The FREERIDE WORLD TOUR is back in business for the 2022 season with a new venue, new rules and new athletes. Here’s everything you need to know to get up to speed before the action kicks off tomorrow in Baqueira Beret, Spain.
What’s a FWT?
For the uninitiated, the Freeride World Tour is simple: the world’s best skiers and snowboarders tackle lines on some of the world’s biggest mountains with as much speed, style, control and creativity as possible. In its current form, the Tour spans from Europe to Canada with five events. Previous events have also been held in Japan and Alaska. Unfortunately, the stop in Hakuba in the Japan Alps has been dropped the past two years as a consequence of the pandemic (fingers crossed for a comeback next year). However, that’s opened up the field for new venues.
Totally new to the Tour? Check out our Beginner’s Guide.
The world's best freeriders getting sendy: this is what the FWT is all about. Last year's women's ski champion Elisabeth Gerritzen demonstrates. Photo: J. Bernard/FWT
Who’s coming to play?
Past champions like Kristofer Turdell, Elisabeth Gerritzen and Reine Barkered are back for another go-around, as well as a host of hungry tour mainstays like Hedvig Wessel, Wadek Gorak, Juliette Willmann and Andrew Pollard. Meanwhile, rookies like Abel Moga, Olivia McNeill, Maxime Chabloz, and Lily Bradley will be taking their first crack at the top level of the FWT this season. Each stop will also give wildcard athletes like Leo Slemett, Craig Murray, Yu Sasaki and Jacqueline Pollard a chance to huck their meat.
At the first stop in Baquiera-Beret, wildcards have been granted to Lexi duPont (ski women), Manuel Diaz (snowboard men), Max Palm (ski men), Paul Riba (snowboard men) and Núria Castan Baron (snowboard women).
The Baquiera Beret wildcards include Swedish charger Max Palm and American film star Lexi duPont.
Where’s this all at?
This year the FWT season kicks off with a new venue: Baqueira Beret, Spain. As much fun as Tour holdouts like Fieberbrunn and Verbier are, new venues give a refreshing shake-up to the FWT system, allowing athletes to show their stuff on new faces and satisfying the escapism itch of visiting and skiing exotic new locales.
The Spanish-Andorran-French Pyrenees have one of the frothiest freeskiing cultures in Europe. From Ordino-Arcalis and Sunset Park Peretol to Aymar Navarro’s insane lines and Noah Albaladejo’s stylish edits, this region boasts an outsized profile in the freeski world. Personally, I am psyched to see FWT action go down in Spain for the first time.
After Baqueira Beret the FWT will play the hits, stopping in Ordino-Arcalis (Andorra), Kicking Horse (Canada), Fieberbrunn (Austria) for two events, and ending with the traditional finale in Verbier (Switzerland).
The event in Baquiera Beret will be held on Baciver, a west-facing venue with a top elevation of 2645 meters and a vertical drop of 385 meters. Bountiful early-season snowfall has provided for an excellent snowpack across the Pyrenees this year.
What’s new this year?
A new scoring format, designed to push athletes and improve the viewing experience, has been introduced for the 2022 season. At the first three events—Baqueira Beret, Ordino-Arcalis and Kicking Horse—10,000 points will be up for grabs for the winner. After the third event, there will be a cutoff—only the top 26 athletes (12 ski men, 5 ski women, 5 snowboard men and 4 snowboard women) will advance to the final two stops in Fieberbrunn and Verbier.
The stops in Fieberbrunn and Verbier are weighted more heavily, with 12,500 points each being divvied out to the winners. These two stops combined are now considered the “final round,” instead a single blowout final in Verbier. And perhaps the biggest shake-up of the tour this year: the stop in Fieberbrunn will offer riders two runs instead of one, giving them a chance to step things up a notch on the infamous Wildseeloder contest face in a best-of-two runs format. This new format should provide some fireworks as riders step thing up after successful first runs, or shoot for redemption if the first run didn’t go as planned.
The new FWT format for 2022. The last two stops are more heavily weighted to keep the action pumping. Keep your eyes peeled for the two-run showdown in Fieberbrunn.
When is this?
Baqueira Beret, Spain: 22–28 January, 2022 (Contest confirmed for Saturday, 22 January)
Ordino-Arcalis, Andorra: 30 January–5 February, 2022
Kicking Horse mountain resort, Canada: 12-17 February, 2022
Fieberbrunn, Austria: 15–20 March, 2022
Verbier, Switzerland: 26 March–3 April, 2022
Exciting competitors like Andrew Pollard always have something fresh up their sleeves, making each FWT stop worth a watch. Photo: Dom Daher/FWT
The final word
After two coronavirus-altered seasons, this has been billed “the year of the comeback” for the Tour. However, with a highly contagious new variant currently surging throughout Europe and North America, the threat of another travel ban or resort closure looms large over this year’s planned schedule. We’re cautiously optimistic, as ski resorts across Europe and North America have stayed open so far throughout the holiday and winter season. Be sure to check back for any updates, and enjoy the show tomorrow!