Event News

Charging hard

FWT Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn Preview

By: Klaus Polzer February 22, 2019

The third stop of the Freeride World Tour is about to go down this weekend in Fieberbrunn, part of the massive interconnected ski resort known collectively as Saalbach hinterglemm leogang fieberbrunn. There is still a lot of snow in the region, even on the valley floor, reminding us of the record-breaking snowfall at the beginning of January. The consistency of the snow cover is another story, however. A week of spring-like temperatures has condensed the once fluffy powder into a rather compact layer of not-so-cold snow in the purely northern aspects, while every slope that faces the sun at some point during the day is either icy, slushy or some unpleasant state in between.

Freeride World Tour Fieberbrunn 2019 — Video Preview

As a consequence, all the riders spent quite some time on Thursday trying to figure out possible lines down the steep north face of Wildseeloder. It’s really a difficult task to evaluate the conditions from a few hundred meters away, even more so since the biggest part of the face is in the shadow the whole day long and some high clouds started to kill the little visibility that was there around noon. In order to get the job done, every FWT competitor is armoured with an array of useful tools these days: binoculars, hefty zoom-cameras, high resolution maps, and of course smartphones to store all information in one handy place.

Kristoffer Turdell demonstrates pro line-scoping skills with the pole-mounted monocular.

Unknown rider scopes the face at the Freeride World Tour stop in Fieberbrunn, Austria

Two sets of binoculars are always better than one — especially when you´re only looking through one eyepiece. That gives you a total of four unique perspectives.

The situation could change, though. The weather forecast currently promises nearly a foot of fresh snow before Saturday, which could magically turn the venue into an highly attractive powder haven. It also imposes additional challenges to the riders. It’s an almost ridiculously difficult guessing game to envision the face with a foot of fresh snow, particularly since the snowfall is likely being accompanied by strong winds. And since all predictions are rather shaky, riders are well-advised to not only scope out one spectacular run, but also some worthy alternatives, should the original plan drop out due to an unexpected turn of events. In order to give you a slight idea of what the thought process of the freeride professionals is in such a case, we asked some of them to share their reasoning. Here is what they said.

Reine Barkered (Sweden)

What do you expect on Saturday?
Well, it could be anything. Probably some hard snow underneath and then it looks like we are getting some soft snow on top, but how much that will be, we don’t know. So, it could be variable, but hopefully it will be predictable.

Do the conditions influence what kind of ski you are going to use?
Yes, it does for sure. In this kind of conditions I am going to use a rather stiff ski to keep stable at high speed on hardpack. It’s pretty narrow with 105 mm underfoot. I have a late starting number, so I am expecting a lot of firm snow for me, and if I hit powder, it’s still gonna work.

Reine Barkered: likes to stomp big drops on hardpack.

Is it gonna help for big jumps if there is a lot of new snow?
Actually I think it is good for big drops when the conditions are like they are right now. You know how the landing is going to be. You simply go forward, full stomp for a four-point-landing. When it is deep, you never know exactly how much you have to go back to keep balance. When it is firm, you have to go forward for a clean landing and you know it is going to be alright. I actually prefer it this way.

Leo Slemett: Has a plan, will stick to it.

Leo Slemett (France)

What do you expect on Saturday?
I hope we will have a nice event on Saturday. There should be some fresh snow and then I am just looking forward to have a good run top to bottom. I always ski in my style and I already know what I want to do. It will be better if the landings are a bit softer, but I am going to stick to my plan no matter what.

What ski are you going to use on Saturday?
The skis I am skiing today are the skis I am also going to use on Saturday. I almost always ski with them, they are my guns. The Rustler is a playful ski, so it suits my style, but it is also pretty stable since it is stiff underfoot. With a nice rocker at both ends and 114mm under the foot it works best in powder, though.

You said you already have your plan for Saturday. Have you had to change your plan at the last minute in the past?
Not really. For me it is probably the most important thing at a contest to have a plan and stick to it. If you change your plan, you might have regrets while skiing and then you might loose your confidence. You need to be sure what to do and you need to be confident that you can land it. That’s the way to succeed.

Juliette Willmann (France)

What do you expect on Saturday?
I am really looking forward to ski this face, it looks super cool. I hope we will get some new snow, but this time we (the women) are skiing after the men, so it might not make much difference. I don’t really care, though, whether we are skiing first or last. I am just really excited and I am looking forward to Saturday.

Do you know already which skis you are going to choose on Saturday?
Not yet, I think I will decide tomorrow after we see how much new snow there will be. I really like the ski I have here since it is a playful ski and I think girls should be playful with the terrain, as well. But if there is not much new snow, I might resort to a stiffer and a bit narrower ski to be more stable on the hardpack.

Juliette Willman at the Freeride World Tour event in Fieberbrunn, Austria

Juliette Willmann: hasn´t decided on a ski yet.

It’s your first year on the tour, so you haven’t skied the faces before. What’s your strategy when you come to a new venue?
I am pretty new to freeride competitions in general – it’s only my fourth year – so the venues have always been new to me in my career. It’s not a new situation on the tour. For this event, I watched a lot of footage from the previous comps and I also talk to other riders about their experiences, particularly to get an idea how steep it is since this is always hard to judge from visual inspection only. I have to say, they more experienced riders are really kind and helpful in this respect. However, I am always looking for my own line and I try to find things that look fun and maybe haven’t been skied that much before.

Arianna Tricomi at the Freeride World Tour in Fieberbrunn, Austria

Arianna Tricomi: likes to find soft snow.

Arianna Tricomi (Italy)

What do you expect on Saturday?
It looks like there will be some new snow for Saturday, but I don’t expect too much in order to not be disappointed if it doesn’t happen. Therefore I am trying to plan my run in a way that it will work in every condition. However, my main goal for Saturday is to arrive at the bottom and to be happy with my run. I kind of struggled a bit with this face in the past and didn’t really have fun while skiing. That’s what I really want to change for this year!

What kind of ski are you going to use on Saturday?
I am almost always skiing with the same ski. I used the Bent Chetler for every comp last season, even for the Bec des Rosses, and always mounted the same way. If I had to choose one particular ski for the rest of my life, it would be this one. It really suits me well. It’s 120 mm wide under foot, so not ideal for hardpack, but I don’t like hardpack anyway and always try to find soft snow.

You are slowly turning into a veteran on the tour. When you return to a face, are you looking at it with a fresh perspective every time or do you tend to go back to similar lines as before?
I usually pick different lines every year. Maybe that’s not the best thing to do from a competitive point of view, but I like to challenge myself and for me freeride competitions are rather a competition with myself and the mountain and not so much with other competitors. On top of it, the faces tend to look different every year. It’s amazing what difference particularly the wind makes for how a face looks like. I always try to accommodate to the conditions and therefor I very rarely look at the same things from year to year. On Saturday, for example, I am going to choose a completely different approach than last season.

Fabio Studer (Austria)

What do you expect on Saturday?
I really hope I can show my best skiing. For some reason that I can’t figure out, I didn’t show the same type of skiing in the past competitions that I usually exhibit when I am filming or simply skiing for myself. So, my aim is to return to normal, if you want.

What ski are you skiing on?
Basically, I am always skiing on the same ski this season. It’s the new Revolt 121 which is going to be available to the public next autumn. I was involved in the development of this ski over the past year, so I know it inside out and it suits me in almost every condition. Sure, if it is really hard snow or if I am skiing on-piste, I might choose a different model, but for the backcountry this ski is always the right choice for me.

Fabio Studer at the Freeride World Tour in Fieberbrunn, Austria

Fabio Studer: watches the livestream while waiting for his run.

When you say you will try to get back to normal, does it help to maybe ski a line that has been successful for you previously?
Not necessarily. I just need to find a line that suits my style of skiing perfectly. I think I simply need to find a line I feel really comfortable with. The problem is, when you are not skiing first, you maybe should have a few options available, since sometimes landings might not be possible anymore after several people have hit them. I usually try to watch the livestream on top to figure it out or call someone at the bottom, but the organisers also warn us when spots become problematic. However, it’s not that easy to change your plan and I only do so if I really have to.

Manuela Mandl: will most likely clip that board together before she drops.

Bonus: Manuela Mandl (Austria)

What do you expect on Saturday?
Meanwhile I expect some fresh pow, even though snowboard women are going to start at last. But hopefully some pockets will survive to be slayed by us.

Is there a chance you are going to start with your new prototype skis?
That’s a difficult question. They can do many different things, for example you might use them for telemarking. However, they are a bit peculiar since they have a very different radius on the inside and on the outside edge.

Does that mean it will depend on your line choice how you need to mount these skis?
It’s really a question of inside and outside edge. If there is a sequence of pow turns available that suits them, I might actually make it down the face with those skis, since they do have a heel lock. Maybe that’s a new discipline we should start: combined skiing and snowboarding. Since I started out as a skier when I was young, it really would suit me well 😉

The FWT Fieberbrunn livestream will be posted here on Downdays tomorrow morning — check back to watch the action as it goes down!