Freeride World Tour 2022: Event Five - Highlights in SkiingPublished on 07/15/2022 · 11 min readSki Expert Michael Dobson covers the fifth and final stop of the 2022 Freeride World Tour. Follow along as he covers the best runs, the biggest airs, and the gnarliest falls.
Despite weather causing last-minute changes, a less than optimal snow year, and the residual effects of the pandemic that severely altered the previous two seasons, the Freeride World Tour was able to pack in five stops of world-class skiing on some of the best freeride terrain in the world.
Staying true to the theme for this season, low snow and weather effects played a major role in the final stop on Xtreme Verbier’s world-famous Bec des Rosses, but the athletes didn’t let that slow them down. The last stop featured non-stop action from start to finish and two new skiers were crowned Freeride World Tour Champions.
Women’s Ski Highlights
The sophomore rider from Canada had a stellar season and proved that there is much more to her skiing than gutsy sends. Her run at Verbier found her dropping in above some intense exposure from Start Three, the only rider on the women’s ski side to do so. She started her run making several jump turns, working her way through the steep rocky terrain, and lining up a small air off the side of a large cliff band. She continued to find her way through tight rocky corridors, rolling up to several moderate-large cliffs and seemingly sizing them up, only to work her way around them making tight controlled turns. Olivia finally found a cliff she was comfortable with at the bottom of her run and grabbed some nice air before running out to the finish. It seemed like Olivia had some bigger plans for herself when scoping her line, but for one reason or another, she decided to keep things safe and just put a solid run to her feet. Her run scored a 69.33, enough for a third-place finish.
Because of Jess Hotter’s big lead coming into Verbier, Hedvig was the only other rider with a shot at knocking her out of the top spot in the rankings and taking home the title. If there was any rider capable though, it’s Hedvig. She came charging out of Start One, making short work of the steep rocky entrance and working her way skier's right. She quickly came upon a smaller air frequented by the majority of the riders and handled it with ease, setting her up for a mandatory air that she took with speed, sluff raining down behind her. She carved hard up an embankment to her left to shed speed then worked way back skier’s right. She found a small cross-court air over the top of a small cliff band, charged further down her line, and sent a big air off a decent-sized cliff that gave a handful of other skiers and snowboarders trouble before running out to the finish. Hedvig’s run scored a 71.33, putting her in second place and handing the title to New Zealand’s Jessica Hotter.
Sybille, the Swiss rookie on tour, showed what home-field advantage is all about. She wasn’t able to stand atop the podium earlier in the season and was out of contention to win the tour overall, but that didn’t stop her from going all out in Verbier. She flew out of Start One, showing more confidence and comfort than she had all season, making just a handful of turns as ripped through the tight entrance. She worked her way skier’s right, aired a small cliff feature, and dropped off the mandatory air underneath it. Sybille shed as much speed as possible, running up the embankment to her left, began working her way slowly back down, and grabbed an additional air that other riders had either missed or opted out of. Sybille then lined up a nice air off a lower cliff. She didn't go as big as some other riders but she had a perfect four-point landing and had enough control to grab an extra air on her right before heading to the finish. Sybille’s run scored a 75.67, nabbing her the first place spot.
Sybille really seemed to be finding her confidence and hitting her stride at the end of the season which features the biggest faces and the most technical terrain of the tour. If she decides to come back next season, she’ll surely be a major player on the FWT circuit.
Jess had a shaky start to her run, and her riding appeared uncharacteristically timid as she made her way through the narrow entrance at Start One. She worked her way skier’s right like the majority of the riders but caught her ski in the landing of her first air and went down hard. Luckily for Jess, Hedvig was unable to unseat the local rookie, Sybille Blanjean, and despite falling and losing her ski in her final run of the season, Jess was able to walk away as the 2022 Freeride World Tour Champion.
It was an emotional finish to the season and it was inspiring to see the way the riders embraced and supported one another. The women’s ski side has some incredible riders. The rookies this season truly brought the competition to the next level, and I can’t wait to see what next season has in store.
Men’s Ski Highlights
For the last two stops, Ross traded in his freestyle-oriented Volkl Revolt 121s for the hard-charging metal laminate Volkl Katana 108s, and his style has reflected that change. He has moved towards a more pure freeride style and his runs have been even more full throttle. His run on the Bec captured this dynamic perfectly.
He charged out of Start One, headed skier’s right, and went right for the cliff band known as “La Bamba.” Ross sent the entire upper portion of La Bamba from its highest possible point and put it to his feet. He made several turns to regain composure and control his speed and quickly lined up another medium-sized air. Ross kept his speed up and flowed down to his final hit, stomping a big left 360 despite landing in a bunch of other bomb holes from earlier in the day. Ross’ run scored a 92 and gave him second place on the day.
Pointwise, Carl had the best shot out of the entire field at snagging first place in the rankings from Maxime Chabloz, and he did not seem intent on squandering that opportunity. He came out of Start Three looking confident, quickly airing a left 360 and heading to the skier's left. Carl came upon the windlip that would gain him access to a handful of cliffs and technical terrain and sent another left 360 right into the heart of some steep and rocky terrain. Carl made it look easy and smoothly made his way through the narrow terrain, finding a nice cliff to throw a backflip. He quickly put on the brakes and made several turns to keep in control before locking into a large mandatory air to exit his line and ride out to the finish. Carl had a heck of a run, scoring a 91.33 and putting himself in third behind Ross.
One of the multiple rookies who have taken the tour by storm this season, Maxime was the rider to beat after heading to the finals with multiple first-place finishes under his belt. Maxime struggled in Fieberbrunn though and left the door open for the other riders to narrow his lead.
In Verbier, he dropped from Start One, like the majority of the riders, and seemed to be approaching the mountain with the same confidence we saw in Kicking Horse and Andorra. Maxime worked skier’s right and lept from the right of his first air, maximizing the potential of the smaller cliff. He kept his speed up and once again went skier’s right on his next air, nearly doubling the size of the cliff that the majority of the riders were hitting. Maxime controlled his speed well and set himself up to throw a left 360 off his next hit. He made one turn to line up his next air and sent a massive backflip that cleared everyone’s bomb holes by a mile. He was barely able to hold on, but he recovered, kept on his feet, and headed to the finish. Maxime’s run was just enough to edge out the competition, scoring a 95.33 which gave him the win on the day and crowned him Champion of the 2022 season.
In typical Aymar fashion, he lined up one of the wildest, most hair-raising runs of the day. Aymar dropped from Start One, making quick work of the steep, narrow entrance, then stayed high working skier’s right until rocks prevented him from going any further. Below him, a two-stage cliff drop with the lower section of La Bamba right after…in all, a massive triple cliff drop. Without hesitation, Aymar pointed his skis down the fall line and the madness began.
He handled the first two drops but was a bit off-balance for the third, which was also the largest and had the highest stakes. Aymar went down in the landing and went tomahawking down the Bec, smashing into the side of a massive rock face. His unconscious body continued to slide for another minute before he finally came to rest near the bottom of the mountain. EMS responded immediately, and the competition was put on hold while everyone held their breath. Aymar was evacuated with primary concerns being a concussion and a shoulder injury. He posted an update on his Instagram, bloodied and at the hospital, stating that he broke his shoulder in multiple places and broke his hand but that he was okay overall and in good spirits.
Aymar is a true legend of the sport and put it all on the line for the love of freeride. We are truly blessed as fans to have someone so dedicated to the sport and the culture as Aymar, and wish him a full and speedy recovery.
Abel has been my favorite rider to watch this season. His high octane brand of freeride is second only to that of his mentor, the legendary Aymar Navarro. Abel’s unique line selection is a breath of fresh air on the tour where the majority of the riders repeat the same lines as everyone else in an attempt to ski the best version of the most judge-friendly line. In my opinion, that boring, uncreative approach to the mountain adds a layer of redundancy that hinders progression and hamstrings the tour from attracting a wider audience.
But, when someone rides a unique line and flies off a cliff you didn’t think a human could even survive, people take notice.
Abel straight-lined out from Start Two, one of the only riders to choose that entrance, and immediately aired over some rocks and headed skier’s right. Abel quickly lined up a big air and threw a left 360. He made his way skier’s left after his 360, worked through some rocky technical terrain, and threw a big backflip. Abel’s back bounced off the snow but he regained his balance and continued to charge down his line and aired out the mandatory cliff at the bottom of the run. Just when everyone thought his line was finished, Abel worked his way to his left and sent a huge air that was ignored by everyone and threw a massive superman frontflip that had the announcers and audience going absolutely crazy. Abel was unable to put it to his feet but the line was a clear standout on the day, and hopefully, we’ll see much more of him on the FWT for years to come.
After struggling for the last two years to keep the Freeride World Tour functioning despite the pandemic, this season, the tour proclaimed explicitly that it’s back! The rookies on the men and women’s side demonstrated that freeride is alive and well, pushing the veterans to rise to the occasion and progressing the sport to new heights. With a new stop, new ways of qualifying for the tour, and dense fields of incredible riders, I’ve never been more excited to see what the future holds for the Freeride World Tour.
If you want to do your part to help progress the sport, be sure to check out your local freeride clubs, search and rescue, and your local avalanche center and be sure to donate! They all play a unique part in making this sport possible. Thanks to everyone for following along with us this season, be safe out there, and have fun!
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