The O'Neill Quarterpipe qualification heats for both the men and women went down a storm in Davos yesterday. If ever spectators were looking for signs of evolution at this prestigious 6-star Ticket To Ride competition, Switzerland's biggest ever Quarterpipe provided them with all the evidence they needed.
Supported by a truly impressive metal scaffolding structure, the Quarterpipe spans some 20m across and rises an incredible 10m out of the ground. Put simply, it's a pretty intimidating wall of snow to be heading into at 80km/h. Riders from afar as Japan and New Zealand had come to the Swiss resort of Davos to mix with Europe's most promising riders in an attempt to clinch qualification and tame the beast.
Prior to the start of the women's heat, the atmosphere among riders was tense. Faced with such an enormous transition, mere mortals would be fretting at the thought of getting to the top of the damn thing. The girls, meanwhile, were busy formulating their plans, deciding on which tricks to throw down. With each rider entitled to four runs, it was game on.
Come the end of the women's heat, spectators had been given a clear insight as to where these girls are taking the sport of women's snowboarding. Following her impressive showing in this morning's training session, Elan's Lisa Filzmoser was awarded 1st place by the panel of judges thanks to her cleanly executed backside airs and consistent amplitude.
Close on Lisa's heels, Kiwi Juliane Bray and on-form Paulina Ligocka claimed the next two spots, throwing down a mix of backside airs with a variety of grabs. Other girls making it into the top 10 and through to the semi-finals included Brit Lesley McKenna, Germany's Conny Bleicher and Norwegian Lisa Wiik. Finishing in 6th place, Swiss rider Sina Candrian was the first of four Swiss riders qualified for Saturday's semi-finals.
The male competitors, meanwhile, saw their two heats merged into one, allowing everyone involved to take advantage of a favorable window in the weather. The atmosphere around the Quarterpipe prior to the start of the heat was electric, and what followed over the course of the next 2 hours was pure freestyle craziness. With 16 qualification spots up for grabs, riders knew that only their A-game would see them through to Saturday's semi-finals.
With that in mind, the fuse to the jam session was lit. From the kick-off, riders pointed their boards down the daunting in-run, straight-line style. Spectators watched in awe as rider after rider stomped some of the most technical tricks in the book, with some serious amplitude thrown in for good measure. Early highlights included Iouri Podlatchikov's super-tweaked backside 720's and Olivier Gittler's styled out McTwists. 12-year-old O'Neill rider Dimi de Jong got one of the biggest cheers of the night with a 5.5m backside air. Stoked to make it into the top 16, Dimi added: "That was so good, the compression was pretty heavy riding up the transition but it felt so sick!"
As the end of the two-hour jam session approached, the atmosphere around the Quarterpipe was building as spectators and riders alike waited to discover who had done enough to earn a chance to do it all over again - but this time in the company of Quarterpipe killing machines including Travis Rice, Terje Haakonsen, Danny Davis and local's favorite Gian Simmen.
After two hours of non-stop technical wizardry, judges awarded 1st place to France's Arthur Longo for his mind-blowing backside airs, with his 3rd effort topping out at just under 7m. Insanity. Clearly delighted with the way his day had gone, Arthur added: "I had a few good runs during the training session this morning, and I knew I had to go big to qualify today. I didn't really expect to qualify in 1st place, so I'm really pumped! Competing against legends like Terje in the semi-finals is really going to push me." Henning Marthinson nailed a sick backside 540 more than 6m out to claim 2nd place, while Spain's Isaac Verges's consistent amplitude saw him pick up a deserved 3rd place finish. Other standout performers and top 16 finishers included US rider Tim Humphreys, Austria's Alex Schmaltz and Davos local Colin Frei.
Wow. If that was qualification, we're very stoked about what could go down during Saturday's semi-finals and finals, set to unfold in front of thousands and broadcast live on TV and internet. Make sure you catch all the action; it's going to go off!
LIVE WEBCAST SCHEDULE:
5th January: 14:30 - 15:30 - Swatch Highest Air Session Superpipe; 16:30 - 22:15 - Semi-finals & Finals Superpipe (Men & Women)
6th January: 14:30 - 15:30 - Swatch Highest Air Session Quarterpipe; 16:30 - 22:15 - Semi-finals & Finals Quarterpipe (Men & Women)
For a full run-down of qualification results from today's Quarterpipe qualification heats, and to find out who's on the starting list for Friday Superpipe semi-finals, just check out www.oneilleurope.com/evolution.