The FWQ** allows entrants the chance to score points towards the Freeride World Qualifier, which tomorrow sees around 92 people riding down a face to lookers left of the Cornu chair lift at Brevent (see map). The competitors are made up of 50 in men's skiing, 16 in women's skiing, 16 in men's snowboarding and 10 in women's snowboarding.
The competition is being organised and run by Evolution 2 who will have around 20 staff on the mountain checking safety, checking conditions, setting up all the communications and getting the competitors where they need to be, plus 4 more staff handling the administration including registrations. They're also handing out bibs and running the riders briefing which takes place tonight at the Aiglons Hotel.
Fiona Smalley, Andre Saudan & Tim Bowden are all snowboarders taking part tomorrow.
Andre entered the same competition last year, which took place in a similar place on the mountain (although further across to the right from this year's area) with around 30 competitors. He came 2nd with a score in the mid 70 points for his run which included a cliff-drop and gave him around 800 points on the leader board. Tim also took part last year and came 10th after he fell a few times on his run.
The area they will be riding tomorrow is pretty steep at the top, maybe around 30-40 degrees into the couloirs, opening out lower down. There are a few holes in the lower sections and a few rocks just below the surface which they're going to have to look out for too.
So what makes someone enter this kind of competition? Yes there's the obvious point scoring to try & get into the FWT proper, but with a 2 star competition like this one, chances are you're never going to amass enough points by the end of the season, unless you were only entering 4 star competitions, or got given a wild card entry.
Both Fi and Tim told me the reason they've entered is to set themselves a goal or a bit of a personal challenge. Fi has entered a couple of the two star ranked competitions this year and says that it's good to challenge yourself to ride something that you know you could normally ride no problem, but then you add in the fact that there are spectators and judges watching you. That's what makes it a real test of nerve and focus, to see if you can hold it together under pressure.
Tim wants to set a goal for himself too, last year he chose his line and stuck to it which he was really happy with, and wants to do the same again this year, but end up with a better place than 10th. He wants to make it fun - for him it's all about using the features in the snow and riding switch for parts of it (not that you can normally see what's going on in that ball of snow surrounding the rider!) Andre is hoping to enter a 4 star competition this year too, and if he does then Fi says she's tempted to do the same.
In terms of the actual competition, Fi says choosing a line in the men's comp is much harder than in the women's, as in the women's comp with such a small field of competitors there's not that much pressure to pick a gnarly line with lots of features and massive drops. Whereas in the men's competition, with more riders in the pack, they have to pull a few tricks out of the bag and really up their game to stand a chance of riding the winning line.
Obviously you need to ride fluidly and in control too, which is what the judges are looking for, and which Fi says is her tactic for tomorrow; keeping it smooth and staying in control, find a few little features to jump off, and keep a steady speed for the landing. Tim says that Fi has a lot of style and finesse in her riding, and Andre apparently has more of a cliff-dropping approach to his runs. Tim's all about having fun and jibbing around. Sacha Hamm, a friend of Tim's, recommended hitting at least 3 features on his run, but didn't say what Tim should do in between.. maybe more jibbing?
So who are Tim, Andre & Fi's riders to watch tomorrow (apart from eachother)?
Anouck Mouthon (snowboard women) who was on the FWT last year is Fi's favourite. Tim & Andre will be looking out for other Chamonix locals: Max Fielthing (who may have moved up to the adults from the Juniors for ths first time this year), Karim (a local liftie who's apparently great to wacth) Baptiste G and Ally Watson.
Well we're wishing the three of you all the best for tomorrow.. If you want to watch the action, get up early on the Brevent lift and head over towards the Cornu for 9am. The Juniors competition will take place afterwards at around 13:30-14:00.
See you there!