The 2013 Red Bull Linecatcher wrapped up yesterday in Les Arcs, France. Deep powder snow, a multi-faceted venue, and a stacked riders list helped the competition live up to its reputation as the most creative backcountry freestyle event.
Linecatcher is a unique opportunity for a diverse group of skiers—Freeride World Tour Competitors, ski film stars, terrain park skiers and quiet backcountry shredders—to come together and challenge each other in a mode of skiing that usually isn’t considered competitive. This year’s Linecatcher crew included a mix of skiers from three continents, ranging from heavyweights like Sage Cattabriga-Alosa and Richard Permin to young talents like Markus Eder and Leo Taillefer.
Their arena in Les Arcs: the Cirque du Fond Blanc, a backcountry area accessed by a 10-minute hike from the ski resort. From the top, the venue moves from open, rolling terrain into a steep, cliffy final pitch, with natural air possibilities from top to bottom. Linecatcher organizer and spiritual guide Julien Regnier, first saw the area in ski footage from fellow French skier Arnaud Rougier and immediately wanted to use it for the event.
“I saw a heli cam from Arnaud and thought, ‘That’s a good spot,’” said Regnier. “So I scoped the area and was happy with the profile and the exposure. And the fact that we could stop people from riding it [before the event] was important.” With the help of a local crew, Julien successfully turned the Fond Blanc into a perfect venue for backcountry freestyle by augmenting the already playful natural terrain with nine man-made features. The riders all agreed that the new spot was more playful and trickable than the previous Linecatcher venue in Vars.
“The venue definitely has a heavy slopestyle influence,” said Dash Longe, “But there are big airs and big cliffs too. It’s slopestyle and big-mountain influence, all wrapped into one.”
“There are big airs and big cliffs too. It’s slopestyle and big-mountain influence, all wrapped into one.” – Dash Longe
After visual inspection of the course on Sunday in bluebird conditions, a storm front moved into the Tarantaise Valley, bringing visibility to nil and forcing a postponement of the planned Monday start. After two days of waiting, the clouds broke on Wednesday, and an all-out assault on the cirque followed.
Each skier was given three runs on the face. The judging format—best run, based on overall impression—left plenty of room for individual interpretation. Mostly the judges wanted to see energetic skiing, whether in a technical line with natural airs, or linking big tricks on the manmade features. One thing was clear: tricks and line choice were going to be crucial.
Each skier took a different approach. FWT competitor Oakley White-Allen sent the biggest cliff in the venue, while Rory Bushfield attempted giant double backflips in the middle of his run. Sage Cattabriga-Alosa skied new, creative lines each run while boosting huge backflip japans, and Tim Durtschi bagged a switch 900, rodeo 720 and natural-air 360 in one of the better slopestyle-esque runs. Switch 540s off the step-downs on top of the ridge were a popular choice, as were cork 720s in the middle jumps. Skiers either kept to the left of the venue, airing over a sequence of rollovers, or pointed it straight down the middle, threading lines and airs through the hairy lower cliff section. Almost every natural feature in the venue saw a spin or flip of some kind.
“Everyone had their own line picked out,” said Durtschi. “Some people took the more powdery runs, but the jumps were another option. A lot of people mixed it up between natural airs and manmade hits.”
2013 Red Bull Linecatcher video highlights
When the powder settled, it was French rider Sam Favret on top of the podium. Favret skied hard and fast while stomping tricks throughout his run, including a switch 540 off the top, an unnatural 720 mid-run, and a cork 360 off a natural hit in the bottom section that few other riders noticed. “I had a great day today,” said Favret. “Good vibes with the whole crew, and I stomped my run. It’s just unbelievable to be on the podium at Linecatcher.”
Second place went to Parker White, who stomped all three of his runs clean, with tricks including nose-butter 720s off the top jump, huge cork 7 reverse mutes, and his signature front flip double nose grab. In terms of consistency, he was the day’s standout skier. Nico Vuignier of Switzerland took third place with a creative line choice while linking left and right spins off both natural and manmade features.
“I started out not knowing where I wanted to go, and had a hard time on the first run,” said Vuignier. “But on the third run I hit it perfect. I stomped everything clean, so that’s maybe what made the difference.”
All in all, the amazing conditions, progressive venue and heavy-hitting rider list helped the 2013 Linecatcher set a new bar in backcountry freestyle competition. “It was the deepest snow I’ve ever skied at any comp in my life,” said Durtschi. “The perfect conditions for the perfect comp.”
“It was less about winning, and more about skiing,” said Parker White. “Everybody’s on the same page there.”
2013 Red Bull Linecatcher Results
1. Sam Favret (FRA)
2. Parker White (USA)
3. Nico Vuignier (SUI)
4. Fabio Studer (AUT)
5. Sage Cattabriga-Alosa (USA)
6. Dylan Hood (USA)
7. Markus Eder (ITA)
8. Romain Grojean (FRA)
9. Tim Durtschi (USA)
10. Dash Longe (USA)
10. Tom Leitner (ALL)
12. Oakley White Allen (USA)
13. Eliel Hindert (USA)
14. Leo Taillefer (FRA)
15. Tobias Tritscher (AUT)
16. Richard Permin (FRA)
16. Tomas Blanc (ARG)
18. Rory Bushfield (CAN)
19. Mathieu Imbert (FRA)
19. Arnaud Rougier (FRA)