Sainte Foy Freeride World Qualifier by Evolution – how the French do things, by Angelica Sykes
So last weekend was the weekend of the St Foy Freeride. A comp that is strangely melancholy for me and certainly this year brought up some feelings of nostalgia. Last year, for my last completion of the season, I signed up to St Foy Freeride, for what I thought was a small, well organised and not very well known comp, nestled in the picturesque French Alps. Now I am a gal who loves a surprise, like most, so when my dad and sister surprised me with a weekend in La Rosière and by coming to watch me compete I knew it would be a special weekend, and a great way to end my competitive season. Last year I did terribly – it was an awful run, icy, complex and dare I say, dangerous? However, last year’s comp was full of amazing riders and simply lovely people, and paired with my dad and sister visiting, it was a great weekend. This year the comp has been upgraded from 2* to the dizzying heights of 3*, on the same face, with very similar variables. Would it be the comp where I make my big comeback? Sadly not…
St Foy, as it transpires, is a freeride heaven – that is obvious despite the deteriorating conditions. You can see even with an untrained eye that the territory is incredibly varied, the terrain interesting and challenging and I imagine on a powder day, there wouldn’t be very many more places better to be in the French Alps. However, the chances of getting desirable conditions in the Freeride World Qualifier series are very unlikely and this season, pretty much impossible. St Foy has clearly felt the effects of the warmer and very unstable weather year, and this meant that not only was the terrain of the face “Nasty”- insert American accent here- the organisers also thought it would be a fantastic idea to allow in 134 participants. If this seems like a large figure to you, then you would be very right. Imagine the worst wind-beaten, frozen, unstable and sharky terrain on a face where all riders will be funnelled into two fairly narrow couloirs, then you can start to get a mental visual on what this comp face is like.
I won’t lie to you, the good reader of the Ski Club of Great Britain Blog, those of you who follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, you deserve better – I clearly need more training on bad landings. I think I need more work on my breathing to help calm my nerves and more work of holding my stability. It’s good in a way that I have noticed my weaknesses and I can now begin to prep for next year considering this year has been a bit of a bust. With all of this in mind, it will be no surprise that I came 10th out of 11 female riders. I had my line options planned and I thought I had my nerves under control. Perhaps I was wrong. The hike up wasn’t too testy, albeit long, simply because the other girls and I were bro-ing down and having a proper laugh about the day. Half way up one of the other riders and I stopped to check the face from the left – this gave us a much more accurate perception of the conditions and a full view of a guy enjoying some unintentional forward flips and beginning to hurtle down the mountain into the skier’s right couloir. The snow was so tough, you could see where his head and feet had entered and exited the snow and we could count 6 painful flips before he finally came to a stop. Pair that with the fact that even by 2pm they were still only a third of the way through the long list of riders, and I was nervous.
At the top I decided to change my line, I thought for sure skier’s left would be a one way ticket to a broken bone for me and I would have more chance of jumping and landing correctly if at least the snow was marginally better. Even though the skiing was more technical on the left side, it was to be right for me. I had noticed a few riders take off this cliff – it looked ideal, with a great natural kicker and a landing that didn’t look too hard-packed. So when they shouted, “Rider ready? – 3,2,1 DROP IN”, I came into the jump with way too much speed and hurtled off into a forward flip. Managing to pop back up again, I was very happy not to have gone sliding down on the ice. The landing really shot my knees and I felt the energy seep out of my body like a gust of wind passing by. From that point on it was a case of getting down safely with out hurting myself on the very challenging terrain. I fell again and missed my back-up features but when I got to the bottom, other riders commented on how exhausted I looked after being emotionally and physically beaten by the run.
However, a few days on, having had chance to think about it, I feel OK. It may sound strange but I plan to simply write this season off and focus on the next adventure in the summer. Sadly, what with all the comps being postponed, cancelled, poorly managed, over subscribed and being held regardless of terrible conditions, I know a lot of the freeride world qualifier riders are doing the same. That’s totally OK because I have isolated my problems and I know I can move forward now to be a better and more well-rounded rider. So here’s to the summer, the sunshine, the warmer climes and a chance to increase my fitness level, improve my nerves and do whatever I need to do to be ready to hit it big time next winter.
Let the training begin…