An Extremely Exciting First-Ever Freeride Event in Andorra
The man of the day was Sam Smoothy (NZL) who scored an impressive 91.25 and took the 1st place in men's skiing. He picked the skiers right of the face as one of the only riders, linking the spread out snow pads with big air in excellent flow, keeping breath-taking action all along the face.
Sam Smoothy; Photo: © freerideworldtour.com/D.Daher
A happy Sam, who sees his possibilities of qualifying for Alaska re-opening, found confidence to send it in the conditions that he said were close to what he knows from home in New Zealand: “Going into Andorra, I really needed a good result. I just felt right at home here. I'm super psyched – it was an all-or-nothing run and it worked for me.”
Swedish stomp master, Reine Barkered is currently leading the current standings; Photo: © freerideworldtour.com/D.Carlier
The snowboarders put on an impressive show taking advantage of the diversity of options on the face and showing mastery of their technical skills. Jonathan Charlet (FRA) received the highest score of the day with 90.00. He dropped into the steeps with a perfect 180 off the wind lip up top and continued down the in beautiful fast-paced turns, making the steep part look very easy before making an exit jump out of the couloir.
Jonathan Charlet; Photo: © freerideworldtour.com/D.Daher
He spiced up the middle section with a feature pulling a grab, finally ending his spectacular line stomping a playful bottom air and yelling with happiness, claiming it, as he went through the characteristic black Swatch arch into the Finish. “I'm absolutely stoked! I felt great coming down. Snow had turned good and I had perfect grip. I took all my airs as I wanted,” he explained, calming down his excitement a bit before talking about the continuation of the season: “I stay calm for now while hoping to obtain that ticket to Alaska.”
Flo Orley (AUT) showed some of his best action ever in a very original line; Photo: © freerideworldtour.com/D.Carlier
The women's skiing category was particularly exciting today, because it was decisive of who is qualified for the next stop which will take place in Haines, Alaska (USA) on March 14th. Two Americans, Jackie Paaso (USA) and Hazel Birnbaum (USA) were in the “hot seat” ranking 6th and 7th respectively, and both made it in. Hazel showed a very decisive run today with great action earning her the top score of 78.75 and her first FWT victory. “I was pretty nervous coming in to today. I fell in the last event. I really wanted to go to Alaska and represent our home country,” Hazel said at the bottom. “I just wanted to stay on my feet. Last time was a pretty big ego-crash. I can't believe I won. Now I'm going to celebrate with my friends - I'm going to my home state of Alaska!”
Estelle Ballet; Photo: © freerideworldtour.com/D.Carlier
The female snowboarders seemed to enjoy the many smaller features cramming in good action throughout the face. Most impressive was Estelle Ballet (SUI) who showed both very technical turns in high speed up top in the steep section, and fun action playing with the features on the lower part. She got a high score of 83.00 putting her in 1st place. “I'm really excited and I had a lot of fun competing today! I rode just like I would have, when I'm out with my friends - no pressure!” she said. With regards to Alaska, Estelle continued: “Of course I feel more and more confident about the continuation of the season and Alaska which is getting closer!”
Photo: © freerideworldtour.com/D.Carlier
A Great Debut Promising for the Future
The event in Vallnord-Arcalis was the first time that the Swatch Freeride World Tour by The North Face® had a competition stop in Andorra. The local FWQ rider Dani Fornell-Prat (AND) competed on a host's wild card and was thrilled to be a part of this: “We are really proud to host the Tour here. Five years ago this was inconceivable and here we are. The media have been talking about this for months and months. Everybody here wanted for all these 'animals' to come and compete here.” All together, this was an extremely successful event for Vallnord-Arcalis, Andorra. A great debut as an FWT host and a stop that the riders will definitely look forward to coming back to next year!
Cover Photo: © freerideworldtour.com / D.Carlier
Gallery Photos: © freerideworldtour.com / D.Carlier