For only the second time in its history, the Xtreme Verbier freeride contest on Verbier's Bec Des Rosses was cancelled due to unsafe riding conditions. The current Freeride Tour Points Leaders Valentin Rainer and Justine Dufour-Lapointe Will be Crowned the 2023 Overall Champions.
The cancellation of the Xtreme Verbier came on the heels of heavy snowfall and high winds in western Switzerland, which kept the lifts around the venue closed since last Saturday. Safety teams assessed the contest face via helicopter yesterday, but were only able to access the face directly this morning, and discovered an unstable snow situation that had already released in "large, widespread avalanches." In other words, a good day to stay home and drink tea instead of going barreling down one of Europe's most infamously steep freeride contest faces.
"Following this morning’s bombing on the Bec des Rosses, several large avalanches came down," reported Freeride World Tour CEO Nicolas Hale-Woods. "The venue is therefore unusable for safety reasons, meaning the YETI Xtreme Verbier 2023 is canceled, and the world champion titles will be awarded according to the rankings after four events. We did everything possible with the challenging conditions, but Mother Nature has the final say, which we must respect."
Not this time: Verbier´s daunting Bec des Rosses won´t see a freeride contest this year. Photo: Ethan Stone
With the Xtreme Verbier cancelled, the current points leaders—Valentin Rainer and Justine Dufour-Lapointe—will be crowned the 2023 overall champions.
Rainer, a second-year FWT competitor from Austria, sealed the deal with podium or close-to-the-podium results at three out of four tour stops, including a win at the contest in Ordino-Arcalís, Andorra.
Dufour-Lapointe, a Tour rookie who, like Hedvig Wessel before her, transitioned to freeride from a successful mogul career, claims the title on her first attempt—a remarkable feat for the Canadian rider. Like Rainer, she won the Tour stop in Andorra, and took second place in Fieberbrunn.
Valentin Rainer sends a massive backflip on his way to the podium in Kicking Horse. Photo: Flo Gassner
“[It's] unbelievable to win the title," said Rainer. "I was prepared for a competition today, but Mother Nature was kind of on my side, I would say. I would have still wished to do a run here at Verbier, but we will next year! It was a really good season; everything from the first stop onwards was awesome – a dream season for sure."
“I am speechless," said Dufour-Lapointe. "Honestly, I did not realize this would happen today, but now I am world champion. I have been working so hard the last few months, but now I am feeling so proud of all the hard work and self-belief. To finish the season with this title means the world to me. This was my dream coming into freeride, but I never thought it would be possible this fast. I am so happy I made the switch to freeriding and the wonderful world of the FWT, and I am excited to what’s next – this is just the beginning."
Justine Dufour-Lapointe en route to the win in Ordino-Arcalís. Photo: FWT/Jeremy Bernard
Thus concludes a tumultuous 2023 Freeride World Tour season, a year that will be remembered for low snow in Europe, the controversial buyout of FWT by FIS, and the rise of a new generation of freestyle-meets-freeride athletes such as Maxime Chabloz, Max Palm and Marcus Goguen. And lest we forget: Finn Bilous opened our eyes to the possibilities of a new kind of freeriding, tossing 540s, riding switch and hand-dragging takeoffs while oozing style, while Max Hitzig blew our minds with probably the biggest stomped backflip ever seen in freeride competition. Last but not least, this season is also marked by the well-earned retirement of FWT veteran Reine Barkered, aka the Mayor of Stomptown, who after an incredible 15-year stint on the Tour, is now cruelly—or perhaps mercifully—denied a final run down the Bec des Rosses.