The plan, for those unfamiliar with the event from last year’s incarnation, is to be completely mobile for the duration and rely on a crack unit of guides, weather forecasters, local knowledge, heavyweight logistical juggling and perhaps a smidgen of good fortune, to take the crew of riders and the huge ensemble cast of media and organisers to the best spots in the Alps for drawing lines and dropping cliffs. As for how the event us judged, from what I can gather everyone rides as many spots as we visit and then each rider selects what they feel to be their best run to be submitted to the judges who’ll review the footage and decide a winner.
Following a thigh-burning excursion down the Valley Blanche yesterday, we all met up at the Montenvers restaurant to learn the score for the first day’s action. With the majority of Europe feeling distinctly spring-like of late, and Chamonix itself roasting, it was going to be interesting to see what they’d come up with. Today’s weather forecast was decent, and organiser Nicholas Hale-Woods took to the stage and cranked up the projector to give the riders the first look at what they’d be clipping into a mere 12 hours or so later.
Then it was thee bib draw to see who would drop when. The rider list is impressive – a mixed bag of renowned freeride specialists like Flo Orley, Mitch Todeler, Jeremy Jones and last year’s winner Xavier De La Rue peppered with guys you’d more associate with freestyle snowboarding such as Fredi Kalbermatten, Jonas Emery and Stefan Gimpl. Knowing that these cats are also familiar with this kind of big mountain riding, it will be interesting to see how they fair.
The two standouts from today were De Le Rue and Jones, both attacking the face with shit-your-pants speed and dropping sketchy rock bands, yet being in full control the whole time. De Le Rue even pulled off the gnarl dropper of the day, a solid cliff into a tight pocket of snow hemmed in between even more rocks.