But for me, Christoph Weber would have gotten an award too - for the most stylish trick, a really high One Foot Backflip. But somehow winning was not the most important thing during that contest anyway. 13 years ago it started as a small local freeride contest and was called the “Wildsaurennen" (wild pig race). Today the name and contest format has changed: There are still some pigs grilled after the contest (one for each rider), but now it is called Check the Ripper, a combination of both freeride and freestyle. This year it was included in the Snickers Nordpark Sessions. Actually it was supposed to go on for a week but unfortunately the "Hit da Pipe" contest had to be cancelled due to the lack of snow, so the “week" started on Thursday afternoon with an Expression Session in the Skyline Park. I´m happy to announce that the 21 years old German rider Simon Schweiger won – no surprise, as his jumps were very smooth and stylish and I hope we see more of this dude in the future (check him out in the documentary movie “Brettspiel" – www.snowboardfilm.de).
The freeride part of the Check the Ripper was held on Friday but due to the high avalanche risk (it had dumped around one meter of fresh powder the days before), the famous Karrinne at the Nordpark was closed and the freeride course had to be changed to another slope. As photographer Alex Roberts and me still had to do some work in the office we could only arrive Friday evening and asked handicapped (with a acute herniated disc) organizer Flo Puritscher about the results: Ueli Kestenholz was leading with 13 seconds in advance! Actually no surprise as he spends six months a year in Alaska and only rides 50 degree steep faces! Second was Roland Hofer and third Ästhetiker Rudi Kröll… Christoph Weber, who didn´t need to organize his GAP Session this week as it was cancelled, got 8th and last year´s winner Sani Alibabic 7th. But everything was still possible as the freestyle part should be held on Saturday and only the best rider in both disciplines could win the title.
Keen to see some riding, Alex and me took the gondola up to the Nordpark Friday evening as a night session was going on there. Flo told me that most of the pros were too tired from the day that they didn´t show up. I guess it was also the wind that almost blew me away from the table… But Sani Alibabic didn´t mind the storm-like conditions and showed some nice one foot action in the Skyline Park – I like! Saturday the freestyle part of the Check the Ripper was cancelled as the storm continued… We didn´t mind and went for some runs in Axamer Lizum close to Innsbruck. It seemed as the whole power of the storm accumulated there – a woman was even blown into a snow hole and couldn´t get out without help…
Next morning the sun was still covered by grey clouds but it seemed as it would come out soon. The first gondola didn´t take off before 9.30 as the loads of snow, which came down the day before first had to be blast away from the top of the mountain. Once there the run for the first powder lines started as the riders knew that the contest won´t start before 12 o´clock. The Nordpark offers a sick terrain – some easy couloirs right next to the gondola but if you hike 30 minutes you can also get some very steep runs. But there are a lot of locals and the rush for a first line is as incredible as the resort. A pro rider who moved to Innsbruck a long time ago once said: “It took me ten years to get a first line here!"
After everybody enjoyed some runs, the show started in the park - with bluebird sky for the first time since many days! Every rider had three runs but it was obvious that it would be a really hard effort to kick Ueli Kestenholz from his first place. Rudi Kröll and Roland Hofer tried their best and came very close but in the end a Backside Boardslide over the rail and a stylish Frontside 360 Indy was enough for Ueli to take the victory. But than there was also Christoph Weber with his One Foot Backflip – first try he slammed on the kicker but got a second try from the judges. Unfortunately he didn´t land it but it was the most outstanding trick of this day…
Austrian Kathrin Gappmayr won the girl´s contest - here it was a little bit more close as she didn´t have that much seconds in advance from the freeride part. But as the rest of the girls didn´t have their best day and herself showing a very stylish Backside 180, she did make it. After the contest was finished, everybody rushed to get down as the wild pigs were waiting at the BBQ - Mahlzeit!
Live life to the fullest - Mel
More information: www.nordparksessions.com
Results Check The Ripper 2007 / Snickers Nordpark Sessions
1) Ueli Kestenholz (SUI)
2) Rudi Kröll (AUT)
3) Roland Hofer (AUT)
4) Sani Alibabic (AUT)
5) Roberto Furger (SUI)
1) Kathrin Gappmayr (AUT)
2) Aline Bock (GER)
3) Bettina Köfler (AUT)
4) Conny Bleicher (GER)
5) Bibi Pekarek (AUT)