Last week, skiers and snowboarders from around the world descended on Flachauwinkl, Austria for the annual Spring Battle at Absolut Park.
Kai Mahler: always steezy.
An hour south of Salzburg, close to the eastern fringe of the Alps, Absolut Park is well-known as one of Austria’s top terrain parks, a meeting place for the freestyle scenes of Central and Eastern Europe and travelers from beyond. Spring Battle is its signature event: a “followcam jam session” on a three-rail, three-jump slopestyle course. Riders have five days to film their best run on the course and submit footage to the judges, while daily video contests like Best Trick, Best Rail and Best 540 keep things interesting throughout the week.
No sun, no problem: Moisty Ferd caps switch 14 blunt.
Quinn Wolferman getting tricky on the top rail section.
It’s a dream-come-true kind of event for slopestyle competitors, who usually have only a few chances to put down their run. With Spring Battle’s five-day window, the riders have all the time in the world to stomp their best run on film. As competitor Nicky Keefer put it, “If you can’t land your run in five days, maybe you shouldn’t be trying that run.”
After providing the quote above, Nicky Keefer wasn't able to land his own run, and promptly swore off contest skiing forever.
With a sizable prize purse of $130,000 up for grabs, this year’s event drew a “Who’s Who” of the ski and snowboard scene to Flachauwinkl in hopes of grabbing a piece of the pie. Olympic medalists like Øystein Bråten, Sarah Höfflin and Nick Goepper mingled with a crowd of hungry up-and-comers from across Europe, the USA and New Zealand—all focused on the tantalizing prospect of a $22,000 first-place payout.
An unknown competitor floats a lofty rodeo 7 on the third jump.
Jamming through the rail section.
The most-repeated joke of the week was “Why Spring Battle? They should call it Winter Battle.” Aside from a sunny Sunday to start off the contest, wintry weather reigned in Absolut Park throughout the week, with clouds and snow flurries making things interesting for competitors, park crew and organizers. The lucky ones and the well-prepared were already able to film their full contest runs on the single sunny day. The rest had to deal with flat light, wind and fresh snow throughout the remaining days on their quest to land a money-making slopestyle run.
At times it felt more like a Winter Battle than a spring one...
Alex Hall ended up winning both the Best 540 and Best Rail challenges with some serious ski wizardry: switch right 270 on, blind swap rail transfer, blind swap front 270 out for his rail trick, and a cork 720 tweaked back to 5 for his 540, the way only he can do it—“Roberto Carlos on skis!” was the leading Instagram comment. Fabian Bösch, currently skiing’s top prospect for actually spinning into the future, put down his whirlwind triple cork 1980 rotation to claim Best Trick.
Film submissions were due at 3:00pm on Wednesday, March 21, and a few competitors were still out at 2:30pm, trying their best to put the finishing touches on their runs, or land one at all. Then everything was in the hands of the judges, who faced the difficult task of sorting through over 100 submissions and separating the wheat from the chaff.
The riders pack the seats for the closing livestream ceremony in Haus Flachau.
The winners were announced via livestream on Spring Battle’s homegrown “TV program” known as Epic Spring Battle News, aka ESBN (get it?), and also broadcast on Austrian national TV channel ORF. On Wednesday evening, the assembled athletes and crew packed into the “ESBN Studio” in Haus Flachau to watch the show live and see the top runs in each category. (Check out all of the ESBN shows here to see highlights like Nick Goepper skiing in a mascot costume and Sarah Höfflin lip-syncing Spice Girls).
On the women’s ski side, recent Olympic gold medalist Sarah Höfflin took the win, with a run including a switch lip 270 on to forward, a switch right 720 mute and a switch left cork 540 safety. Austria’s Laura Wallner came in second, followed by Margaux Hackett and Isabel Atkin.
On the men’s side, Fabian Bösch claimed the win with a run including a switch 270 on to rodeo out on a rail, and three big spins in the jumps: switch left double 1440 double japan, switch right double misty 12 safety and left double cork 16 blunt. He was followed by Alex Hall in second, Finn Bilious in third, and Ferdinand Dahl—who will henceforth be known as “Moisty Ferd”—in fourth.
Fabian Bösch with a classy cork 720 blunt.
That’s it from the 2018 Spring Battle—big thanks to the whole Absolut Park crew for putting on one of the most creative slopestyle events in the sport. We’ll be looking forward to next year!