The Swatch Freeride World Tour By The North Face venue in Chamonix, France.
The third stop of the Swatch Freeride World Tour by The North Face will go down on Saturday, January 26, in Chamonix, France. And, as has been the fortunate circumstance of the newly unified FWT so far this season, Chamonix’s conditions and terrain are primed for a great show.
The Alps will have hosted the second and third stops of the Freeride World Tour, with stops on the Italian and French sides of the Mont Blanc in Courmayeur and Chamonix. Prior to settling down in the French hub of freeriding, the second stop of the FWT went down last week on the rocky and steep venue in Courmayeur. The male field of ski and snowboard competitors battled it out during the event in Italy.
A recap video of FWT stop No. 2 in Courmayeur, Italy.
With deep pow underfoot, blue skies over head, the south side of the Mont Blanc as the backdrop, and Courmayeur’s gnarly 1,200-foot Tête d’Arp as the venue, the male competitors—33 skiers and 15 riders—laid it down. The Tête d’Arp terrain offered something for every approach to competitive big-mountain skiing and riding. With a technical, rocky top section out of the start gate, a playful mini-golf zone down the ridge, and steep chutes to air into and link up, the venue allowed for full-tilt chargers and park-inspired jibbers to do their thing.
In the end, Italian big-mountain-jibber Markus Eder posted the highest score of the day in front of his home crowd. Eder opted for the playful mini-golf zone off the ridge and laced high-speed turns before lofting a huge, sleepy, left-side three in an exposed section. Eder managed to throw a backie and make some switch pow turns, too. His blend of big-mountain blasting up high and playful tricks on the lower portion earned him a score of 89.67 and the top spot with the men.
“I’m stoked with my line,” said Eder. “I hoped to be on the podium but to win is really fantastic.”
Swiss skier Jérémie Heitz has gotten comfortable on the podium this season, with consecutive second place finishes at the first two stops of the FWT. The consistent skiing from Heitz means he’ll be donning the yellow jersey in Chamonix, which denotes the overall tour leader. Heitz is quickly making a name for himself for his charging, fall-line approach and patented high-speed doubles. So far, Heitz’s insanely fast runs have left spectators spinning and has forced judges to go back to a replay because both of his technical runs have taken place in a flash.
Sweden’s Reine Barkered, last year’s overall FWT Champion, rounded out the skiing podium in Italy. Other highlights included Julien Lopez’s all-or-nothing approach. Lopez was the last skier to drop into Tête d’Arp, and rather than playing it safe and keeping his line to his feet, the “Flying Frenchman” pointed ’em. Unfortunately, Lopez lost control and took about 10 high-speed tomahawks down about 300-vertical-feet of the venue; fortunately, Lopez didn’t bang himself up and walked away to collect his “yard-saled” gear. (Check out the footage of Lopez’s crash; it’s full-on!)
On the snowboard side, Frenchman Aurélien Routens snagged his first FWT win ever. Routens nuked through the venue with a fast, clean run that included a few exposed airs at the top steep section. Routens capped off the winning run with a sick straight line at the bottom, earning a score of 83.67.
“It’s very emotional for me to win here,” said Routens. “It’s the first time I take the first step of the podium at a FWT stop. I was just riding as I am used to ride in my hometown La Grave. It’s a nice surprise and I am super happy.”
Jackson Hole’s John Rodosky’s creative line garnered him a second place finish with a score of 78.67. Rodosky found a handful of cool natural terrain features to throw his freestyle tricks. Swiss Emilien rounded out the Snowboard podium.
The Swatch Freeride World Tour By The North Face Stop No. 3 preview video.
Now, after the short commute through the Mont Blanc Tunnel—or the ski to Chamonix via the world-renowned Vallée Blanche that a few athletes opted for to get from Courmayeur, Italy to downtown Chamonix, France—the field of male skiers and riders have met up with the female competitors for this weekend’s comp in Cham.
The third event will go down on Saturday, January 26 and there will be a live feed of the contest on TetonGravity.com. Due to snow conditions, the FWT had to change the venue to La Flégère at the top of the Index lift. And, the venue looks sweet.
On the men’s skiing side, you always have to tune in to watch Tabke, Chamonix local and past champ Aurélien Ducroz, Sweden’s Reine Barkered, and New Zealand’s Sam Smoothy. But, a few other names to take note of are current obviously overall FWT leader Jérémie Heitz, American skier Lars Chickering-Ayers, Zermat-based mountain guide/pro skier Sam Anthamatten, and Utah’s Oakley White Allen; all four bring a similar fall-line strategy to the Chamonix venue that could easily be rewarded by the judges—if they stay upright.
Jackson Hole’s longtime competitive skier Jess McMillan has made the trip to Cham to compete against reigning FWT overall champion Christine Hargin, and the rest of the women’s field. (I’d bet the house on McMillan, she’s talented, strong, and a seasoned competitive skier.)
You’d be a fool to overlook Chamonix local Xavier de Le Rue and Squaw’s Ralph Backstrom during the Men’s Snowboard contest. Both have had a lot of success in Chamonix and could be interchangeable atop the podium if they stand their lines up. Lastly, Margot Rozies and Elodie Mouthon—the two women from France that finished second and third, respectively, in Revy—are ready to represent their country in Cham when Saturday’s event gets going.
CLICK HERE to watch the event live on Saturday Jan. 26 at 9 a.m. CET (that's 1 a.m. MST).
And, check out the #FWT13 hashtag on Twitter for updates.