Of course, it had to be Håtveit.
Andreas Håtveit: the Norwegian freeskiing pioneer and legend of the sport. Andreas Håtveit: the guy who, after he stopped competing almost a decade ago, built his own backyard parks and kept dropping mind-blowing edits. Andreas Håtveit: proud father of four. Andreas Håtveit: the guy who was happy just to be here. Andreas Håtveit: the winner of the first-ever Red Bull Unrailistic contest!
“I came here and my goal was not to embarrass myself,” Andreas said, beaming ear to ear after the prize ceremony. “Then to actually land a solid run… I don’t have words for it right now.”
The man, the myth, the legend: Andreas Håtveit.
Andreas tames the spider.
It was a wild week of hike sessions, mental battles and hard-earned makes in Åre, the site of the Jon Olsson Invitationals and Super Sessions back in the day, and now back on the map in a huge way with Red Bull Unrailistic.
His name might not have been on the graphics, but this was clearly Jesper Tjäder’s event: a collection of some of the most difficult challenge rails he’s conceived over the years for his many video projects (Unrailistic, Unrailistic 2, Jesper Tjäder's Game Show, etc). Now, it was everyone else’s turn to try rails like the triple-S, spider and 8-kink, as well as new additions like the Cinnamon Bun and the massive, 4-meter high rainbow rail. (See setup photos here.)
Alex Hackel with a hand drag over the massive rainbow rail. This thing is a beast.
Jesper takes a bite out of the Cinnamon Bun.
During an S-rail hike session, I asked Colby Stevenson what it’s like to be inside Jesper’s mind. “How can you be inside Jesper’s mind?” he answered. “Jesper is out of his mind.”
“It’s amazing,” exclaimed Kirsty Muir. “The best rails we’ve ever hit and the craziest setup ever.”
What jibbers´ dreams are made of.
“It’s so cool to come out here and try the rails that we’ve seen videos of Jesper hitting for the last couple of years,” said Evan McEachran. “It puts a new perspective on how insane those video parts are.”
“The setup is insane,” he added. “A lot of us have dreamed of a setup like this for, I can’t even tell you how long. The fact that Jesper was able to get this all put together and bring us out here and host us for a week in his hometown is the coolest thing in the world. The first couple of days when we were hiking the bottom section really reminded me of being 12 years old in my backyard, hitting a little PVC pipe. The vibes were all-time and I think skiing needs more of this.”
Unrailistic was a contest—but for several days it was also an old-school hike session.
Evan versus the 8-kink.
It’s become cliché to talk about the events that skiing needs more of: the unsanctioned, vibey events far from the realm of FIS and the international contest circuit. But hey, clichés are clichés for a reason: they’re usually accurate. And yes: skiing definitely needs more events like this!
This was an event where skiers started hiking the setup immediately after the prize ceremony, just because they wanted to (Guess what: this doesn’t happen at World Cup events). This was an event where cheers erupted in the athlete tent every time a rider reverted during their contest run. This was an event where a legend of the sport, who was happy just to be here at all, could end up winning.
“At first I was like, ‘What? It’s actually a contest?’ I didn’t know,” said Mathilde Gremaud, who won the women’s category. “When there’s a vibe like this, it doesn’t feel like a contest at all.”
Mathilde sees light at the end of the S-rail.
Her only critique: invite more women! Mathilde, Kirsty Muir and Jennie-Lee Burmansson (who injured her knee during the Best Trick session) were the only women on course during the week. “It’s a little sad that we only ended up being two girls in the comp,” she said. “But it’s so cool that Jesper even invited girls and gave us the opportunity.”
“Thank you Jesper for having us, and to every partner who participated in making this come to life,” she added.
Kirsty Muir over the rainbow.
On this note, a big shoutout to Red Bull for putting their weight behind this thing. The energy-drink giant could easily be putting their money towards World Cups or other straight-laced events. Instead, they’re funding exciting and unique projects like Playstreets, Infinite Lines and now Unrailistic.
The very first Unrailistic video, released seven (seven!) years ago, was actually Jesper’s first major project with Red Bull. “That was the first idea that I had,” he explained. “I had always thought about these rails, but you can’t do it by yourself—you need some support to make it happen. Luckily Red Bull was kind enough to let me design all these rails. It’s pretty crazy to be able to design stuff like this, and they make it happen."
Anyone want to calculate how many meters of steel this is?
After days of hike sessions and a Best Trick session on Wednesday—Valentin Morel won with a nose butter 270 on, pretzel 450 out on the triple S, while Kirsty Muir won for the women with a back 270 out of the same rail—Red Bull Unrailistic wrapped up with a contest on Thursday.
Given the challenging nature of the course, the format was adjusted accordingly. Only four features would count towards the final score, meaning that competitors didn’t necessarily need to lace the huge rails at the bottom in order to win.
It seems they didn’t get the memo, however, because as soon as the contest got started, the riders began absolutely destroying the bottom section! Maybe it was the crowd cheering them on or the speed and flow while completing a full run, but no rail was safe during the two-run showdown. The S-rail was victimized mercilessly, and a huge highlight came when Evan McEachran and Henrik Harlaut both laced the 36-meter long straight rails—rails that people had hiked for hours without success—in back to back runs.
After days of trial and error, rails like the 36-meter flat got destroyed during the contest. Henrik Harlaut goes the distance.
One risky nugget: Hunter Henderson protects the crown jewels over the rainbow.
I’ll save you the blow-by-blow contest recap—you’ll have more fun watching the full replay on Red Bull TV. What matters was that it was the legend himself Andreas Hatveit atop the podium after putting on an absolute master class of rail riding, including a jaw-dropping underflip on to pretzel 450 out on the flat-down box.
“The vibe was so awesome, it was so cool to watch everyone ride,” said Andreas. “I got so lucky landing a full run on my last run. I’m so hyped. I couldn’t ski better than this, landing the best thing I could possibly do. I still can’t really believe it.”
“Andreas is everyone here’s idol, and it was a pleasure just to shred with him,” said Evan McEachran. “Watching him lace there at the end was just mind-blowing. The place just exploded.”
Andreas floats a huge back 630 over the rainbow.
The last word, of course, goes to Jesper Tjäder: “That was a crazy event. It was better than I could ever have imagined. After the Best Trick session, you could see that all of the bottom rails were technical, and you don’t get it every time. But now in the runs, people were lacing them. I don’t know what happened—everybody started lacing full runs. And Andreas taking the win was so well-deserved. I’m so happy that he took it. I couldn’t write a better script if I tried. There was a big crowd here hyping us up, the riders were stoked, the weather turned out okay. That was more than I could ever ask for.”
The Jesper Tjäder fan club.
I suppose this won’t be just a one-time thing, then, I asked Jesper. "I really hope not," he responded. "This was so much fun for me, and it looks like all the riders are having so much fun."
Our conversation was interrupted by a cheer as Alex Hall bagged the S-rail for the umpteenth time. "This is pretty much the only opportunity people get to ride rails like this, and it seems like they’re taking every advantage to ride them," Jesper pointed out.
“I want to ride more too,” he added. “I still need to get that double onto the box.”
The 2023 Red Bull Unrailistic crew. Thank you Jesper and everyone involved for an incredible time in Åre!