While many of us were comfortably snoring in our beds last night, the much-anticipated Freeride World Tour finals took place in Verbier, Switzerland. In a much different scenario from last week’s Austrian stop, the contest was actually moved forward one day to take advantage of prime conditions on the infamous Bec des Rosses face and beat out an incoming weather system. In all, there were 14 men and 5 women who were invited to compete for the title of first ever unified FWT Champion and as competitors inspected the venue and made comments prior to competition day it was clear why the face has played host to these types of competitions for almost 20 years. “I’m hearing the general vibe from people who’ve been here quite a lot that the face is looking really good. Too me it looks gnarly, man!” said Charlie Lyons.
When the day was done it was Kevin Guri standing on top of the podium for the final stop. Guri started his run by airing into some nice high-speed turns. He worked his way lookers left to right, finding two huge airs that would ultimately be the most impressive of the day. Revisiting the podium was Reine Barkered with a skier’s left approach that brought a steep and exposed run which ended in a nice air over the Hollywood cliff and a second place finish. Finally, it was Laurent “Larry” Gauthier bringing a nice mix of aggression and high speed airs down the fall line to land the third and final podium spot for the day.
After calculating the points from this stop it was the American, Drew Tabke, who came out victorious as the overall winner in an incredibly close race. Tabke, who appeared to get a little lost on the Bec des Rosses, managed to put together a run that landed him in 6th place for the day. Once in the finish coral, he remarked that he was in fact off his line, but like a true competitor he was able to put down a solid run that included some nice airs. After starting the season out strong with a win in Revelstoke, he skied consistently throughout the tour and also snagged a first place finish in Chamonix. “This is what I’ve worked for, for almost 10 years of competition. Verbier couldn’t be a better place to do it. It’s a lot of time we put in. Everybody dedicates a lot of their lives to this, so to have it come around is a big payoff for sure. There is a lot of amazing history in freeriding that has pushed us to this moment and I’m really excited to see what will happen the next few years too.”
Reine Barkered’s second place finish today solidified his second place overall in a race that certainly came down to the wire. Barkered’s 7,960 was so close to Tabke’s 8,000 point total, and coming in third was France’s Julien Lopez, who also showed consistency throughout the tour, with a total of 7,620 points.
To the lookers’ right of men’s venue was where the women’s action went down. Taking the top spot for the day was Matilda Rapaport. The Swede used her momentum from a second place finish last week in Austria to lay down a technical run that included a number of airs–an impressive performance for the rookie who just got the wild card invite two days ago. Coming in second was another wild card, Lorraine Huber, who logged some similar air time. And rounding out the women’s podium was a woman who is no stranger to it, Nadine Wallner. Wallner, who placed first in Austria, had already clinched the over title prior to this stop but still layed down an aggressive run here in Verbier. “It’s hard to believe it. It’s my first year on the tour and I did not expect to win the overall title! I was focusing on each contest. Every competition is special and I was really stoked to ski the Bec des Rosses for the first time in such great conditions!”
Wallner secured her overall first place positon with 8,880 points, more than 1,000 points ahead of Norway’s Pia Nic Gunderson in second place. And rounding out the overall women’s podium was Jackie Passo of the USA. Gunderson and Passo placed fourth and sixth today, respectively.
“The 2013 FWT season was an amazing step in the growth of the freeride movement.” said Adam Comey, FWT General Manager Americas. “The quality of talent we have witnessed throughout the tour is so evenly matched between the two regions. It is fantastic to see athletes finally competing on a unified world tour for a single world championship. Congratulations to all the athletes for an incredible season and especially to our newly crowned true world champions. We are ecstatic to start working on the 2014 season.”