Wallner, Smoothy overcome poor conditions to win third stop of Freeride World Tour

Comments by Donny O'Neill/

The third stop of the 2014 Swatch Freeride World Tour by The North Face (FWT) was moved from Fieberbrunn Kitzbüheler Alpen, Austria to Kappl, also in Austria’s Tirol region, due to challenging conditions. Although conditions in Kappl weren’t ideal either, skiers rode valiantly and when it was all said and done Austria’s Nadine Wallner (defending women’s champion of the 2013 FWT) and New Zealand’s Sam Smoothy stood atop the podiums.

Wallner was beyond excited to take home the win, despite the challenging conditions. “Everything worked out as I had planned. I managed to ski fast through some wind-affected snow in the upper section, but there was some nice powder after my cliff drop. I am back in the game!”

On the women’s side, Francesca Pavillard-Cain (USA) and Lorraine Huber (AUT) earned second and third place respectively. For the men, Nicolas Salencon (ARG) took second place and Richard Amacker (SUI) placed third.

The next stop on the FWT will be at Kirkwood Resort, California on March 1.

Press Release, Fieberbrunn Kitzbüheler Alpen, Austria, February 3, 2014:

Challenging snowpack in Fieberbrunn Kitzbüheler Alpen caused organizers to move the third SWATCH FREERIDE WORLD TOUR BY THE NORTH FACE® (FWT) 2014 stop to Kappl, which is also in the Tirol region of Austria. FWT and the Fieberbrunn local organizing committee are very grateful for the immense support provided by Kappl to hold the competition on such short notice. The start gate perched atop 2,800-meter (9,186-foot) Quellspitze. Variable snow conditions made landings tricky and required riders to execute impeccable control. The pressure to become a 2014 SWATCH FREERIDE WORLD TOUR BY THE NORTH FACE® champion is surely increasing.

The competition began with the women’s skiing competition. Defending 2013 FWT Women’s Ski Champion Nadine Wallner of Austria protected her reign with an impressive win. Wallner aggressively attacked her airs with solid and polished technique. The judges awarded her a high score of 87.25.

“My run was exactly how it should feel. It was an excellent ride, just awesome,” exclaimed Wallner after her run. “Everything worked out as I had planned. I managed to ski fast through some wind-affected snow in the upper section, but there was some nice powder after my cliff drop. I am back in the game!”

In second position, American Francesca Pavillard-Cain approached a feature frequently trafficked by the female skiers with incredible confidence and more air than any of her competition. A newcomer to the FWT this season, Pavillard-Cain earned a score of 76.25. Austrian Lorraine Huber managed the third podium position by quickly and cleanly linking a series of features. Huber’s score was 75.75.

Next, the women’s snowboard competition concluded with a second consecutive win for Shannan Yates of the United States. Yates was also the winner in Chamonix. Yates’ exhibited solid control and execution throughout her entire run despite the variable snowpack. Her run also featured some sizeable airs in more technical sections of the venue. Yates’ performance received a top score of 73.75.

“It was a gorgeous day in a beautiful valley,” stated Yates. “I had a fantastic run at Kappl. I hit a lot more features than I usually do and executed my line exactly the way I wanted.”

Swiss rider Estelle Balet managed the second place position with a very fluid run peppered with some features and stylish method grabs. Her score was 69.75. Rounding out the podium in third place, Australian Amber Schuecker executed a creative line earning her a score of 66.75.

In the men’s ski category, Sam Smoothy of New Zealand screamed down the fall line with a super fast and high-energy run. He managed both a double and triple cliff drop. His excellent technique throughout the venue pleased the judges resulting in a score of 86.50.

“I am always excited to be out riding these mountains with a bunch of really cool people,” beamed Smoothy. “I was inspired to ride fun flowy lines and had a good time. It was a massive bonus to take a win here, I couldn’t be happier.”

The second place male skier, Nicolas Salencon of Argentina, was one of the only competitors to successfully land a 360 off the most popular air-feature of the day. Salencon creatively linked many features together and earned a score of 80.75. Finally, Swiss skier Richard Amacker charged hard down the venue with two large airs. His score was just behind Salencon at 79.75.

Sammy Luebke, of the United States, managed his second win of the season with a very fluid line featuring a high-speed double cliff drop near the bottom. Luebke was awarded the high score in his category of 81.25. Luebke also won in Courmayeur Mont Blanc.

“I am feeling really good,” said men’s snowboard winner Sammy Luebke. “I was skeptical on line choice as the face was a bit shorter. I thought about changing my original choice but stuck with my plan, and that worked out. The conditions were variable but I found some nice pockets of good snow.”

Following Luebke closely in second place was 2013 FWT Men’s Snowboard Champion Ralph Backstrom. Both Luebke and Backstrom are from the same home mountain, Squaw Valley, CA. Backstrom was the first snowboarder to ride and chose a fluid approach to the venue right down the fall line. Backstrom earned a score of 80.00. Following a win in Chamonix at the last event, Emilien Badoux of Switzerland, utilized the terrain well linking many features. His run earned 76.25 and third place.

The SWATCH FREERIDE WORLD TOUR BY THE NORTH FACE® continues its competition schedule in Kirkwood, California on March 1 and in Revelstoke, Canada March 10 where the final athlete cut will be made for the Xtreme Verbier final championship competition in Switzerland on March 22. The remainder of the schedule includes both men’s and women’s ski and snowboard competition.