Archive for March, 2014

After my debut on the Freeride World Tour I was in need of a break from contests.  I was seeking good friends, lots of powder and no stress.  The break from competing lasted about two days, but the powder and amigos came in bounds.

 

Ruari MacFarlane and I were dropped off in Silvaplana, Switzerland the day after the Kappl FWT stop hungover and unsure if we were even at the right mountain.  We were told we were invited into the Engadine Snow FWQT 3 Star stop but we didn’t know much else.  A registration desk magically appeared along with lift tickets and lunch passes and we soon found ourselves dressed in snowboard gear riding up the tram.  As soon as we took our first turns, we knew we made a good decision and our hangovers were long gone.  We caught up with some other competitors and rode amazing powder for two days leading up to the contest.

 

Screen shot 2014-03-03 at 7.21.31 AMRuari shooting down at me with his GoPro in one of the many insane pillow zones.

 

Unfortunately the contest went terribly as I picked off a heavy line and I didn’t execute.  However, it was the winning run for the male skier category, so if I had pulled it off a bit more fluidly, it would have scored highly.  Below is a photo of my friend Juan Bergada executing it like a boss.  Out of 100 riders, only three of us entered this heavy double with a hairy landing that isn’t shown below.

 

Screen shot 2014-03-24 at 3.12.06 PMJuan Bergada skiing like a boss.

With that contest over, we had one day before the Engadine Snow Invitational commenced.  This event has about as much history in competitive freeride snowboarding as Verbier.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but it turned out to be one of the most fun and unique competitions I’ve ever done on a board.  The concept was a parallel freeride with teams of two facing off against other teams of two.  I was a late entrant and did not have a team mate, but fortunately my friend Ally Watson was about and we entered as ‘Team Scottish Roots’ against the classics – Austria, Switzerland, Argentina, etc…

 

Screen shot 2014-03-24 at 3.09.22 PMHalf of Team Scotland vs Team Swiss.

 IMG_7372Getting ready to repel 50 meters into the face.

IMG_7371The crew looking up at the North Face of the Corvatsch.

 

Screen shot 2014-03-24 at 4.29.05 PMTeam Scottish Roots on the legendary North Face of the Corvatsch.

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Team Scotland wrapping it up.

I think it was perhaps the deepest snow I’ve ever ridden in a contest and any plans to do any tricks flew out the window as the snow billowed over my shoulders with each turn.  Once again, my competitive edge did not shine and Ally and I were knocked out after the first round.  Fortunately Team Argentina led by local Lucas Swyiekowski and Juan Bergada took out first place.  There are a handful of videos to go with this event, so I have posted my favorite here.  To check out more, please visit the Engadin Snow Website or their Facebook page.  Thanks to Christian Mueller for hosting such a rad event and I hope to be back next year!

 

 

After three contests in a week, I was ready to relax.  The Corvatsch did not relent though as the snow kept falling, the free lift tickets kept flowing and the Argentine mafia kept skiing.  I couldn’t resist and took part in about five days of absolutely insane riding.  It was the best week I’ve had in a long time and I was able to fall in love with snowboarding again.  I will have some epic POV footage somewhere but have yet to review it!

   IMG_7422The Argentine Mafia showing Nadine Wallner and our crew around the area.  Ropes don’t matter in Europe…

IMG_7421Local legend, Lucas Swyiekowski showing me around his other home-base in Switzerland.

IMG_7324The snow in this area has been all time.  This shot was taken after our first day, just at the base of the hill. 

IMG_7352Perhaps the highlight of the whole trip was Friday Night Lights, where the tram is open until 2:00 AM and fortunately for us, there was nearly 3 feet of blower pow to shred in the dark!

We left Switzerland in a hurry and ended up back in Chamonix.  I took a flight the following day to Spain and next a bus to Andorra, a rad wee country in the Pyrenes.  Two contests drew me there, however I didn’t have a spot in either of them as the riders list was full.  I did however get on the judging panel for the first 3 Star event, known as the Grand Valira Freeride.  It was my first proper judging experience so I didn’t know what to expect, especially in Andorra. I was pleasantly surprised as I was treated super well by the event organisers, had a blast hanging with my fellow comrades, Lolo Besse, a Freeride World Tour Judge, and Bruno Compagnet, Co-Founder of Black Crows Skis, the mountain was tons of fun and our accomodation at the Mountain Hostel Tarter was epic.  I wanted to judge in order to learn more about what the judges see and how to upskill myself in contest runs.  Although the job was difficult to decide who deserved what points, I found it super helpful for my riding.

 IMG_7464Gaining a fresh perspective.

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Lolo Besse, French freeride legend teaching me how to carve.

 

I was granted a late entry to the El Dorado Four Star FWQT event in Andorra the following week.  I needed a solid result in order to be in the running for re-qualifying onto the Tour and I knew the level would be high with the Euros in their own alpine setting.  The snow appeared variable, but on the qualifying day, it couldn’t have been better at the top.  The venue was steep but with a bottomless 30-50 cm anything was possible.  At the top I found myself picking and choosing between the most fun features, something I rarely do, but about two minutes before my run, I settled with one line and let it rip.  The top section was really playful and I had landed five airs before rolling into the bottom section.  I changed my line at the bottom which was an error and I didn’t land a cliff well costing me the top run of the day, however I ended up in 2nd going into the finals.

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The heli ride is always more fun than the contest.

IMG_7588Loose as heli pad.

The finals were heli-accessed and the venue and conditions were completely different than the day before.  I found it to be much more Kiwi than anything else.  20 riders were flown to the top and I had to battle it out with five other snowboarders for the top spot.  I picked my line from the bottom up, again something I rarely do, but it seemed to work well.  I was the last snowboarder to drop in and the snow conditions had changed drastically. On my second turn I nearly got sluffed over a sizeable cliff due to the wet slide I triggered on my first turn, but held it together, landed the air and rode into my next double confident and fast.  Clearing this boney feature I had some fast paced turns through a wide open section before taking a blind mandatory air into a lower chute, leading into a method right above my last final chute out.  The run was fast and border line out of control, potentially due to the fact that I was riding my splitboard, but I felt great coming through the gate at the bottom.

Screen shot 2014-02-28 at 2.39.42 AMFirst air with sluff chasing me down.


Screen shot 2014-02-28 at 2.39.09 AMCommitted for the mandatory air into the lower section.


Screen shot 2014-02-28 at 2.43.15 AMMethod above the final chute out.

 

My run turned out to be enough and I took home the top spot and a handful of Euros.  My good friends Sintu and Mariona whisked me away out of Andorra and into Barcelona by sunset.  I said goodbye to them after a short catch up and flew back to Geneva at 11:00 PM.  Another friend scooped me up and I was soon off to Chamonix to clean up the rest of my scattered gear and life from the two months prior.  With just enough time for a 3 hour nap, I departed for Geneva at 7:00 AM and caught my flight back to the USA.  Mission complete!

Screen shot 2014-03-02 at 5.32.01 PMSplitboarding my way to first place!

For my first trip to Europe, I was totally stoked with all the amazing locations and the chance to spend time with old and new friends.  So many people helped to make this trip happen and I’m blessed to have such great friends.  See you next year!

 

 

 

 

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Episodes 4 and 5 of A NZ Freeride Story span across the Southern Hemisphere from New Zealand to Argentina.

The NZ Clubbies are infamous around the world for their rope tows and are quickly gaining a reputation for pumping out serious big mountain freeriders.  I’ve cut my teeth here in competitive big mountain riding and Episode 4 at Temple Basin highlights the potential here.

 

 

In Episode 5, A NZ Freeride Story heads to Argentina and back to New Zealand to chase snow and show another side of freeriding – splitboarding.

 

I have just returned to the USA after my preliminary trip around Europe.  I was honored that my maiden voyage included four weeks competing and traveling with the Freeride World Tour. I was unsure what it would be like and I came into the event feeling like I was going into a pretty serious season, but I soon realised all the riders on tour were there to have fun and enjoy and I started to relax into it.  My first weeks were spent in Chamonix hosted by kiwi ex-pat snowboarding/climbing legend Andy Lagan and good friends Antoine and Camille.  This valley is home to some of the most insane lift accessible backcountry in the world and I barely had time to scratch the surface.  It was great to experience such a spot with great friends and the FWT.

IMG_7030

First day in Cham.

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Riding with really good friends!

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The legendary Aguille de Midi in Chamonix.

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Checking out Verbier.

Following Chamonix the first event was held on the Italian side of the Mont Blanc Massif in Courmeyer.  My strategy going into the event was to leave nothing on the table as I felt I had short changed myself competing in major events the season before and coming short of the podium.  I picked out a fun line with a very similar top section to my mate, Ruari MacFarlane, who was also new to the tour this year.  We dropped first and second and were pumped to light it up!

I had just broke my competition board the day before so I sized down to my spare board which, in my opinion, did not aid my riding for the rest of the season so far.  Dropping into the first section of my run, I decided to do an air into a fairly high speed straight line through a tight coulior and I had a slight control issue getting my speed down before my first feature.  I went into a three drop sequence with a frontside 3 tail, a straight air in the middle and spun around for a cab-5 at the bottom which I was unable to ride out of cleanly, costing me a decent result on the first stop.  However I was pumped to give it my all and know that if I had landed the trick I would have probably been on the podium.  My good friend Antoine was there with me to celebrate and we headed off for the next stop, Chamonix.  To review the replay of the Courmeyer run, click here and fast forward to about 30 minutes into the run to watch Ruari and I make costly mistakes!

Screen shot 2014-01-23 at 9.02.51 PM

Front 3 tail to stomp next to Ruari’s line.  First two tracks down the face!

Screen shot 2014-01-23 at 9.02.40 PM

Frontside air mid-run.

Screen shot 2014-01-23 at 9.25.08 PM

Cab 5 to mistake.  

Back in Chamonix I was motivated to put a proper run together.  I had seen the face before and picked out a natural line I would ride anyway if I were to hike it myself.  I found a bit of a rocky entrance into a cornice air with a tight landing, a hip further down and some fun features at the bottom.  The day of the contest we took the 6:15 AM tram and rode to the face in the dark.  We saw the sun rise over the Mont Blanc Massif and hiked through the still and crisp morning air.  At the top the contest moved quickly and I realized later that I spent too much time watching my fellow rider’s top sections and not focusing on my own.  When it came time to drop I was relaxed, but almost too much and rode into my line in a mellow manner. I lined up the backside 3 off the cornice, landed, but shut my speed down too quickly, as I wanted to hit my next feature.  This was a mistake as my next feature was a vertical wall of snow and I couldn’t air it as I intended.  I rode out of the coulior searching for my airs at the bottom, however I made a costly mistake here and missed my bottom rocks and rode into the finish line feeling largely disappointed with my performance.  I was granted a score in the 60’s and ended up in 12th place just in front of the two guys that fell.  It was definitely one of the lower points in the tour, not because of where I ended up, but how I performed on the day.  However, I learned a few things about myself and my strategy so have used this going into the next contests.  I also learned that things can always get worse as I contracted a violent 24 hour stomach bug shutting down my system for a few days.  To view one of my worst competition runs in recent years click here.

Heading into the last of the European leg, I was in the back of the tour and needed a result.  The Fieberbrunn face was not very inspiring and fortunately the face slid during avalanche control, leaving the FWT Management searching for another option, which was found at Kaapl, a tiny resort on the other side of Austria.  The competition face has been used in the Qualifiers, but looked fun with a lot of options.  I picked out a line on the main face, but then decided that 98% of the riders including male/female ski/snowboard would probably ride that section, so I went for something on the complete other side of the venue.  This turned out to be a really fun option, however the windlip I had scoped from the side appeared to be a monster from the top.  When I questioned my friends if they would hit it about 5 minutes before my run they agreed it wasn’t a good idea.  I should have taken their advice…  My run was pretty good up until the windlip where I went into a high speed corked belly flop (which should have been a rodeo 7)….  Once again I rode through the arch disappointed with my decision to risk so much, but happy to have attempted.  Check out the full run here.

Screen shot 2014-03-03 at 9.44.08 AM Slashing at the bottom in Kaapl.

So the first leg of the Freeride World Tour has not gone as well as it could have for me.  However, I have had such a blast riding with some of the top freeriders from around the world, checking out some amazing places and living the dream.  Keep posted for the next update.