In front of the cheering crowd, Silas Chickering-Ayers (USA), Sammy Luebke (USA), Nadine Wallner (AUT) and Elodie Mouthon (FRA) scored the highest points in their respective categories at the SWATCH FREERIDE WORLD TOUR 2013 BY THE NORTH FACE (FWT) at Fieberbrunn-PillerseeTal, Austria. The fifth and final event prior to the grand finale in Verbier (SUI) saw intense competition at the highest level. The event was decisive for athletes to score enough points to earn a spot in the finals and qualify for next year. The top ranked riders needed to place well to stay or break into the competition for the overall World Champion title. The fierce battle continues to win the first ever, unified Freeride World Tour Champion titles after a sensational season.
After a week of waiting due to difficult snow and weather conditions, the sun finally appeared at Fieberbrunn-PillerseeTal. With blue bird skies and a 20cm cover of fresh snow on the 600-metre Wildseeloder north face, an action-packed contest took place on the long, demanding face. Riders had to negotiate a combination of deep powder, wind-affected snow and hard layers.
The battle has been tough all season long as over 80 competing athletes all had ONE thing on their mind: to advance to the finals in Verbier! The spots are limited. Only the Top 12 men skiers, five men snowboarders, five women skiers and four women snowboarders qualify to the final competition. The event at Fieberbrunn-PillerseeTal was their last chance.
Impressive speed and solid riding on the difficult venue was significant among the men skiers. A new name finished on top of the podium in Silas Chickering-Ayers, only twenty years old! He took an impressive lead and his first podium of the season, scoring 81.33 points with an outstanding run. The execution was complete when he perfectly landed two huge cliff jumps and skiing fast in full control from top to bottom. Silas took over the top step from his brother Lars, who came out victorious on the previous stage in Kirkwood!
With the season’s fierce competition, Silas Chickering-Ayers does NOT make the cut to the finals in Verbier, but claims he still needs more experience to take on the extremely challenging face of Bec des Rosses.
Swedes Willie Lindberg and Reine Barkered once again made it to the podium with a very similar approach to the mountain, well-known as Barkered’s signature style of high speed, no hesitation, solid skiing and big air. Lindberg managed to knock his country mate out of second place with 80.67 points over Barkered’s 79.0 points.
Drew Tabke (USA), seventh at Fieberbrunn-PillerseeTal, has been leading the overall standings more or less all season and is in the hot seat for the World Champion title. He still needs to perform in Verbier in order to remain in front of his fellow competitors, like Julien Lopez of France and Reine Barkered of Sweden, currently third and fourth in the overall standings. One of the season favorites, Jeremie Heitz of Switzerland, is currently sitting in second position overall, but had a very infortunate fall, leading to a bad leg injury. Our thoughts are with him.
American Sammy Luebke is having a good season with constantly progressing results at each event, taking 10th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd and finally a win in Fieberbrunn-PillerseeTal! A well-earned victory of 81.67 points for Luebke, who rode an impressive fall line approach, involving a serious cliff jump off the edge of a steep spine. His win puts him on the desirable top spot overall and is in a good position to battle for the World Champion title.
Frenchman Jonathan Charlet took second, scoring 80.0 points by executing a dynamic run, combining big mountain skills at the top section and clean freestyle riding at the bottom. With this result, Charlet just made the cut to Verbier, taking the last fifth spot. Charlet’s fellow countryman, Aurelien Routens, took his third podium of the season, once again proving confident of his typical style, fast, committed, big mountain riding, which today included an impressive straight line through a steep chute. Scoring 76.67 points and a third place finish, Routens climbs to the second spot in the overall standings. One of the season favorites, Ralph Backstrom (USA), did not quite make it with a 13th place finish, but is still hanging on to the overall standings, sitting on third coming into Verbier.
Austrian Nadine Wallner has been riding consistently all season long and was leading the overall standings prior to Fieberbrunn. She certainly was unstoppable in front of her home crowd taking the first win of the year at her home turf! Skiing a strong line with explosive style and good air, she placed herself on top with a score of 75.0 points. With the win, she widened the gap between her and the second place rider, while sitting in a very good position for the World Champion title.
Matilda Rapaport of Sweden had a sensational start in her first ever FWT competition. She skied an aggressive and clean line all the way to the finish line, with a score of 64.33 points, earning her a second place finish. Currently standing second in the Freeride World Qualifiers, she received a wild card invitation to the event. Jacklyn Paaso (USA) was the first rider out of the gate and skied a fast, dynamic line on the untouched face, taking third place and falling just short of second with 64.0 points.
Despite a 7th place finish, Pia Nic Gundersen of Norway still remains second in the overall standings. Reigning Freeride World Champion Christine Hargin of Sweden was absent at Fieberbrunn-PillerseeTal, after injuring her knee a few days prior to the event. She is still holding on to third place overall and hopes to make it to the finals in Verbier.
The snowboard women put on a great show with the top riders pushing the envelope on the Austrian venue. The Mouthon sisters of France had the two most impressive runs, putting them on the top spots of the podium. First-placed Elodie Mouthon executed a standout run, riding very confidently with an aggressive and high-speed approach, directly in the fall line and taking big air, giving her a score of 70.0 points. Her sister, Anouck Mouthon had a completely different line choice, but also produced a powerful run combined with fast turns down the venue, earning a score of 62.67 points. In third place with a score of 60.0 points, American Casey Lucas rode a smooth line, including a big jump.
Current tour leader Margot Rozies of France took sixth place, keeping the suspense alive in the race for the World Champion title. Elodie Mouthon and Shannon Yates (USA), sitting in second and third position overall, will give Rozies a run for her money in Verbier!
Next Stop: Verbier, Switzerland
All the excitement comes to an end at the sixth and final stage, the SWATCH Xtreme Verbier 2013 by North Face, Saturday March 23, 2013. The four Freeride World Tour Champions will be crowned at the 18th edition of the “Xtreme” when the athletes take on the legendary and notorious Bec de Rosses, considered the pinnacle of freeride competitions!
Who will take home the first ever “true” World Champion title? With the season’s unification of the Freeskiing World Tour, Freeride World Tour, and The North Face Masters of Snowboarding, the one and only Freeride World Tour Champions will, for the first time be crowned in Verbier. Drew Tabke (USA) – Ski Men, Sammy Leubke (USA) – Snowboard Men, Nadine Wallner (AUT) – Ski Women and Margot Rozies (FRA) – Snowboard Women are all favorites going into the finals, but athletes like Julien Lopez (FRA), Aurelien Routens (FRA), Pia Nic Gundersen (NOR) and Elodie Mouthon (FRA) could just as well grab the title in their respective categories.
The SWATCH FREERIDE WORLD TOUR 2013 BY THE NORTH FACE has touched down at Revelstoke (CAN), Courmayeur Mont Blanc (ITA), Chamonix-Mont-Blanc (FRA), Kirkwood (USA), Fieberbrunn-PillerseeTal (AUT) and concludes this weekend in Verbier (SUI).
DON’T MISS IT! Come to Verbier or watch it LIVE on www.freerideworldtour.com.