The excitement is mounting and adrenaline pumping as the 2011 edition of the Red Bull Linecatcher freeskiing contest is less than 24 hours away from unfolding in the dramatic Alpine resort of Vars, La Forêt in France.
With an awe-inspiring line-up of the world’s top freeskiing talent taking part in the exclusive event, a special blend of creativity and skiing prowess is required to clinch the win. The qualifying action starts on Sunday 16 January followed by the final scheduled for Monday 17 January.
In 2010, French rider Candide Thovex was crowned king and this year, with a field of supremely talented challengers aiming for the podium, it is going to be the toughest battle yet. In their bid to be named the ultimate backcountry freestyle rider, the competitors will seek out the most fluid line down the stunning Eyssina Face in the Vars mountain resort using both natural features and man-made kickers to give more opportunity to demonstrate their creativity during their three runs.
"The competition is fast becoming one of the key annual international freestyle events"
“This year they have built some kickers so there’s no breaks between the skiing and the jumps,” says event judge and French skiing legend Camille Jaccoux, who will be awarding a maximum of ten points for each rider’s overall performance on each run. “It’s pretty hard to find a good face that has the right mix of gradients between the jumps and the freeride skiing but Eyssina is good. Now this is truly a mix of freestyle and freeride and for me, the winner is the guy who finds the perfect line but who is also very stylish with their choice of line and some big, nice tricks. It’s got to all be very fluid.”
With a healthy turnout arriving from across the Atlantic, the competition is fast becoming one of the key annual international freestyle events just three years since its conception in 2008. Event creator Julien Regnier Lafforgue will judge alongside Camille, Nico Zacek and Woodie Bouma.
The word on the snow is that Canadian hotshot, 18-year-old Sean Pettit, is the one to watch as he continues to set the freeskiing world alight with his inimitable style and skill. As the youngest competitor with a guaranteed place in the contest, there are high hopes he will top the podium but he’s not letting the pressure spoil his day.
“I try to subside all the pressure and have a really good time as that’s what it’s all about. People can get really carried away with it all but freeskiing is all about having fun and doing what you feel you can do. I feel pretty comfortable and have a good mindset going into it – I encourage everyone else to do the same!” said an enthusiastic Sean after a day spent up on the Eyssina Face. “I’m really excited to watch the Qualifying tomorrow to see what those guys are throwing down, for sure.”
Accompanying Pettit from Canada, 2009 event winner Anthony Boronowski, JP Auclair, Rory Bushfield, and Wiley Miller. From the USA are Sage Cattabriga-Alosa, Tim Durtschi and new face for 2011, Chris Benchetler.
They are up against European aficionados Bene Mayr from Germany and French duo Richard Permin and Mathieu Imbert. Australia’s Chris Booth completes the confirmed line-up.
To get the judges warmed up, the Qualifying round on Sunday will allow 16 further hopefuls – including UK rider Paddy Graham wearing bib number 14 and French star Fabien Maierhofer wearing number 21– to secure 3 Wild Card spots up for grabs in the Final.
“The snow is not so good so when they are at the top, starting on a face like that is more complicated than on deep powder,” adds Camille, noting the challenging conditions in the region at the moment. “It will be complicated for them to check the landings but they are all professionals and very motivated so we’ll see who wins.”