Ashley Battersby and JF Houle top the podiums at the European Freeski Open

Posted By: The Ski Channel on March 8, 2010 6:26 am

The European Freeski Open were unlucky with the weather this year. Both the halfpipe and the slopestyle finals had to be cancelled due to fog, snowfall and high winds, but that didn’t slow down the Marker Völkl Freeski Team. Ashley Battersby and JF Houle won the Stair Rail Battle that replaced the slopestyle finals in possibly the best jibbing cast ever. The European Freeski Open is Europe’s most important freeski event. Of course, many of the world’s best riders made their way to Laax to battle for 50.000 US Dollar prize money, among them the Marker Völkl Freeski Team with stars like Russ Henshaw, JF Houle, Virginie Faivre and Jen Hudak. The halfpipe and slopestyle course at Crap Sogn Gion were as perfect as usual, however, the weather didn’t play along this year. While the qualification days on Wednesday and Thursday were far from being pleasant, at least the contests could happen. But when the finals were up on Friday and Saturday, it only got worse. Fog, Snowfall and most of all high winds stopped both the slopestyle finals on Friday and the halfpipe showdown on Saturday. On Friday the organisers had a back-up plan to keep riders and spectators both happy. A Stair Rail set-up at the bottom of the resort, consisting of a down rail, a down box and a double-kinked box, was the arena for possibly the best starting field to ever hit a rail contest. Jibbing heroes like Henrik Harlaut, Tom Wallisch and Kaya Turski were battling it out in an increasingly insane session with about fifty riders who had made the slopestyle semi-finals. In the end it was the Völkl Freeski Team, however, that took the top honours. JF Houle won the men’s category with a nose butter 450° in and a pretzel 270° out on the down rail to take home 5.000 dollars in front of Tom Wallisch and French newcomer Sam Favret. JF’s Finish teammate Pekka Hyysalo landed in sixth. But not only the boys were throwing down, also the girls were on fire. Ashley Battersby lived up to her reputation as best female jibber with a 270° in 270° out on the down rail. She topped the podium above British youngster Katie Summerhayes and Canadian veteran Kaya Turski. The 2010 European Freeski Open may not have been a great success for the organisers, but at least it was for the Marker Völkl Freeski Team.

A person growing up in Chicago, can dream of many career paths, except becoming a freeski pro. Ashley Battersby is the living proof that growing up in the windy city might be a hurdle to such a dream, but not render if altogether impossible. Her parents, both ski instructors, put Ashley on skis for the first time when she was 18 months old. From that time on, A-Bomb, as she is known by her friends, couldn‘t imagine anything better. Aside from skiing, the 21-year-old has trained her air sense and balance with aggressive inline skating, cheerleading and gymnastics. This had an direct impact on her freeskiing, as concrete is not as forgiving as snow. In order to dedicate herself better to skiing, the live wire moved to Salt Lake City, Utah in 2002, and the move paid off, as soon she started to gather numerous titles and victories. In 2008 alone, she won the US Freeskiing Open in Copper, CO, the Big Air at the World Skiing Invitational in Whistler, BC, the Nippon Freeskiing Open in Japan, and the slopestyle category at the New Zealand Freeskiing Open. Then in 2009, she suffered a setback, as she tore her ACL. By now, her seventh injury from freeskiing that needed surgery. But Ashley is mentally too strong than to relapse because of a simple injury. She diligently completed her rehab and trained ambitiously during the summer. For this reason we all should look out for Ashley this season. She is back on her skis and can‘t wait to rock the parks again.

In a certain sense JF Houle is a snowboarder! At least he was impressed by the one-board sport so much that he names it as being the biggest influence on his riding. Fortunately, several famous freeski big names and movies crossed the way of the young Canadian over the years, so the 23-year-old kept on skiing. And it was worth it. First he won a medal at the US Open, then he got first at the Dew Tour in Mt. Snow, finally he managed to make a mind blowing ski movie part with Pléhouse productions. The foundation for all this, was already there long ago: As a child, JF always wanted to compete in mogul contests. However, his parents weren’t able to finance the
expensive and hard training. But the talented freestyler skied so well, that the contest riders accepted him as a friend and skiing buddy. At the age of 14 years, JF took part in his first Big Air competition. Sponsors kept an eye on the youngster and since his win at the second tour stop of last season’s Winter Dew Tour, the exceptional freestyler is at home with the world‘s best riders. On the current top of his career, the Quebec local injured himself seriously last year. But with this year’s new season in mind, JF worked hard and passionately on his comeback during the summer mountainbiking, skateboarding, and training on the trampoline and water ramp. Because there are still some freeskiing goals missing, which he hasn’t yet achieved.