It felt damn good to watch 26 of the world’s best freeriders storm the slopes of Ordino-Arcalís, Andorra; it restored some sense of normalcy to an abnormal ski season. For those of us stuck in lockdown, it helped reignite the stoke. Lifts may be closed in my country, but people are still out there, hucking their meat for our entertainment and having a blast in the mountains. If we can’t be a part of it ourselves, at least we get to witness it from afar.
But enough about the pandemic, let’s talk about skiing. The event took place on the Port Del Rat face amid some challenging snow conditions. A crusty mix of firm and soft snow caked the venue, interspersed with a layer of orange sand from a freak sandstorm a few weeks ago. At 305 meters vertical, the face isn’t the longest or steepest on the tour, but offers a playground of outcroppings, cliffs, chutes, faces, and couloirs.
The women’s ski contest saw experienced and veteran riders reign supreme. Maude Besse, back after an injury last season, landed in third with a strong combination of fluidity through a technical part of the venue near the top, a cliff in the middle, and a clean run overall. In second, Juliette Willmann linked a technical section into a double cliff drop, finishing with a big closeout cliff. Hedvig Wessel then kicked the competition into full gear when she punted a massive backflip into a minefield of rocks, rode it out, and sent two more cliffs for good measure. The Norwegian earned the top spot on the podium with a score of 86.67. Elisabeth Gerritzen and rookie Olivia McNeill fell victim to the venue’s tricky snow conditions, both losing skis in their runs after landing big drops.
“I’ve been dreaming about this backflip,” said Wessel. “I knew it was going to be the biggest one on this cliff and I was definitely at the limits. I’m so happy to set it all down and stay on my feet.”
On the men’s side, the young guns put on a show. Teeing off, Tao Kreibich, Dani Fornell Prat and David Deliv put together exciting runs with 360s, backflips, and big drops, but all either lost a ski or crashed. Rookie Maël Ollivier finally cracked the face, throwing a split-second 360 into an hourglass couloir, stomping flat landings and huge cliffs on the lower parts of the face to earn a well-deserved second-place finish. Blake Marshall followed, combining technical skiing up top with a tail grab 360, a double drop, and a massive cliff. Reigning tour champion Isaac Freeland stomped a backflip and launched a transfer air over a couloir, bouncing off a snow nugget in the landing, earning fourth place. With no less than three 360s in one of the fastest runs of the day, Carl Regnér Eriksson landed in fifth. American Ross Tester, however, took the crown with a big 360 in a technical section near the top, a cliff to flat in the middle section, and a huge backflip on his bottom air. The rookie scored a 92.33, enough for victory in his very first FWT appearance.
“I never expected to win my first event,” said Tester. “After all the training and everything to come together, it’s definitely a dream come true.”
With a fresh dusting of snow expected in Andorra over the weekend, FWT organizers are hoping to stage a second contest in the coming days to replace one of this year’s cancelled events in Japan and Canada. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for the FWT to pull off another Andorran showdown before heading to Fieberbrunn, Austria from March 6-12, where double events staged back-to-back are also on the table.
FWT21 Ordino Arcalís: Full Replay
1. Hedvig Wessel (NOR) – 86.67
2. Juliette Willmann (FRA) – 78.67
3. Maude Besse (SUI) – 69.33
4. Zuzanna Witych (POL) – 63.33
5. Tracy Chubb (USA) – 57.33
6. Elisabeth Gerritzen (SUI) – NS
7. Olivia McNeill (CAN) – NS
8. Arianna Tricomi (ITA) – DNS
1. Ross Tester (USA) – 92.33
2. Maël Ollivier (FRA) – 89.00
3. Blake Marshall (NZL) – 83.00
4. Isaac Freeland (USA) – 81.67
5. Carl Regnér Eriksson (SWE) – 81.33
6. Aymar Navarro (SPA) – 80.33
7. Wadeck Gorak (FRA) – 80.00
8. Reine Barkered (SWE) – 79.33
9. Andrew Pollard (USA) – 76.67
10. Carl Renvall (SUI) – 75.00
11. Tom Peiffer (CAN) – 74.00
12. Yann Rausis (SUI) – 70.33
13. Drew Tabke (USA) – 68.33
14. Raymond McDermott (USA) – 67.00
15. Cooper Bathgate (CAN) – 63.33
16. Tao Kreibich (AUT) – 45.00
17. David Deliv (SWE) – 38.33
18. Dani Fornell-Prat (AND) – NS
19. Kristofer Turdell (SWE) – NS