Castle in the Sky: Photos and wrap up from Nine Knights
Well, what a winter. It was odd, it was inconsistent, it was sad and it was great. With Spring doldrums hitting, I figured the best way to wrap it up was a week in Italy with some great friends and a great jump high over Italy. Start to finish, it was an amazing time for all — from the jumping, to the powder interlude to the soccer (football) tournament — and the skiing that came out of Mottolino's Nine Knights castle was damn high.
I won't bore you with any more stories, launch the photo gallery for some photos and captions and check out the official press release and videos below.
Day 1 & 2 action:
AFP Gold Big Air highlights:
Nine Knights week highlights:
THE SUZUKI NINE KNIGHTS CELEBRATES A FANTASTIC INAUGURATION
IN ITALY AT MOTTOLINO, LIVIGNO!
The 4th edition of the Suzuki Nine Knights was a phenomenal week for athletes,
media and spectators alike. The exceptionally beautiful feature, “Il Castello”
provided the perfect venue for some seriously awesome videos and photos. A
progressive Big Air competition and raging after-party ensured that everyone
went home with a big smile on their face.
On invitation by Marker Völkl athlete Nico Zacek some of the world’s best
freeskiers turned up to the picturesque Italian town of Livigno for a week of photo
and film shoots on the imaginative and huge castle feature built on the slopes of
Mottolino Fun Mountain. The Suzuki Nine Knights Big Air contest, recently
declared an AFP Gold Level event, attracted the likes of X Games medalists Tom
Wallisch, Russ Henshaw and Kai Mahler, current AFP Overall Ranking leader
Gus Kenworthy, European Red Bull athletes Paddy Graham and Bene Mayr as
well as local heros Raffaele and Davide Cusini.
A week of unpleasant weather predictions made for an apprehensive mood at the
start of the week. However, once everyone had a chance to check out the feature
the vibes improved to all out stoke! “The feature is super sick,” said Smith Optics
athlete Gus Kenworthy, “there are a lot of different options, a big jump in the
middle, two massive hips, two quarterpipes with a gap option, a canon rail, and a
bunch of other rail options!” What more could you want in one feature? The
conditions were far from ideal at the start of the week with wind and snowfall
making it difficult to session the castle as hard as possible. However, after the
weather gods dumped forty centimeters of new snow on Mottolino, the clouds
finally parted allowing for the definite highlight of the week: Big Thursday!
Big Thursday started with a sunrise shoot, with everyone up on the hill by 6:30
hitting the main jump feature with the octo-copter hovering above and ecstatic
photographers clicking away. A short nap and some food was followed by an epic
heli shoot and all the riders throwing down, with up to five of them jumping the
feature at one time. A sunset session followed with some unreal cloud formations
providing the perfect backdrop for unsurpassable photos and video footage. As it
started getting darker numerous lights all around “Il Castello” were turned on,
making the whole construction look even more spectacular. The riders proceeded
to jump well into complete darkness as the lights continued to change colors,
much to the delight of the photographers looking for different ambiences. Yes,
Thursday was a very long and productive day for everyone involved and they
were happy to have a more relaxed day on Friday while some additional riders
had a chance to practice on the jump.
Countless spectators turned up to the Big Air competition on Saturday, keen to
see all the talented riders display their impressive trickery. Flat light and sticky
snow made things a little difficult, however everyone threw down regardless, with
Kai Mahler in 1st place, Gus Kenworthy in 2nd and Jonas Hunziker in 3rd. Kai
impressed the judges, narrowly edging out Gus Kenworthy with a massive
double cork 1080 tweaked mute grab and a superb double cork 1260 double
japan grab to shifty.
After the Big Air contest the competitors and media contingent headed down to
the valley for dinner, the week’s photographer and riders awards presentation
and of course the highly anticipated after-party. At the award show the four
invited photographers presented their best images from the week, with every
photographer judging each other’s work. The photos were seriously sublime and
the vocal audience made sure the work got the deserved applause. Louis
Garnier won the awards for “Best Action” and “Best Creative Angle”, Tim Lloyd
won the award for “Best Black & White” while Alessandro Belluscio won the “Best
Lifestyle” award. A special mention should be made of Nate Abbott who placed
second in three of the categories.
Following the photography presentation a highlight reel of the week was shown
and it was time for the riders to do some judging of their own. Tom Wallisch who
had been charging every feature all week won a custom Suzuki Nine Knights
iPad for “Best Overall Big Air”. An all expenses paid trip to the Oktoberfest in
Munich thanks to Power Balance went to Lolo Favre who took home the “Best
Style” award for his crazy rodeo 540 screamin semen. The award for “Best Rail
Rider” went to Gus Kenworthy who won a pair of Dotz rims for his incredible ninja
jibbery. “Wanna be a Knight” video qualifier Roy Kittler won the “Most Valuable
Player” award for going hard all week and stomping some sick bio 1260 blunt
grabs. After the awards everyone headed into town for the after-party powered by
Sweet Protection and downdays.eu, a fittingly awesome ending to a crazy week
at the first Italian edition of the Suzuki Nine Knights at Mottolino in Livigno.
Be sure to check out the event wrap up edit showing you all the amazing action
that went down last week at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIl6Ws_DVkk.
Congrats to all the athletes and photographers and see you next year!
For more info visit: www.nineknightsski.com
About the author:
Nate Abbott is a photographer and man of mystery. Most likely to be found in Boulder, CO or New York City, he spends winters chasing skiers and snow around the world with hundreds of pounds of cameras and lights in tow. During the production season, Abbott is Freeskier’s Senior Editor and photo nerd. Check out his work at nateabbott.com.