Chamonix, France- (25 January 2014) – The second stop of the 2014 SWATCH FREERIDE WORLD TOUR BY THE NORTH FACE® (FWT) took place at Chamonix, France on Saturday. Mont Blanc created a picturesque background for the competition at La Flégère ski area on the Aiguille Pourrie face. Sunny conditions and fresh powder snow created great conditions for riding, but wind the evening before the competition made the top half of the slope extra challenging. Male and female skiers and snowboarders competed in the event representing sixty-nine of the world’s best freeriders and including four from New Zealand.
Following on from his 11th place finish at the Courmayeur stop earlier in the week, skier Sam Smoothy was once again the highest scoring New Zealand athlete. Looking strong and confident despite the variable conditions, Sam finished the day in sixth place and moved to fifth in the overall rankings.
“I went a little harder today. I had a late bib so went with a simple, flowing line that wouldn't have issues with rocks or landing holes left by the previous 40 riders. I made a last second call just before my big cliff not to hit it and just keep things fast and fluid and it paid off.”
Having had surgery to remove his appendix only three weeks ago and therefore limited time to train before the start of the tour Sam said, “To be ranked fifth overall on the FWT, with just three days’ skiing this season is amazing. I'm really excited at going 100% at the next comp to try and take a podium.”
Watch Sam’s run here
Neil Williman was also pleased with his result in the men’s ski division.
“I was really happy to take 10th since I got sick and tweaked my knee earlier in the week. I injured my ankle yesterday as well and was seriously considering not competing today, so it felt good to ski smart and go home with my best yet result on the FWT.”
2014 marks Neil’s second year on the FWT. He competed in 2012 but didn't re qualify for the 2013 tour and so had the tough task of going through the Freeride World Qualifier series again to claim one of only four spots available for the Europe/Australasia region which has hundreds of competitors.
Charlie Lyons had a close call when his skis crossed in the wind affected snow causing him to lose control on his next air and narrowly miss a rock on landing. Fortunate to have escaped serious injury Charlie commented that while “a little beaten up” he felt, “really lucky and grateful.”
For the second time in a row, first place went to French skier Loïc Collomb-Patton. Collomb-Patton, a new rider on the tour, repeated his victory in Courmayeur securing the top score in men’s skiing of 83.50 with his hard charging and technical run.
New Zealand snowboarder, Ruari Macfarlane finished mid-field in seventh place, improving on his 10th place result in Courmayeur.
“A last minute reappraisal of snow conditions led me to change my line to one I had scoped less,” explained Ruari. “I had a fast run with a pretty exciting bottom feature but got lost for a moment above my first cliff, leaving me without enough speed for a proper send and losing me points.”
Watch Ruari’s run here
Swizerland’s Emilien Badoux claimed first place in Men’s Snowboard.
The SWATCH FREERIDE WORLD TOUR BY THE NORTH FACE® continues its competition schedule with Fieberbrunn Kitzbüheler Alpen on February 1, Kirkwood, California on March 1 and in Revelstoke, Canada March 10 where the final athlete cut will be made for the Xtreme Verbier final championship competition in Switzerland on March 22. The remainder of the schedule includes both men’s and women’s ski and snowboard competition.
Image: Sam Smoothy