The 2014 Freeride World Tour has overcome a lot of adversity. While weather has played a huge factor, forcing postponements, cancellations, and relocations, organizers have gone above and beyond to deliver a tour that is both fair to the athletes and entertaining to fans. The Xtreme Verbier final was no different, as it was originally slated for last weekend but postponed due to poor conditions on the Bec des Rosses venue, along with incoming weather.
While this was slightly inconvenient for people who had traveled to Verbier, they were also lucky enough to be in Verbier and managed to have a great time, as the main drag was transformed into a village full of people, products and parties. Audi was in town, letting everybody sign up to take their ridiculously nice cars through an obstacle course. The North Face threw a luau with an open bar to anybody walking down the street. And the garage of the Medran gondola was turned into a raging nightclub, creatively named Medran Garage (good one, guys). Luckily for everbody’s liver, the storm system that dropped 2+ feet of snow eventually gave way to blue skies and it was game on.
The Bec des Rosses competition venue
The ladies kicked things off today on the “Petit Bec” (skier’s left of the main face) and it was Jackie Passo that snagged third place. She opted for a skier’s right zone where none of the others had gone. Spectators thought she may have been going for quite a large air but she chose to link up some nice turns and put together a run that the judges rewarded in kind.
Austria’s Nadine Wallner showed up with the yellow bib (signifying her point lead) and brought with it her consistent style of skiing. She linked up a number of airs with smooth turns that led to a second place finish today and a back-to-back world title, narrowly beating out Lorraine Huber, also of Austria.
“I’m so happy that I managed to win the title again,” said Wallner. “I’ve only realized now what I achieved last year. It’s incredible to win again after having been ill this week. My family and friends are here in Verbier and they have supported me mentally. The conditions were difficult as the snow was very varied. It was good at the top but affected by the wind in the lower section.”
Last but certainly not least, it was Pia Nic Gunderson of Norway who took the top spot here in Verbier. She wasted no time out of the start gate, making aggressive fall line turns that led her to a huge air and long sweeping turns to round it out.
”Her jump was a 40-50 footer for sure,” said head judge Hugo Harrison. “She cleared it so far, she over shot the transition by a long way, and that’s what made that air so big. She took it with a lot of speed, it was perfect.”
In the tight race for the overall podium, this first place finish gave Gunderson enough points to secure a third place overall finish for 2014.
Women’s First Place: Pia Nic Gunderson
Women’s Second Place: Nadine Wallner
Women’s Third Place: Jackie Passo
With the women’s standings solidified, it was on to the North Face of “The Bec” for men’s finals. Big news on the men’s side was France’s Loic Collomb-Patton who came into the event as the overall point leader and skied an aggressive line to take third place for the day and secure the 2014 overall world title. He started out with high speed turns and hit a number of airs which included the “Reine cliff” (named for Reine Barkered) up top and a large, left side 360 lower down on the face.
“I didn’t feel so good up at the start,” said Collom-Patton after the event. “I was under a lot of pressure and was not really confident with my line. Once on the face you just have to go for it, fast and big, and it worked out well. This (being my) first year on the tour, my objective was to be top 12, to qualify to Verbier. To win is a dream!”
Coming in second place today was USA’s Ian Borgeson who was competing on The Bec for the first time. Despite that, he threw a massive 360, only moments after leaving the start gate. He then laid down some high speed turns and found his way to another nice air at the bottom of The Bec to get the judges attention.
Lastly, while Collom-Patton took the overall title, today’s top performer was Reine Barkered, a consistent finisher on the tour over the last few years. He started his run off with the trademark “Reine cliff” and hit the gas from there on out. High speed, fluid turns led him to a small air in the middle of his run and set him up nicely for a huge, full throttle air at the bottom. Both the crowd and the judges were in agreement that it was the best run of the day.
Men’s First Place: Reine Barkered
Men’s Second Place: Ian Borgeson
Men’s Third Place: Loic Collom-Patton
Final 2014 FWT Overall Standings:
1. Loic Collomb-Patton (FRA)
2. Sam Smoothy (NZL)
3. Jeremie Heitz (SUI)
1. Nadine Wallner (AUT)
2. Lorraine Huber (AUT)
3. Pia Nic Gunderson (NOR)