With the cloud coming in thick on Friday afternoon it was starting to look like the athletes might not get much of a look at the face they were going to tackle! And when I woke up early on Saturday morning the low cloud in the valley did not look promising for competition day...
However, just a few hundred metres up Brevent and the inversion was obvious. We were greeted with a calm serenity as we made our way out of the bubble at Plan Praz, with the sun not yet showing itself over the Aiguille Verte. Making our way to a good view point, close to where the competitors were beginning their ascent of the face, we managed to catch some of the chatter and excitement amongst the athletes. The Chamois face was being used for the first time on the Freeride World Tour and offered riders the chance to really show their skills and experience.
The men's snowboarders saw the best of the snow as they kicked off the proceedings at 8.45am, the sunshine giving perfect visibility for both riders and spectators. However, after the first third of the men's skiers had completed their runs, the competition was put on hold for well over an hour, and the sunshine that was beating down on the face affected the snow quite dramatically. The hold was due to an incident in the Junior Tour, where a competitor had to be airlifted by helicopter, for treatment. The dense cloud in the valley then prevented the helicopter from returning to Brevent and so the competition was held until the safety helicopter returned.
Despite the difficult conditions and the long break the men's skiers continued and Loic Collomb-Patton, one of the first down after the restart, recorded a huge score! The women's snowboarders followed, enjoying some great flowing lines and finally the women's skiers had the hard job of bringing up the rear in baked and tracked out snow.
By the time we made our way down the mountain to the finish line during the women's event, there was a lot of excitement as winners were announced. We spoke to Mary Boddington who was taking part in her first ever FWT and snowboarding for the first time in Europe. Despite not hitting the drops she had planned she was happy with her run and just excited to meet so many skiers and snowboarders that she has admired over the years. Qualifying for the Tour with good results in 2013 & 2014 she is one of only 6 female snowboarders on the Tour. But with only 5 female snowboarders able to qualify for the dream opportunity to compete in Alaska in March, Mary is determined to improve in her next performance!
Another rider who clearly enjoyed the day was veteran Flo Orley who actually made his way up for a second run with friend Alexander Hoffmann! Hoffmann had forgotten to take a back protector with him for his run in the morning and was not allowed to compete without one. He was able to borrow one from a female competitor going later in the day on the agreement that he bring it back up to the top! Orley joined him on the second ascent and both riders rode down together at the end of competition....enjoying the sun baked snow slightly less than they had the soft powder in the morning!
The local Chamonix riders did us proud with Leo Slemett taking 7th place in the men's ski, Jordan Bricheux was 18th and the legendary Aurelien Ducroz who, as always, gave us a show...but did not record a score. For the snowboarders, Sascha Hamm took 2nd place, Camille Armand 8th and Jonathan 'Douds' Charlet came in 10th.
The winners were presented to the waiting crowds in the Place Balmat on Saturday evening. First the juniors, then the ladies and finally the men's winners. Shannon Yates, the defending World Champion, took the women's snowboard title, followed by Swiss athlete Anne-Flore Marxer and Elodie Mouthon of France. Competition was fierce with only 6 women taking part!
Returning from injury Austrian skier, Eva Walker, showed that nothing was going to slow her down as she took first place in the women's ski event, in front of Christine Hargin of Sweden and the new comer from Italy, Sylvia Moser who took third place...much to the delight of her supporters and fans!
Both second place winners Anne-Flore and Christine were celebrating their birthdays as well as their silver medals and shared a cake on stage.
The men's snowboard winners were, as always, full of personalities with the 39 year old, Flo Orley scoring high and taking third place behind British athlete Sacha Hamm, who claims Chamonix-Mont-Blanc as his home mountain. The men's snowboard winner went unsurprisingly to American Sammy Luebke who pulled out an awesome freestyle run and showed his skills in the great snow conditions at the start of the day. His run was a clear winner.
The men's ski event brought some big drops, big crashes and some huge scores! Last years overall champion and winner in the Chamonix FWT event, Loic Collomb-Patton, again took first place with a score of 92.75. “I'm happy with my run – I was going to do a 360 in the middle but since I really went huge on the top air – I thought, I must have scored on that one - better to be smart and safe,” he commented at the bottom.
Behind him the popular Swede Reine Barkered took second with a fast line down the face, and Drew Tabke from America came in third with a freestyle and very playful run, including a 'Lincoln' off one of the wind lips (a sideways roll in the air).
The four winners were presented with their 'Golden Bibs' to take with them to the next event in Fieberbrunn in Austria in just under a weeks time.
To watch some of the winners commentate their lines have a look at our Event Videos. And if you are looking for more action on the hill then join us for the Freeride World Tour Qualifiers on Sunday 1st February right here in Chamonix.