The Freeride World Tour is officially underway, with its Vallnord-Arcalís, Andorra, event wrapping up this morning. After a set-back last week, when the Tour’s Chamonix event was cancelled due to unsafe conditions, FWT is back on track– Today’s event was rowdy. Andorra’s terrain is technical and varied, with surprises throughout a venue that breaches treeline, and features cliffs and chokes reminiscent of southeast BC, Montana, and Utah. To ride this course with flow, you need lightning reflexes and full confidence– hesitation means a cliff-out, and your ollie is as good a friend as your turns or speed-checks.
The riders were all in, antsy after getting skunked in Chamonix. Sammy Luebke’s winning run was all-time, with massive airs and big spins off cliffs. Ralph Backstrom opted for a speed line through an exposed section of the course, and grabbed third. As at Hakuba’s qualifying event, the judges seemed focused on air, style, and fluidity– while Thomas Feurstein’s run carried less consequence than Backstrom’s, his playful approach and flowing, smaller hits earned him second place. The young Austrian is a rookie on the tour, but his approach is turning heads as the culture grows more appreciative of fun, creative riding.
On the women’s side, veteran Anne-Flore Marxer was dominant with a commited air into her winning run, followed by a flowy lower section. Germany’s Nicola Thost took second, and Finland’s Mikaela Hollsten rounded out the podium in third. Canadian Audrey Hebert had some trouble near the start of her run, but showed her potential as she continued and earned a respectable 64 points.
The full replay from the event is live here, with timecode links to each rider’s run. This is the first of two events at Vallnord-Arcalís, the second of which replaces the cancelled Chamonix competition and is ongoing until Feb 16. We’ll have results from that competition as they come in.
From Freeride World Tour:
TECHNICAL LINES AND POWERFUL RIDING MARK THE SWATCH FREERIDE WORLD TOUR VALLNORD-ARCALÍS, ANDORRA
Intense competition on a technical venue resulted in remarkable runs as the 2017 FWT reaches full speed heading into tomorrow’s Swatch Freeride World Tour Chamonix-Mont-Blanc Staged in Vallnord-Arcalís, Andorra.
February 9, 2017 – Vallnord-Arcalís, Andorra – Freeride fans were finally treated to a phenomenal show today on the explosive first stop of the 2017 Swatch Freeride World Tour. Competitors gave it their all as the fifty-two riders made their way to the Pyrenean freeride capital for an action-packed competition on the feature-dense Serra de Balma venue.
Technical riding defined today’s event on the competition face situated at 2450m – known by riders as “Smoothy’s Garden” in honor of Sam Smoothy’s 2015 groundbreaking run – and located within the Vallnord-Arcalís resort.
The five-hundred vertical meter venue benefited from a multitude of line options, from powerful straightlines to technical cliff sections, with a gentle yet playful runout zone. Tumultuous weather over the past week deposited fresh snow in the Pyrenees, with brilliant blue skies finally making an appearance for competition day and offering optimal riding conditions for competitors.
Sammy Luebke (USA) earned first place by taking every opportunity to grab his board and throw impressive spins, all while integrating his patented “snowboarder’s” style. Thomas Feurstein (AUT) edged into second place with an impressive line featuring two three-sixty degree spins and precise riding. Despite a biking injury over the summer, Ralph Backstrom (USA) initiated his line in a committing section of the rider’s right side of the venue, taking third place.
Anne-Flore Marxer (SUI) earned the win by taking advantage of the phenomenal conditions and selecting an aesthetic line complimented with several well-landed airs. Commitment was the theme of Nicola Thost’s (GER) second-place run which featured the biggest airs of the day in the category but was marred by a moment of loose riding. The calculated and methodical line of Mikaela Hollsten (FIN) earned her third place with a run that was defined by consistency.