The Swatch O’Neill Big Mountain Pro 2007 awoke to 15cm of fresh snow on Wednesday morning. And after Tuesday morning’s coffee-gate scandal, everyone was pleased to once again see pots of the black doctor sitting on the breakfast tables.
After the first contest runs on Tuesday morning, staged near Courmayeur, riders returned to the small Italian village of Arpy for a classic pasta-based meal and a few glasses of the local plonk. Following dinner, riders and everyone else involved, including invited media, came together to watch the morning’s action on the big screen. Biggest cheers of the evenings went to the likes of snowboarders Jeremy Jones and Xavier de le Rue and skiers Cody Townsend and the Scandinavian connection: Sverre Liliequist and Kaj Zackrisson. All of these guys killed it on the mountain earlier in the day, and were rewarded with big cheers from the crowd of viewers.
A much gentler wake-up call on Wednesday morning was welcomed by all, and everyone was packed and ready to leave town by 9am. Nicolas Hale-Woods and his team of contest organizers and mountain guides had decided the evening before to move the contest back to the beautiful Swiss village of Champéry – the location for last week’s ice hockey and curling sessions.
This time, however, snowboarding and skiing are on the cards, with a contest run planned for Thursday afternoon somewhere in the vast Portes du Soleil ski area. Straddling the Swiss and French border, the resort is one of the largest in the world, and one that freestyle shred Jules Reymond knows only too well. As we drove back via the St-Bernard tunnel in Switzerland, Jules said: “It’s pretty funny that we’ll be riding in an area that I spend so much time in – I actually rent a place just down the valley so I’m hoping some home advantage will come into play on Thursday." The skiers, meanwhile, have also got someone equally at home in Les Portes du Soleil in the name of local talent Evariste Berney.
Having arrived in Champéry just after lunchtime, everyone was pleased to take a little time to relax after checking into the Hotel Suisse – boasting what could only be described as deluxe surroundings compared to the minimalist, military-inspired hostel in Arpy. As riders strolled through the picturesque streets of Champéry, the bad weather and warm temperatures forecast for most of the day gave way to rays of bright sunshine and white peaks from time to time, providing everyone with a hint of what might be to come on Thursday.
O’Neill freeskier Loris Falquet was stoked to be back in his native Switzerland, and said: “I’m really looking forward to competing again tomorrow. I was a little disappointed not to stick my first cliff drop in yesterday’s contest run, so I’ll be out to make amends tomorrow. I know that the guides have been exploring the area today, so I just hope they manage to find a nice peak with a stable snow pack for us to ski." Leading this innovative mobile event from the starting line in Laax right through to the finishing post in Innsbruck, Nicolas Hale-Woods had this to day: “Following extensive consultation with our guides and weather forecasters, we’ve decided to head back to Switzerland as we believe we’ll get more favorable weather conditions here over the coming 36 hours. Getting the best snowboarders and skiers to the best snow on the best mountains in Europe has always been our mission, and it’s one we’re sticking to."
For more about the Swatch O’Neill Big Mountain Pro 2007: www.bigmountainpro.com