Verbier Freeride Week
Angelica Sykes checks in with us here at the Ski Club, giving us the insights on her latest over in Verbier, the Freeride World Qualifiers. Continuing her focus on all-girls freeride and her passion for this to grow, as well as the filming of ‘One Of Us’, here’s what she’s been up to.
So Verbier Freeride week is over and this year, I can safely say with a massive grin on my face, that it was just the most incredible week. I’ve said it once, I will no doubt say it many more times, but last year was a mess for me – I didn’t want to place any expectation on this comp season, but I’m coming away from Verbier and the European opener of the Freeride World Qualifiers and I am feeling so inspired!
Let’s kick off and talk about the competition itself! In a ski town you can very easily fall into the mentality that “the grass is always greener”- you check the snow forecast over and over, to become convinced every other resort has it so much better. I did learn that although I painted this lovely snowy picture of the conditions in Verbier, it turns out they have struggled with snow all even more than us in Cervinia, dare I say. Verbier has a good base but with some odd wind and temperature, conditions made for less than desirable freeride in the main resort of Verbier, causing the organisers to confirm all 3 competition days would take place in the sub resort of Bruson. Now Bruson is exactly how you imagine a ski resort, I am talking snow covered peaks, dense forest and fluffy snow that sticks to the face for days after a snowfall. This meant every comp day provided us with interesting and varied terrain, which challenged the riders and kept us on the tips of our ski/snowboard boots!
Day 1 –
IT WAS FREEZING. Bruson isn’t the highest resort in the world yet it was baltic, it was about -15 degrees and you could feel it! It meant that the snow fall from the weekend was perfect – the face may not look like the most interesting face in the world, features were a few and far between but it encouraged you to be playful and original with your line choice. I chose my line on the lookers right just where the shadow lies. My aim was to charge, ride fast with attention to detail on the technique, while being playful by popping off all the little pillows. As they shouted rider ready, 3,2,1, DROPIN, my heart was about to beat out of my chest. I entered the line with the aggression I had hoped for. I got my first powder to the face shots of the season and I was over the moon when I arrived at the finish. That said, I took home first place. The judges loved my control and speed. I can’t even explain the elevation I am still feeling, what an honour to place so well! For those of you who follow me on Instagram and Snapchat, you will have seen what an incredible day it was for everything else too – the weather was a perfect blue bird and my fellow snowboard females were the nicest bunch of gals ever! They made the day for me; for anyone out there who thinks that perhaps it’s too competitive or the people are closed off, that’s not the case, everyone is so friendly and it makes competing a pleasure that I don’t think you get in many other sports!
Day 2 –
Day 2 took place on a north facing slope on Wednesday, meaning the snow was still amazing but had been a little beaten by wind and general wear and tear. We had to work for our turns with a 45 minute hike, and as I was dropping in number 6, I was one of the first at the top. Seeing as I am a little, shall we say, feisty…I had to keep up with the boys on the hike up and fly the flag for the girls! That hike was proper disorientating – arriving at the top meant you had totally lost your line. A lot of people had this issue. I had planned to take the line through the little trees on the lookers left but instead I ended up lookers right on the steepest section which I didn’t negotiate to my best ability. As I knew my technique was shot, I started doing that odd thing snowboarders do sometimes, when they bend over, bum in the air and back straight like I am about to launch forward, driving into a pool of regret and bad decisions. I will hold my hands up and say my style left A LOT to be desired. The judges caught onto this, and although they commented on my speed they said that their high expectations of my skills left them disappointed here, so I placed 6th. Not a terrible result, but not one for the books eithern- it’s okay as I gained valuable advice. I still got to ride with the amazing gals at the comp, making friends and seeing how other riders, well, ride!
Day – 3
Day 3 was on Friday and was on the same face as day 2 but with a new area open on the lookers right. This gave you access to so many more features and some snow protected by the trees, which I hoped would mean a few sweet powder turns. I wanted to ride to lookers right and stay around those trees. I charged in, trying to pay close attention to my technique, keeping it clean and bouncing off anything I could find. However I stuck my nose in like a rookie and did a small “scorpion”. I managed to pop back up and nail some killer pow turns. This earned me 5th place. The judges said my run was once again a cause for discussion, loving my speed and style but the fall ruined it. I can take that, the fact they like my attitude to charging hard gives me all the faith in the world going into this comp season, where I will compete with quality over quantity in mind.
I had a thoroughly amazing week – it was improved even further by the really great accommodation. I stayed at La Baraque down in Le Chable, and the owner Stamatia was the most lovely and accommodating host. She owns the bar just over the road, Le Couloir, that does the best burgers meat-eater/veggie/vegan friendly – just what you want after a long comp day! This spot is perfect to avoid the terrible Verbier prices but still indulging in the Swiss lifestyle and it’s right next to the cable car too…what more could you ask for!
For any of you wanting to compete or get involved in freeride, then watching the comps is amazing. The organisers really put on a show and watching the riders do their thing can be so entertaining. It’s a great way to see how the discipline works in a more controlled way! Next stop for me is Courmayeur 4th/5th February, so follow me on the socials and see what I get up to in training and travels!
Until next time. . . .