Freeride World Tour 2022: Event Five - Highlights in Snowboarding

It’s the 2022 Verbier Xtreme, the fifth and final stop of this year's Freeride World Tour. Read on for the highlights brought to you by Snowboard Expert Jason Robinson.

All the winners and athletes from Stop Five of the Freeride World Tour crowd on the podium and smile for the camera.

Photo by J. Bernard, courtesy of the Freeride World Tour

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I was only expecting to see one word starting with the letter X at the 2022 Xtreme Verbier, yet there was a second one that had me quite elated, to be quite honest. No, it thankfully wasn’t X-ray! Although there were a couple of close calls, all the snowboarders made it through the day without injury. And, the official music genre of the FWT is EDM not orchestral or folk, so there were no xylophones present either.

The second X came in the first name of this stop’s guest announcer. No stranger to freeride, three-time FWT champion, four-time winner here in Verbier, and older brother of this stop's men’s wildcard—Xavier de Le Rue. Xav added some great commentary, sharing his point of view as a snowboarder who knows the ins and outs of riding the Bec des Rosses more than any competing snowboarder in attendance.

Conditions

Despite the Alps having an Xtremely low snow year, the riding conditions were actually much better than most of the athletes and event staff thought they would be. Of course, upon the initial course check done by the event’s safety team, they deemed the snowpack to be too thin to run the event from the top of the Bec. This decision was met with open arms from the competition field and was a real confidence booster.

Arguably the best snow quality of the entire tour, the snow, although quite variable and a bit punchy, was still of pretty good quality—Xavier coining it “old powder.” While it wasn’t fresh powder, because of the high elevations and true northern exposure much of the snow remained preserved over the long dry spell the area has been experiencing. Instead of the usual two starting points off the top of the face, there were three starting gate options for athletes that were all located about a third of the way down the slope. This allowed the riders to skip the rockiest, most exposed, and most dangerous portion of the face.

Women's Highlights

Manuela Mandl, Erika Vikander, and Tiphanie Perrotin stand on the FWT podium at Verbier.

Photo by J. Bernard, courtesy of the Freeride World Tour

First on the schedule for the day was women’s snowboarding, and it was Manuela Mandl who opened up the Bec while simultaneously shutting it down for the rest of the ladies. Manuela hands down had one of the most impressive moments of all of the snowboarders, both male and female. She rode what were possibly the most technical lines of the day—a very exposed double-drop feature that started with a tight entrance into a sizable drop on the second hit. The whole run really came together for her, and on top of the technical double line up top, she stayed on her feet and carried good speed the whole way. She found a few more little drops littered throughout the face, managed her sluff wonderfully, and altogether had a really incredible showing here in Verbier, posting an 82.3.

Erika Vikander and Tiphanie Perrotin were left battling it out for second place. These ladies took similar runs as one another, keeping good flow while finding a couple of good cliff drops along the way. They even both took a spill riding in the sun-baked snow toward the very bottom. Just as she was approaching the finish line, Erika took a quick and minor fall, something that may not have even affected her score since it was so close to the finish line. Her run earned her a 71.67. Tiphanie took a similar crash, however, the judges certainly took it into consideration, scoring her a 56. I’d have to speculate that such similar runs brought such different results because Tiph’s crash wasn’t quite as close to the finish line and was a much harder crash compared to Erika’s little bobble.

Men’s Highlights

The top three male snowboarders at the FWT stand on the Verbier podium.

Photo by J. Bernard, courtesy of the Freeride World Tour

One of the most noteworthy moments of the day was from the first man to drop, Cody Bramwell. He started off clean and confident and took a couple of little drops up top, keeping things really flowy. You could tell something big was about to go down because he eased off the brakes and was almost instantly hauling some serious ass. I was thinking to myself, “Where’s he taking all that speed?” The next thing you know, he’s airborne—quite literally flying. Xavier even blurted out a quick “OH MY GOD!” I also screamed as his 60-plus-foot air abruptly ended, his board colliding with a truck-sized rock and pitching him another fifty feet or so in a gnarly tomahawk. Respect though! He was okay and was really close to nailing it. This was a proper big mountain line, and as Xav put it “More speed, more pop? He would have been the hero”. Thankfully he was okay with the high-risk, potentially high-reward send, but the judges docked him hard, putting him in the last place spot with a 41.67.

Blake Moller was second to drop for the men and came with that classic B-Mo flow. He dropped in looking clean and light on his feet, and you could just sort of tell he was building up as he went. Taking the first little drop with ease, Blake looked a little lost for a split second, but he quickly found his planned diving-board-style take-off. A couple of quick setup turns, and boom, he lays out a big backflip. He stomps it, absolutely bolts, and pretty much points it straight to the finish line, earning him an 84.67 and second place for the day.

Blake Moller does a backflip on the final stop of the Freeride World Tour.

Photo by D. Daher, courtesy of the Freeride World Tour

Victor de Le Rue absolutely lit it up on the Bec, making it down in about half the time of any of the other riders. Of course, he picked the only one of three start gates that required a climbing rope just to get down to. There, he dropped in, and within a board length or two was already airborne, popping straight into a picture-perfect frontside 360, complete with a lil’ indy poke. He landed clean and, with rocks all around him, started accelerating like crazy. A testament to his incredible board control and situational awareness, he pivots into a sort of weightless toeside slide turn, seemingly defying the laws of physics and human capabilities. I haven’t seen this sort of on-the-fly maneuvering since Marty McFly introduced us to the hoverboard in Back to the Future.

Before I could even process what Vic had done so far, he got back on edge and sent another textbook 360—this time backside. He lands and heads straight for a double drop. For the first, he has to ollie over a rock that juts up from the takeoff; he lands, hits the second drop, and then straight lines it for the finish. The announcers were in awe and nearly speechless but Xavier was able to mutter “Well done, little brother” to break the tense silence. Victor was again the obvious victor here at Verbier with an 89.33.

Tour Results

The women’s overall tour winner and World Champion was a close call when the points all got added up. At first, even the judges had assumed that the day’s third-place finish for Tiphanie and second-place finish for Erika had put Erika in the overall lead. However, once the excitement had worn off and the judges were able to take a breath and make the final tabulations, it was in fact Tiphanie Peteronin that was the new World Champ, taking the tour victory by a mere 500 points with 30,500.

Blake was in the hot seat as he watched his only real contender for the overall tour championship, Camille Armand, drop in on the Bec. Camille had a great season and came into this final stop a close second overall behind Blake. In Verbier, Armand also had a killer run that was definitely a contender to oust Blake from the top spot. Cami rode the Bec with flow, aired a nice drop amongst a waterfall of his sluff, stomped a real nice B/S 360, and laid out a massive backflip. If he hadn’t punched deep into the snow and lost it on the landing, the Stop Five and overall results would most likely have switched between Blake and Camille.

Blake Moller racked up a total of 32,500 points during the entirety of the tour and is our new World Champion! Camille Armand ended up second on tour with an even 26,000 points, and Michael Mawn, another rider I look forward to seeing more of in the future, took third overall with 22,800 tour points.

Well, there you have it! The 27th annual Xtreme Verbier was the cherry on top of the 14th year of the Freeride World Tour. Here on the Bec des Rosses, we were reminded that to the Victor (and now Manuela) go the spoils. Speaking of spoils, it’s never too late in the season to spoil yourself with the new snowboard setup you deserve and there is a Curated Expert here to help you with finding just the right gear for you.

This wraps up the 2022 coverage of the Freeride World Tour, but check back here on Curated’s Expert Journal for an update on what to look for at the Natural Selection Tour’s final stop in Alaska’s rugged Tordrillo Mountains.

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I've spent over thirty years on snow and a decade as a professional rider. Snowboard career highlights include standout video parts with Absinthe Films, 2016 Big Mountain Rider of the Year and two Snowboarder Mag covers. I pretty much grew up on the slopes in Whitefish, Montana and snowboarding has...

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