Going inside Red Bull Linecatcher with the 2015 winner Nico Vuignier

Going inside Red Bull Linecatcher with the 2015 winner Nico Vuignier

This past weekend, the Red Bull Linecatcher contest went down in Les Arcs, France. Linecatcher, the ultimate fusion of big-mountain freeride and freestyle competitions, welcomed some of the most innovative skiers in the world to throw down on the Cirque de Fond Blanc. In the end, Swiss skier Nico Vuignier stood atop the podium after a run that showed a wide array of freestyle skills with technical prowess. We caught up with Vuignier to get his take on winning Linecatcher.

What were the conditions like out there? Were they challenging? If so, how did you adapt?

Like most everywhere in Europe it was low tide. A good part of the face was closed for safety reasons. But, the main kicker line was perfect and the landing had tons of snow, I felt really comfortable riding it and I knew the landings were safe so the only challenge was to do something creative with the few line options there were.

Take us through your line… was it planned out beforehand or did you make a plan as you went?

I started out with a mini cliff drop on top, then a cork 7 japan off the first kicker. I made a hard cut to the skier’s left to do a 360 off a cliff then ended with a right 7 reverse tail. I planned the run as I went. In the head-to-head round I was going against Richard Permin. I knew he would go big so I wanted to try to hit the run differently. I remember looking at this cliff earlier, I thought I might as well try it. It was a bit complicated to get to it but it worked and it was perfectly aligned with the last jump. I ended up winning against Richie, so for the finals I adjusted and decided to go with the same line and try to do a 360 off the cliff and do a right 7 on the last jump.

Pro skiers Julien Regnier, Nico Vuignier, Flo Bastien and Laurent De Martin at Red Bull Linecatcher

(From L to R) Laurent de Martin, Julien Regnier, Nico Vuignier and Flo Bastien. Photo by Jeremy Bernard/Red Bull Content Pool

On your second and third hits, it looked like you almost lost it on the landings. Was that due to conditions or just how big you went?

I went a little bigger than I expected. On the second hit I was a bit scared to travel to the left on my 360 so I popped pretty hard, that made me go bigger than I wanted. I thought I lost some speed for the last jump so I set my right seven pretty hard and had to open up to slow my rotation down.

The transitions between your three hits were pretty tight, was that a challenge?

Yes it was pretty intense, you really had to be focused on your next jump. In my run you can see I get worked between the first and second hit because I’m only focusing on my next jump. I think I wasn’t really breathing between those jumps. [laughs] Even though the run was pretty short I was out of breath the whole time.

After the contest, you said, “I didn’t feel really good this morning and didn’t expect anything,” why was that?

I couldn’t sleep the night before. I guess the fact that I hadn’t hit any jumps this season made me super nervous for this competition. [laughs] In the morning I was just not feeling it. I was tired, nervous, I just couldn’t imagine myself landing any solid runs. Once the comp was on I tried focusing on the positive, having some fun and enjoying the experience, just going with the flow. I didn’t really think about the contest, I just tried to do a run I’d be happy with and it worked.

What was going through your head when you finished up that run?

Damn, that right 7 was ugly! [laughs] I didn’t see the other riders ski their runs, so I didn’t know how my run would score against the others. I’m a bit of a perfectionist. When I landed my run I just wanted to go up again and make it super clean, grab longer, everything. I saw a score in the 90s but it didn’t really hit me. I still went for it on the last run and everything was good until I couldn’t get my 360 to my feet. I was so close to landing a super clean run. But then it hit me and I realized I was still probably going to win. That was pretty unreal. Red Bull Linecatcher has always been the contest that represents the skiing I like and winning it is a dream come true. I’m just starting to realize now that I won, it’s pretty insane.

The competitor list was stacked this year, with names like Richard Permin, Parker White, Markus Eder, Nick McNutt, Sage Cattabriga-Alosa and more. What was the vibe like with such a star studded cast?

It was great. There was an amazing vibe between the riders. Linecatcher is pretty special because most of the riders focus on filming the rest of the year, they’re not like your usual competitor whose only goal is to win a medal. I also believe everyone in the field has what it takes to be on the podium and that makes it a really exciting contest to be a part of.

What do you have to say regarding the all-European podium?

I think it’s the first time that happened since the beginning of Linecatcher, so that’s pretty sweet. The format makes it so that at some stage of the competition, an error can be fatal, so there is always a bit of luck involved, and this year it was more on the Europeans’ side. But maybe we’ll see an all-American podium next year?

What’s next for you this season?

I’m working on a creative video project with my friend Jules Guarneri. We were hoping to launch the project in January but the bad snow conditions in Europe have delayed everything. So, we’ll probably be dropping a mini edit soon with some b-shots from the last month. I’ve been wanting to do a project like this for years and I’m really excited to finally make it happen. I just hope we’ll get some better snow conditions in Europe.

Besides the video project I’m also organizing a banked slopestyle contest in Crans-Montana-Switzerland in April called the Spring Session. Other than that, I’ll try to keep creating some exciting content for my website and social media pages.

How was the after party?

Even though it was a Sunday evening, it was wild.

Who partied the hardest at said after party?

I think P. White won the party.

Related: Nico Vuignier wins 2015 Red Bull Linecatcher [Gallery]

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