The Freeride World Tour returned to Verbier last weekend for it’s last stop of the winter. Crowds gathered at Col des Gentianes to watch the world’s best freeride skiers and snowboarders compete on the imposing north face of the Bec des Rosses.
Verbier is home to the likes of freeride legend Xavier de le Rue and attracts riders from all over the world with it’s impressive and daunting terrain. It’s understandable then that there is such a prestigious gathering from both riders and onlookers.
So what is a Freeride competition?
We’re all used to watching Olympic ski races or Ski Sunday. Tight lycra suits, strangley bent ski poles and precision timing gear. You may have also sat down to watch Shaun White or James Woody (Woodsy) in the freestyle competitions. Halfpipe, slopestyle and big air have all gained the recognition they deserve in recent years.
But what happens if you take away the slalom gates, purpose made jumps and icy corduroy snow? Freeride contests ski to the terrain on the day. Natural cliffs and couloirs are the canvas for competitors on steep off-piste sections. Between the start gate at the top and finish at the bottom, it’s just you and the mountain.
Then how do you judge a Freeride contest?
It’s all about the big picture. The overall image the rider leaves for the judges is important. They could take their time making sure they get their perfect line but at the cost of speed. Or the could stomp their way aggressively from top to bottom but at the risk of missing those important opportunities for technical points.
There are five categories that are taken into account:
Difficulty of Line -Does the line they’ve chosen show imagination? How dangerous, unique or cool is it?
Control -Consequences are pretty high in a mountain environment like this. So control is paramount. If you make a mistake serious injury or even death could occur. So, did the rider fall? If so did they recover well or tomahawk their way to the bottom of the hill?
Fluidity -Was their performance consistent from top to bottom? Points in this category reward those who can complete their run without signs of hesitation. Does the line look intentional or did they stop at the top of a big cliff and falter before hitting it?
Jumps -Like with any sport that has aerial factors style definitely comes into play. Entrance to the jump, what happens during air time and landing are all watched closely by the judges.
Technique -This category is closely linked to the control element. If the riders look comfortable then it’s likely they’re using good technique to stay in control. The way they choose to ride a face is also taken into account however. Did they cautiously side slip a section or did they confidently carve open turns?
Ski Men -Wadeck Gorak
Snowboard Men -Jonathan Penfield
Ski Women -Elisabeth Gerritzen
Snowboard Women -Marion Haerty
If you want to watch any of these winning runs or other highlights from the event, catch up on the action on the FWT website here.
Freeski/offpiste lessons with ES
Inspired? Freeriding is a sport that has experienced tremendous growth during the last few years. Here at ES we are proud to develop many enthusiastic freestylers and freeriders. Read our blog about off-piste instructing here. There’s also our Freeski Academy, which is specifically designed to produce confident riders who have chosen to take their skiing to the next level. Read more about ES Freeski here.
We also have the Big Five Challenge in Verbier. Ski some of Verbier’s best off-piste/itinerary terrain with an experienced ES instructor.