The fourth Swatch Skiers Cup kicked off from Zermatt, Switzerland today, with the backcountry slopestyle event. New snowfall graced the course, and athletes from both the Americas and Europe duked it out under the shadow of the Matterhorn. Round one saw Europe take a 5-3 lead, thanks to big runs from Nicolas Vuignier (SUI), Richard Permin (FRA), Fabio Studer (ITA), and Sam Favret (FRA). One of the most exciting matchups of the first round pitted legends Seth Morrison (USA) and Sverre Liliequist (SWE) against one another, with Morrison taking the win in that matchup.
Team Americas came out strong in round two, with Tim Durtschi (USA), Sage Cattabriga-Alosa (USA), and JP Auclair (CAN) all notching impressive runs for the team. Auclair’s run was highlighted by a massive double backflip on the final jump of the course.
Tim Durtschi airing it out at the Swatch Skiers Cup in Zermatt. Photo by David Carlier.
“I was smiling as I approached the final jump. I got a good chance to feel out the jump on run one, so for run two I was feeling really good,” explained Auclair. “I don’t do doubles very often unless it’s the perfect moment, and this was one of those times.”
Auclair’s victory over Team Europe captain Julien Regnier (FRA) solidified the 9-7 win for Team Americas, putting them in great position to succeed in the big mountain discipline, and tie up the all time series at 2-2.
Press Release, Zermatt, Switzerland, January 7, 2014:
The 2014 Swatch Skiers Cup got off to a smashing start today in Zermatt with the Backcountry Slopestyle discipline. Team Americas came out on top, winning nine rounds to Team Europe’s seven. This sets the stage for an exciting conclusion when the final discipline, Big Mountain, runs later in the week.
Despite an imperfect weather forecast, it was a beautiful, mostly sunny day in Zermatt, with a blanket of untouched snow covering the course. The first round was full of historic matchups with Nicolas Vuignier (SUI) taking down Sage Cattabriga-Alosa (USA), and Richard Permin (FRA) defeating Dane Tudor (USA) to notch points for Europe. In the clash of the legends, Seth Morrison (USA) won a point for the Americas in his match against Sverre Liliequist (SWE). Fabio Studer (AUT) had the most aggressive run of the round, with a nearly landed double flatspin off the first air, two high-speed double cliff drops, and a perfect cork 720 tail grab to finish, defeating his opponent Tim Durtschi (USA). Sam Favret (FRA) also laid down an incredible run for the European side to take out KC Deane (USA) with a huge switch 540, a cork 360, and insane 720 to finish. Team Europe held a 5-3 lead after round one.
But in round two the tables turned. Team Americas came out firing, winning the first four matchups. Tim Durtschi (USA) defeated Sam Favret (FRA), finishing his run with a double cork 1080. Sage Cattabriga-Alosa (USA) threw down the most creative run of the day, linking two unrepeated cliff drops with stylish left-side and right-side 360s, topping an impressive run from Kevin Guri (FRA). But the highlight of the day was the final run, when Americas captain JP Auclair (CAN) stepped up to the plate. A smooth run up top lead him into the final jump, where he threw a gigantic double backflip. He seemed to hang in the air forever, landing further down the landing hill than any other competitor, stomping the air perfectly.
“I was smiling as I approached the final jump. I got a good chance to feel out the jump on run one, so for run two I was feeling really good,” explained JP Auclair (CAN). “I don’t do doubles very often unless it’s the perfect moment, and this was one of those times.” Auclair’s win over Team Europe captain Julien Regnier (FRA) put an exclamation point on Team Americas’ day one victory. Final score: Team Americas 9; Team Europe 7. “After that first round we knew what we had to do,” said Team Americas rider Callum Pettit (CAN). “Before round two we all got together at the top and the whole team was super stoked, just totally fired up to make the comeback happen.”
But the story is far from over. With the Big Mountain discipline remaining, 16 intense rounds of competition are left that could tip the scales in either direction. The heavy-hitting Team Americas riders obviously have deep talent, but six of the eight Team Europe riders have the advantage of previous Swatch Skiers Cup experience. And the stakes are high. Team Europe has won two Swatch Skiers Cup titles to Team Americas’ one. If Americas can hold their lead from Backcountry Slopestyle they’ll tie the score for the events history at 2-2, but if Europe rallies from behind they’ll hold a dominant 3-1 record. Stay tuned for updates, and don’t miss a minute of the conclusion of the Swatch Skiers Cup!
More rider quotes:
Sage Cattabriga-Alosa (USA) – “I had a lot more confidence the second run. I hit some of the same airs as my first run, but mixed it up with different tricks. I knew (my opponent) Kevin Guri was really fired up when I saw him stomp a huge cork 720 at the top, so I knew I’d have to step it up to get the win.”
Fabio Studer (AUT) – “I’m feeling really good this year. I analyzed my skiing from last year and want to ski faster between features so I’ve been working on that. And this fall I did a lot of training in the terrain park so I feel good in the air, too. Super happy to be here at Swatch Skiers Cup, and I’m also looking forward to the Freeride World Tour, too.”
Tim Durtschi (USA) – “In round two, my opponent Sam Favret broke his bindings in a crash on his first air, so I just went for it”. I did a big switch backflip on the top air and then a double cork 1080 to finish.”
Dane Tudor (USA) – “There’s just no other comp like it. The format is super unique and it creates an amazing environment — friendly but intense at the same time.”
Richard Permin (FRA) – “Yeah, I love this event. Just such good team spirit, not totally individual like skiing normally is. We lost today but it was a good ski and tonight will be a good party!”
Cody Townsend (USA) – “That was so much fun. The light was a little flat on my second run, so when I landed that last 720 I totally surprised myself. But the energy here is amazing, it gets you so psyched up you just go for it.”
Nicolas Vuignier (SUI) – “I didn’t ski my absolute best but I still won both runs. In round two I held back a little because Callum Pettit crashed ahead of me and I knew I needed to stomp a clean run. Its part of the strategy here – its a team sport.”