Led by team captain Loïc Collomb-Patton and Swiss ace Sam Anthamatten, Team Europe jumped into the lead in the Big Mountain part of the 2016 Mora Banc Skiers Cup.
It’s an unusual and unforgettable moment: the sixteen skiers of the 2016 Mora Banc Skiers Cup stand at the bottom of the Tossa de Caraup face, watching in disbelief as the kids of the Freeride Junior World Championships, age 13 to 17, lay waste to the same venue that the pros will tackle immediately afterwards in their own event, the “Big Mountain” portion of the Skier’s Cup.
With the snow level at low tide in Andorra and conditions resembling spring corn at best, the Skier’s Cup riders aren’t very stoked to send it on this venue, especially after having enjoyed excellent powder conditions during previous years’ Skiers Cups in Zermatt. But after the kids of the Junior championships went so hard during their event, stomping flips, spins, technical lines and huge drops, the pros really have no choice but to step it up in an attempt to save face—nobody, least of all a professional skier, wants to get shown up by a sixteen-year-old kid!
Photo: Skierscup.com/Jeremy Bernard
Loïc Collomb-Patton vs. Sage Cattabriga-Alosa
Round 1 kicks off with the two team captains Loïc and Sage attempting to bring home the first point for their team. Loïc opens the competition with an excellent technical line to skier’s left, lacing two big drops and a 360 to kick things off in style. Sage follows with a flowy, playful line to skier’s right that was pleasing to the eye, but not enough to beat Loïc’s performance. Europe 1, Americas 0.
Watch all the runs in the replay here: ( you can choose the runs you want to watch )
Seth Morrison vs. Sam Anthamatten
Next up is a much-anticipated matchup between an old legend and a newer one—Seth Morrison, big-mountain hero, against Sam Anthamatten, who’s rapidly been building his own legacy as a cross-disciplinary master: ski mountaineering, ice climbing, steep skiing, freeriding. Seth picks his way through the technical section to skier’s left, heading straight for Backflip Rock, but over-rotates his signature backflip, signaling an opportunity for Sam. What follows is simply mind-blowing as Anthamatten turns the contest face into his own personal playground: a little butter 360 right out of the start gate, followed by a massive cliff drop to perfect stomp, followed by a HUGE air over a natural rollover that no one else had spotted, followed by a cross-slope 360 on another sneaky natural feature: pure technical and freeride mastery. Europe 2, Americas 0.
Sam Anthamatten: large and in charge. Photo: Skierscup.com/Jeremy Bernard
Mathieu Bijasson vs. Grant Howard
After the legends comes a battle of the unknowns: France’s Bijasson versus America’s “secret weapon” Howard. Mathieu threads a double drop to skier’s left, but crashes on a 360 off Backflip Rock. Grand presses his advantage, stomping his own 360 on the same feature and adding a creative 180 up, 180 out on a cornice at the bottom of the venue to polish things off and bring home the first point for the Americas team. Europe 2, Americas 1.
Logan Pehota vs. Fabio Studer
A battle of blasters: Austrian Freeride World Tour performer Studer, versus FWT wildcard, rookie, and all-around loose cannon Pehota. Logan comes out firing, skiing hard and fast in World Tour style down the venue to skier’s right, but whirlybirding out of his final big drop—“Canadian ballet” the announcers called it. Fabio follows to skier’s right, lacing his airs including a 360 and a double at the bottom. Europe 3, Americas 1.
Markus Eder vs. Tim Durtschi
Another interesting matchup between freestyle-capable freeriders. Eder flows smoothly through airs and drops to skier’s right, and stomps a rodeo 5 on the same cornice step-up that Fabio Studer just hit. Durtschi opts for skier’s left and Backflip Rock, landing a 360 and crashing on a backflip before losing both his poles. Europe 4, Americas 1 and it’s getting time for Team Americas to put up or shut up.
Parker White vs. Nico Vuignier
P-White comes to the rescue for Team Americas, flowing through a 360 and a little switch skiing up top, and holding onto a backflip and a cliff drop to polish it off. Skiers Cup vet Vuignier surfs the top cornice to skier’s right and lands a 180 on the step-up, but this round belongs to Parker, keeping Team Americas alive in this competition. Europe 4, Americas 2.
Bene Mayr vs. Tanner Rainville
After a frustrating start to his Freeride World Tour season, Bene is looking to perform here at the Skiers Cup. He body-slaps a 360 up top but hangs onto his run, nailing two drops and adding in a flat 3 for good measure. Rainville heads to the tech skier’s left side, nailing a cliff in the top section but skipping most of the features below. A small 180 to close out his run isn’t enough to convince the judges that he wanted it more than Bene. Europe advances its lead: Europe 5, Americas 3.
Tanner Rainville keeps it smooth. Photo: Skierscup.com/Dom Daher
Nick McNutt vs. Sam Favret
The final match of Round 1. The Canadian comes out strong with a smooth 180 up the cornice, switch ski, and switch 180 off the top cornice to skier’s right, then doubles down with a flat 3 on the step-up and a smooth nose-butter 360 off a drop to cap off a very clean run. Favret can’t hang, backslapping on his first air, and opting out of a trick on Backflip Rock. Team Americas is still hanging in there at the end of Round 1: Europe 5, Americas 3.
Judges Arnaud Rougener, Philou Poirer and Sam Smoothy keeping an eye on the action. Photo: Skierscup.com/Dom Daher
Nico Vuignier vs. Grand Howard
Nico opts for the same line of his previous run, adding a smooth 360 up top before surfing the cornice again, and 360ing the step-up down below. It’s a clean, flowing run, but Grant Howard is hungry. He also repeats his first run and improves on it, stomping a very clean 360 safety off Backflip Rock, and gets the nod from the judges—is this the beginning of an American comeback? Europe 5, Americas 4.
Nick McNutt vs. Fabio Studer
Nick sticks with the playful 180 up, switch 180 off the top cornice, the flat 360 and the nose-butter 3, but doesn’t stick the final trick clean. Fabio demonstrates his consistency, sticking his first run again and upping the ante with a flat 3 japan and a high-speed runout down below. Europe 6, Americas 4.
Fabio edges out McNutt for another European point. Photo: Skierscup.com/Dom Daher
Sam Favret vs. Logan Pehota
Favret goes for a 360 on Backflip Rock this time around, but can’t stick the landing. Logan nails his run with a little butter 360 off the top cornice, then bangs out a clean double drop at the bottom. Slowly but surely, Americas is catching up: Europe 6, Americas 5.
Tanner Rainville vs. Markus Eder
Rainville puts down one of the smoothest performances of the day with a 180 off the cornice to skier’s right and beautiful switch carves down the face underneath, and adds another 180 on the step-up down below. Markus heads skier’s left with creative line choice, surfing the cornice above the technical section before nailing a big 360 over Sam Anthamatten’s natural roll. It’s a clean run, but the judges reward Rainville’s polish and smooth switch control. It’s all tied up: Europe 6, Americas 6 and we’ve got a match on our hands!
Team Americas picks up another point – Smoothy disagrees. Photo: Skierscup.com/Dom Daher
Bene Mayr vs. Parker White
Bene is one of few skiers to mix up his line, heading to skier’s left this time. He nails the double at the top, then stomps a perfect backflip on Backflip Rock. Solid performance from the German. But Parker White’s got a trick up his sleeve—a film-worthy nose-butter 540 off the top skier’s right cornice, possibly the best freestyle trick of the day, and skis the rest of his line fast and clean with solid drops. For the first time Team Americas takes the lead: Europe 6, Americas 7.
Seth Morrison vs. Mathieu Bijasson
Seth Vicious goes for redemption on Backflip Rock, riding out of his signature trick with only a small backslap. The pressure’s on for young Mathieu, but he holds his own with a perfect backflip of his own, tying it up again: Europe 7, Americas 7.
Seth gets redemption on the backflip, but it isn’t enough to beat Mathieu Bijasson. Photo: Skierscup.com/Jeremy Bernard
Loïc Collomb-Patton vs. Tim Durtschi
It’s the second-to-last match-up, and things are getting down to the wire! Loïc shows why he’s team captain with a solid technical run, stomping two big cliffs perfectly to skier’s left and adding a little switch 180 down below for good measure. Tim Durtschi goes for a more freestyle run, landing a 360 and nailing a solid backflip on Backflip Rock, but it’s not enough to beat Loïc’s technical expertise. Europe 8, Americas 7.
Sage Cattabriga-Alosa vs. Sam Anthamatten
The final match of the day: Sage has a chance to even the score for Team Americas, but he’s up against possibly the most threatening competitor in the contest—the only competitor who was intently scoping the face through his binoculars before heading up for the second round.
Sage opts for the flowing run again to skier’s right, skiing cleanly and smoothly, but definitely conservatively as well. He tries to spice it up a bit with a tight drop at the bottom, but bounces off a rock and barely holds it together.
And then it’s time for the Sam Anthamatten show. The last run of the day is unquestionably the best: Sam blends technical big-mountain ability with freestyle finesse like no other rider in the field. He jibs the cornice across the top of the chute to skier’s left at high speed, then nails a big drop before heading toward’s no-mans-land: a grassy melted-out chute that no one else has bothered with. Anthamatten promptly straightlines down the grass as the crowd below roars its approval, then ollies at high speed over a massive cliff at the bottom, hip-checking but hitting perfect tranny and bouncing immediately back to his feet. Just about everybody’s mouth is hanging open—either mutely in disbelief, or screaming in admiration. It’s the last nail in the coffin for Team Americas today— Europe takes the win, 9-7.
“It was challenging today because the conditions weren’t great,” said Bene Mayr. “But it was still a lot of fun. We all pushed each other through the second round, and Europe won!”
“At first we had a bit of a discussion whether we wanted to do it or not, because conditions weren’t that great,” said Nico Vuignier. “We weren’t going to go big in that kind of snow, and the Skiers Cup has always had a really sick big mountain day, so there was a discussion of what we should do. We ended up choosing to ride. We took it pretty mellow but I think we saw some nice lines, and Europe took the lead!”
“The conditions were very springlike, but I really liked the guys’ creativity,” said judge Sam Smoothy. They didnt risk the whole thing, but just had fun and put on a good show. I think Sage put it best when he said, ‘We just want to show that skiing can be fun in all conditions.’ You don’t have to go 110-percent all the time.”
There were a few tough calls for the judges, Smoothy said, but it was clear who the most impressive skier of the day was.
“Sam Anthamatten—that little Swiss bastard was firing,” said Smoothy. “He always finds something that’s different and unique, and we saw a bunch of airs from Sam that no one else did. He was fired up, it was great to see.”