Being controversial is such a pleasure, but sometimes the facts force us to just be nice for a change.
The Freeride World Tour is an enormous machine. The staff is probably one of the biggest event organizations in the freeskiing industry, and considering what their difficult task is, it’s easy to understand why.
From the email I got explaining the schedule before arrival, to the press release I received just a few hours after the prize-giving—the feeling of efficiency is ever-present when dealing with the FWT.
To give you an idea of what goes on behind the scenes in order for a few guys to ride down a face followed by a heli, here’s a little list:
90 workers on site for the competition, 20 of them full-time office employees
62 people working on the video production and livestream, plus 3-4 photographers
300 or more spectators, if not more (even the French national race team was watching)
All of these people participate in a real challenge. Everyone needs to be provided for, from croissants and coffee on site, building base areas at the bottom and top of the venue, in the village and a spectators’ area to boot. Then there’s communications, managing the journalists, running the competition itself… the list goes on and on.
The production crew has to capture the whole show on in untamed mountain environment, catching every second of every rider’s run, to produce a livestream and follow-up reports ranging from 2-minute Internet highlight clips to full-hour TV documentaries.
The riders have to hike up a steep couloir for over an hour, then wait for an hour or more on top (not naked, sorry Bernard), before dropping in to perform their best on their first and only run of the day.
The spectators… well, they just get to enjoy one of the best shows in skiing, complete with bluebird skies and warm temperatures—well, at least here in Chamonix.
I have to admit that I was really impressed when I realized what was going on around me, and even more so when Yannick (apparently an important guy due to his three different walkie-talkies) explained to me the budget breakdown this year: “Our budget is less than last year due to the departure of The North Face, but we managed to cut budget in the right places, and I would say we’re doing even better because everyone is super motivated to put in the maximum effort.”
The event even managed to get some money from a mainstream French movie production that used the FWT stop in Chamonix to film some action and lifestyle.
Considering deals like this and the high level of professionalism of this event, it’s feasible that the skiing spirit could get lost somewhere in the mix. But it seems like the organization and money don’t have the same effect on the freeride scene that they have in freestyle—and it’s a former freestyler just arriving on the FWT who can explain that.
“I came on the tour to try and see if I would like it or not,” says Bene Mayr, “and I like it a lot! It reminds me of freestyle competitions before it went Olympic with coaches and all the things that come with. The organization listens to us, and our feedback is the last word. We are a real family here where everyone knows and helps each other.” It’s a vibe that the three separate prize-givings, the interviews, the mainstream media and the great buffet in the three-star hotel can’t kill.
If we didn’t see everything that goes on behind the scenes, and if FWT isn’t perfect after all, because nothing is, it still seems like they found a way to get really close.
If you’re wondering what went down at the Chamonix stop, all the information is here.