So the fat lady has sung. The Verbier Ride 2003 is officially over. This year's freeski festival was a celebration of skiing's new wave and a competitive showcase for both the riders and their sport.
With the support and partnership of TeleVerbier and Verbier Tourism and event sponsors, Dainese, The North Face, Ortovox and Snow and Rock, the Verbier Ride team delivered a world-class freeski event.
Big Mountain Freeride
The Big Mountain Freeride, held on the steep slopes of Mont Gele, proved a fitting finale for the inaugural IFSA Freeskiing European Tour. Snow conditions were tough, but the riders still laid down incredible lines, nailed 40foot+ cliff drops and generally wowed the crowds with their skill, power and courage.
Head Judge, Francine Moreillon, was particularly impressed by the professionalism of the riders. "Everybody skied hard, but also skied responsibly. They put on a great show up there."
British rider, Jason Schutt (Dynastar), showed his talent with an impressive 6th place in the elite international field. In the end, though, French riders, Romaine Raisson and Thomas Diet, stole the show. Diet is the new protégé of French freeriding and, at only 18, one of the brightest stars of the future. Raisson is an established figure and one of the smoothest riders on the circuit. He edged Diet into second place with two blistering runs.
The ladies event came down to a matter of 2 points, as German rider, Steffi Franck (Dynastar) fought hard in the final run to catch up Norwegian, Marte Lise Karlsen (Extrem). Karlsen had done just enough on the first day however, and held on to win.
The Verbier Ride SkierCross was a designated Winter X-Games 2004 Qualifier. This gave Warren Smith a good excuse to seek out the services of course-shaping guru, Nicolas Voudroz. The designer of the Skiercross World Championship course, Nicolas laid on the most spectacular course Verbier has ever seen.
Although the event start-time was delayed due to a combination of logistical issues and rider-proposed course alterations, this actually gave the course time to soften up a little in the sun. With less concern over safety off the big kickers Nicolas had included, the riders were finally able to let rip on this super-fast course.
With the X-Games place up for grabs, competition was particularly fierce in the men's event. Norwegian, Frederik Lutkyis (Dynastar), eventually won the right to be in Aspen next year. His focus was unwavering and he was never headed in any race. Afterwards, his elation was clear. "This is the best moment of my skiing life!" he stated.
In the ladies' skiercross, a triple fall in the final run, left the race wide open. Martina Renschler (Head) recovered fastest to record the victory.
Slopestyle Jam Session
The Slopestyle Jam session on the final day of the Verbier Ride 2003 was a change of pace from the frantic action of the Slopestyle. The course designed by Yannick and his TeleVerbier shaping crew was fluid and imaginative, allowing the riders a range of options with which to express their creativity on the slope.
The atmosphere was chilled and the vibe very positive amongst the riders. This showed as they inspired each other to ever more spectacular tricks.
In the end the D-spin 7s and 9s of Ben 'Skinner' Murphy (Adidas Eyewear) won the day. UK rider, Andy Bennett (Line, Fat Face) misty-flipped himself into 2nd and local rider, Matteas Eisenschwanz, finished off the podium placings.
All in all, the Verbier Ride 2003 was a great success. Leading freeskiers from around the world gathered to showcase the sport and judging from the whoops and cheers of the crowds, their efforts were much appreciated.
With PlayKids Productions chronicling the event both for TV and Snows in the House 2 and Quattro Media handling the TV distribution, there will be ample opportunity foor people to catch up with any action they missed over the next few months. Check back regularly with www.verbierride.com to view updated broadcasting schedules.
Freeskiing may not be about competition, but competition is an integral part of freeskiing. Such a progressive sport needs events, not only for the media coverage they generate, but also because the fusion of riding talents in the theatre of competition generates an intensity and inspiration capable of pushing the sport to the next level. Riders feed off the energy of such events and take the vibe back to their home playgrounds.
The Verbier Ride is founded on this core spirit. It remains a festival of freeskiing for freeskiers. It just happens to have evolved into a world-class competition. With the support of resorts and the industry, such events will continue to drive freeskiing and freeskiing will continue to shape the wintersports industry as a whole.
Leading the way next year will be the Verbier Ride 2004.
(c) Phil Martin