After a significant scheduling shuffle, the Freeride World Tour’s 2024 season finally got underway this morning in Verbier, Switzerland. The venue for the event was the Petit Bec instead of the originally planned Bec des Rosses.
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Typically, Verbier is reserved for the FWT’s finals, but due to the lack of snow in the Pyrenees—where the first two events of the FWT were planned this season—the event organizers opted to run a make-up competition in the Alps.
And what a competition that make-up was.
The women’s field kicked things off with progressive moves. Justine Dufour-Lapointe and Addison Rafford went for a backflip and a 360, respectively, but unfortunately, they couldn’t quite hold it together. The star of the show was Poland’s Zuzanna Witych, who laced a technical, high-speed run. She walked away with a hard-earned first place.
“I have no words; I am so surprised. I loved this line from the first time I saw the face, but I didn’t expect it to be that big,” Witych said. “I never imagined the scenario of leading the rankings, and I really want to keep pushing myself.”
Manon Loschi, an ever-promising rookie with a deep bag of tricks, kept her run conservative, opting for textbook skiing instead of bombast. Her calculated efforts landed her in the second position. Finally, the American Molly Armanino stomped an impressive double stager for third.
As for the men’s field—what a powder keg. The popularity of freeride skiing has surged in the past ten years, with an influx of talent saturating the big mountain space. This morning, like a pressure valve releasing, all that talent exploded across the Petit Bec. The Tour has never been this fun to watch. Seriously.
Max Hitzig took the title, appearing to float down the Petit Bec, even as he absorbed enormous drops. Following closely behind was Kiwi Finn Bilous—an Olympic park skier turned free-rider—who proved that a freestyle background could translate seamlessly to the big mountain. FWT legend Kristofer Turdell rounded out the podium in an impressive bid to keep pace with the frothing young guns.
“It was a really special and technical run. Normally, I like flatter terrain, but I enjoyed the steep slopes here; it makes you concentrate. I wanted to start with a solid run this year, and my plan is to have fun this season and try my best. I look forward, especially to the new stop in Georgia,” Hitzig said of his run this morning.
The continued evolution of freeride came at a cost, though. Several favorites, like Max Palm and Marcus Goguen, crashed during their runs as they attempted to push the bar ever higher. Thankfully, no one appeared to be seriously hurt.
The status of the following Tour stop at Ordino Arcalís, Andorra, remains tenuous due to the aforementioned difficult conditions in the Pyrenees. Earlier this week, the Tour reported that they’re “closely tracking the weather forecast in the Pyrenees” in the hopes of running the Ordino Arcalís Pro early next month. Stay tuned.
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