While Kelly Sildaru cleans up on the women’s side, the Swiss men hold it down at the first stop of the SFR tour in Val Thorens.
Words & photos: Ethan Stone
Well, that’s a wrap: after almost one week on-site, the skiers who came to Val Thorens for the first stop of the SFR tour can finally go home. Due to really difficult conditions this week, the event schedule had to change almost every day to catch the right window between snow and fog. But at least we could enjoy some nice powder while waiting for the weather to clear.
Although the mood was pessimistic for the stormy qualifications on Wednesday, everybody was super enthusiastic for the final on Friday morning. In both cases, we were wrong: the qualifications were great, even though the riders only had one run to qualify; while the men’s finals ended up finishing on a minor note.
The kids’ and girls’ competitions fared better than the men, enjoying blue skies and fresh snow for their first real session of the week. In the kids’ competition, the level wasn’t that high if you consider two years ago when Lauri Kivari won with a single run and a huge double. This time around, the fifth-place finisher had two straight airs and one 360. “The kids are talented, but they didn’t ski for five days,” explained Julien Gourceaux, the Les 2 Alpes coach. “They don’t have enough experience to manage this kind of situation.”
Compared with the kids the women’s competition was more exciting, especially because of Kelly Sildaru’s run. Once again she was head and shoulders above the other girls (figuratively of course), while Isabel Atkin was the surprise of the day in second place. Giulia Tanno took third place, heeding her coach’s advice to play it safe, while the French favorite Tess Ledeux went too big and crashed in the kickers.
After a quick reshape, the men started their practice to be ready for go time at 1:15pm with the livestream. Sadly Luca Schuler got sick and wasn’t able to compete, and top qualifier Antoine Adelisse injured himself, before the finals got started in totally different weather from the practice.
The blue skies and perfect conditions suddenly disappeared as it turned into a socked-in afternoon, with speed issues changing the name of the game. While they fought against the cold weather on the side of the course, the spectators could watch a lot of crashes as the skiers fought against the slow snow, bad visibility, and themselves.
Experience and good advice ended up on top, with both Andri Ragettli and Fabian Bösch playing it safe on their coach Misra Noto’s advice. “we played it safe because of the weather, and the X Games in two weeks,” said Misra. “After they landed their first runs and we knew that they would be in first, I asked them to chill.” This team strategy made Fabian not try to take first place from Andri and take a risk in the process.
This is just one reason why the Swiss Freeski Team is so strong—talented riders and a wise coach. How will these guys be beat?
Well, despite the tricky conditions and all the last-minute changes, the SFR Tour in Val Thorens is a wrap, and though the conditions were frustrating, we can be glad that the competition happened at all. See you soon in another French ski resort for the next stop of the SFR Tour!