Kiwis are making their mark on the big mountain stage in 2013. Charlie Lyons is currently ranked fifth on the Freeride World Tour (FWT) for men’s ski while Neil Williman's win at the four star Engadinsnow on 31 January puts him in third position on rankings for the Freeride World Qualifier (FWQ) which acts as a feeder to the FWT.
The Freeride World Tour is the premier big mountain freeskiing and snowboarding tour in the world, featuring the sport’s top athletes competing on the biggest mountain resort venues. Charlie Lyons is making his debut on the Tour this season and has put together some impressive results. He placed fifth at the Tour opener in Revelstoke, 10th in Courmayeur and eighth in Chamonix. Snow Sports NZ caught up with Charlie to get his thoughts on the season so far.
What were your expectations in terms of your own performance ahead of the Freeride World Tour?
My expectations coming into this year’s campaign have been kept close to my chest. Though being an individual sport I knew that what others did was beyond my control, all I could do was ski to my ability and enjoy the moment. My ultimate goal was to be placed in the top 18 in the world at the end of the season. I have now achieved that with still half the season to go so I couldn't have dreamed for things to be better!
With three events now under your belt, have those expectations now changed?
Not really. The expectations I have are basically skiing to my potential. If I do that then I can take pride in what I am doing regardless of the result. For me that’s the most important thing in a sport where I can't control what others do.
What are your goals for the rest of the season?
My goals are always changing, week to week, day to day. They are dependent on how I feel physically and mentally in the lead up to the competition, how I feel when I look at the face 20 minutes before I start hiking it or when I step foot in the helicopter. They can also change the moment I drop into the face and feel how the snow conditions are under foot. The one goal I have not achieved this season is to be on the podium. I know that for me that’s one goal I am not shy of saying I want to achieve this year and for me I know is the toughest to achieve. I know I am up against the best in the world so once again if I fall short by one or two placings, I can take tremendous pride in what I have achieved.
But most importantly, my biggest goal for the rest of the season is to ski to my ability and to get to the bottom with a smile on my face - if I do that I can always take pride in what I am doing and the result will take care of itself.
Watch video of Charlie Lyons’ FWT runs here: http://freerideworldtour.com/videos.html
Freeride World Qualifier
Following the Chamonix competition Charlie joined fellow FWT competitor Sam Smoothy as a judge at the Engadinsnow at Silvaplana-Corvatsch in Switzerland. Engadinsnow is a four-star event on the Freeride World Qualifier Tour. The 2013 FWQ Tour consists of a series of events with different point values from one star to four star. The 2013 season started on 1st of May 2012 and will end the 30th of April 2013.
The top four male skiers and top three male snowboarders in each region of the FWQ Tour qualify for the 2014 Freeride World Tour. The top three female skiers and top two female snowboarders in each region of the FWQ Tour qualify for the 2014 FWT.
New Zealand skiers have a history of success at the Engadinsnow event with Smoothy winning in 2010 and Fraser McDougall in 2009. Neil Williman is delighted to be keeping up the tradition.
“'It was great to be back on form after variable competition results last season, especially since the level of four star competitions just keeps getting higher,” remarked Williman after the event. “After watching Smoothy win here three years ago and qualifying for the Freeride World Tour I never thought I would be able to follow in his footsteps, and to have the whole Kiwi crew here to celebrate with was amazing- Charlie Lyons, Dion Newport and Sam himself.”
Click here for results from Engadinsnow
Williman backed up his result with another podium the following day, placing third equal at the 'Parallel Freeride'. Within this unique event format freeriders started in pairs of two, riding together and enabling spectators to compare the different lines and riding styles. The highest scoring rider then qualified for the next round.
Click here for results from the Parallel Freeride
The FWQ continues in Hochfügen this weekend. To follow the action, head to http://www.bigmountain-hochfuegen.com/
The Freeride World Tour ramps up again in Kirkwood on 27 February. All eyes will be on Lyons, looking to maintain solid results, and Smoothy whose season so far has not gone to plan. Smoothy was seventh in Revelstoke, 13th in Courmayeur and 28th in Chamonix. Having taken three podiums in a row at last year’s Freeride World Tour, including a win in Chamonix, he is understandably frustrated by his 2013 season so far.
“I went for an all or nothing run, determined to defend my title at Freeride de Chamonix,” Smoothy explains, “but on my first cliff I misread the take off and over rotated a backflip crashing out of the competition and dropping me to 13th on the FWT. Obviously I am disappointed with my mistake but I feel my skiing is at the right level and it will all come together soon.”
Image: Charlie Lyons competing at the Freeride World Tour in Chamonix. Credit J Bernard