the safety team has deemed the Bec des Rosses as too dangerous to hold the competition there this year. The snow wasn’t substantial enough to sustain riders due to the much lower-than-average snowpack and harsh winds over the past few weeks and even months. The decision to move down to the Petit Bec is a call that I support wholeheartedly and will certainly help me sleep sound tonight!
There will be three women and five men competing for the FWT title this Saturday on the Petit Bec.
The five men include current tour leader Blake Moller with 25,775 points, Camille Armand with 24,400 points, Cody Bramwell at 22,800 points, Ludovic Guillot-Diat sitting at 21,120 points, and Michael Mawn in the bottom spot with 19,675 points.
With 12,500 points awarded for a first-place finish here in Verbier, 10,000 points for second, 8,000 for third, 6,400 for a fourth-place finish, and 5,120 given out for fifth, nearly all of the athletes have a chance at the overall tour victory.
Not a contender for the championship, yet a very real threat to the others on this stop, is Wildcard Announcement Victor de Le Rue. Victor is out of the running for a three-peat of the title but could still alter the course of events for the other athletes. Winning this stop is nothing new for a de La Rue, as Victor’s older brother, Xavier, put down what was possibly the most mind-blowing run ever taken by a snowboarder on the Bec in 2010. Victor was last year's winner of this stop and the whole 2021 Freeride World Tour, so whatever the results he is sure to impress.
I am really looking forward to seeing how Blake Moller handles the more high-risk terrain. I hope we still get to see his sort of fast and loose approach to competition, yet hope that he maybe tightens it up just enough to avoid any high consequence spills. I have a good feeling here—Blake has been on a roll, and if he can manage to not take a literal roll, he is probably my favorite going into the final in Verbier.
It’s hard to play any favorites, especially with the questionable conditions and last-minute venue change. Any advantage for riders that have ridden the Bec des Rosses in past years, much like the snow on the Bec, is now gone. All of these snowboarders have what it takes to win the stop, and those that are able to relax and stay composed will be rewarded handsomely.
FWT Surfers Cup
The FWT founder and CEO Nicolas Hale-Woods knows that Freeride isn’t just skiing and snowboarding but is much more than that. Freeride is a way of life! Nicolas is taking things back to his roots, as what was possibly the original Swiss Surfer, and is hosting the FWT Surfer’s Cup on March 24th at Alaïa Bay Wavegarden in Sion, Switzerland.
A select group of athletes will be teamed up with the special guests and gather at this state-of-the-art landlocked Wavegarden which is located just an hour's drive from Verbier. The event will be run in a unique new format featuring two teams of eight in a “Europe vs. The World” event. Don’t worry though, this is not the beginning of WWIII, it is strictly a friendly surf event, and it’s in Switzerland which is a neutral safe-haven anyway!
If you’re in the U.S. or Canada and are a bit of a night owl, I suggest you watch the event live. If not, the event replay will still be available to watch on the FWT’s website by following the same link above. If you don’t have the time to watch the whole event yet want a recap from a real-life Snowboard Expert, such as myself, don’t stress just check back here on Curated’s Expert Journal.
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