Freeride World Tour 2022: Event Five - What to Look Out For in Skiing
It's the final stop of the 2022 Freeride World Tour, and Ski Expert Mike Dobson covers what to expect and who to keep your eye on in Xtreme Verbier.
We’re finally here. The final stop of the Freeride World Tour. Xtreme Verbier, in the heart of the Swiss Alps, is home to the Bec des Rosses. The legendary face of Verbier features a bounty of steep technical terrain that can make even the best freeriders weak in the knees.
This season, the riders will be presented with a unique set of challenges in Switzerland. Verbier has had a pretty subpar snow year, along with the rest of Europe, and is currently sporting a meager 117cm base depth. To make matters worse, strong winds have battered the main face over the winter, transporting what little snow there was available to other aspects and leaving lots of exposed rock.
This has caused the FWT organizers to shift the event to the looker’s right of the face which has been more wind-sheltered. Clear skies night and day along with sun and wind shelter has caused the snow here to facet (break down in cohesion). This soft ‘sugary’ snow can actually ski quite well and is comparable to the feeling of skiing powder, ask any Coloradan.
With the combo of a different aspect and low snow depth, the riders’ line-scoping skills will be on full display. Riders who are able to recognize landmarks and draw a detailed mental image of their line will have the best opportunity to ski the face to their full potential and avoid the litany of rocks waiting just below the snow surface.
The Kiwi freerider has had an amazing season this year. Two first-place and a second-place finish have placed her at the top of the leaderboard, and she is currently sitting on more than a 7,000 point lead. Since her odd mishap in Baqueira Beret, her riding has oozed confidence and her balance of aggression and technical skills have made her a force to reckon with. Despite her first-place finish last week in Fieberbrunn, Jess took a serious tumble on her second run that found her tomahawking down the face. After such a stellar season, it’d be a shame if she were hampered by a minor injury. Hopefully, she’s back to or close to 100% and able to close out strong.
The rookie phenom has taken the tour by storm and is currently sitting just below Hedvig Wessel in third place. Lily has already proven she can compete at the highest level and walk away with a win. What better place to push yourself to your limits than Verbier? Sitting about 8,000 points back from Jess in first place, Lily definitely has her work cut out for her if she wants the top spot. However, whether she walks away with the win or not, I think it’s safe to say that we will be seeing much more of Lily Bradley in the future.
After coming just a few points away from taking home the title last season, I think it’s safe to say that Hedvig has her eyes on the prize coming into the last stop. She has put together a string of strong performances this season that have kept her in the hunt and is currently in second in the overall rankings. Hedvig is still about 7,000 points back from the lead though, so even if she wins, walking away with the title of Freeride World Tour champion hinges on a 4th, 5th, or NS (no score) run from Jess Hotter. Either way, Hedvig’s brand of aggressive freeride is a joy to watch and a close second-place finish will only galvanize her more next season.
Statistically speaking, Elisabeth needs a miracle to win the tour again this season. Currently sitting more than 10,000 points out from the lead, she would need an NS from Jess and a 1st place finish if she wants any chance at the first place spot. Verbier is Elisabeth’s home mountain though and each season she puts on a show. Look for her to pull out all the stops and give her family, friends, and fans something to remember.
What was once a massive advantage heading into the finals has significantly shrunk. A disappointing performance from Maxime at Fieberbrunn left the door open for his fellow riders to make up some ground, and the veterans took full advantage of the opportunity. Maxime has some serious freestyle chops, but Fieberbrunn demonstrated that more technical terrain can potentially cause him some issues. It’ll be interesting to see the perspective, style, and line choice he brings to Verbier and if the rookie standout can close out the season on top of the podium.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Turdell has proven this season that he’s the man to bet on when the stakes are high and the pressure is on. He went from fighting to make the cut for finals to sitting just 4,000 points shy of the top spot. His performances at Kicking Horse and Fieberbrunn seem to have built up his confidence, and he’ll be looking to steal the show in Verbier. A true veteran of the Bec des Rosses as last season’s Freeride World Tour champion, Turdell has the skills and know-how to wow the judges and take home the win.
Carl Regnér Eriksson
Carl has never been closer to being crowned champion. With less than 3,000 points between himself and Maxime Chabloz, Regnér Eriksson has a real opportunity, and Fieberbrunn showed that he is more than capable of putting down a podium-quality run. His underrated blend of freestyle skill with a charging style reminiscent of his countrymate Kristofer Turdell (and similar line choice) has been building over the years. Last season, he finished third overall. Could this be the year he puts it all together?
When Aymar gets the call, he answers. The organizers reached out and requested the FWT legend make an appearance at the Bec as a wildcard, and lucky for us, he has been so kind as to oblige them. Few riders bring the level of energy and excitement to the tour as Aymar. His high-speed, high-consequence lines are a demonstration of raw power and are sure to leave you at the edge of your seat. Check out this line from last season of Aymar in Verbier and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
The Freeride World Tour season is coming to a close. Be sure to tune in Saturday, March 26th live on freerideworldtour.com or catch the replay on their YouTube channel and see all of the madness unfold.
Winter may be coming to an end but the ski season is catching its second wind. The spring corn cycle is coming and backcountry stability and resort shenanigans are just a few weeks away. Whether you’re looking for the ultimate gaper day gear, a new setup for next season, or dialing your backcountry gear for long spring missions, Curated’s got you covered. Give a shout to one of our many Ski Experts, like myself, and we will help you find the best gear for you at the lowest prices around.