The 12th edition of the legendary O’Neill Xtreme by Powerade unfolded on the magnificent north-facing Bec des Rosses peak on Sunday morning, high up above the Swiss resort of Verbier. With weather forecasters warning of the imminent arrival of cloudy weather, all competitors were on their way up the mountain by 6.10am before starting their 90 minute hike to the summit of the Bec. By 10am, the sky was still clear and everything was in place for the start of an incredible freeride extravaganza, and one that was enjoyed by thousands of spectators gathered around the Col des Gentianes.
Kicking off proceedings for the men, the snowboarders were impressive as they descended the 500 vertical meter mountain face. Returning to Verbier to defend the title he won this time last year, Switzerland’s Cyril Neri upped the ante with no fewer than two backflips. Were it not for a sketched landing on his second flip, the 33-year-old would have undoubtedly climbed higher on the podium. Finishing just ahead of Neri, French freeride veteran Serge Cornillat let his vast backcountry experience rise to the surface during his run, and the judges’ decision to award him 2nd place was met with huge cheers from the crowd of onlookers.
The snowboarding title, however, belonged to France’s Xavier de le Rue. The X-Games BoarderX gold medalist has been killing it wherever he rides this year, as he demonstrated earlier this month with his 1st place at the Swatch O’Neill Big Mountain Pro. Here in Verbier, the 27-year-old pointed his board down the mountain and never looked back. Riding faster and more fluidly than any other rider, Xavier also stomped the biggest snowboard cliff drop of the day, and followed it up with another monster. Speaking after his victory, Xavier said: “I’ve been after this win for 5 years, so to achieve it now is just a great feeling. The Xtreme is such a prestigious competition and I’m really proud to finally win here!”
The women’s ski and snowboard competitions succeeded in raising the bar once again this year. Swedish skier Marja Persson barely put a foot wrong as she came down before launching off a huge cliff at the end of her run to the delight of her fellow competitors and spectators. Switzerland’s Ruth Leisibach , meanwhile, successfully defended the snowboard title she won in 2006, and can also add this latest Xtreme win to those she claimed in 2001 and 2005.
A special mention goes out to skier Jennifer Farde – the Swede suffered a nasty fall and we all look forward to seeing her back on snow soon. And with that, the 12th edition of the Xtreme draws to a close, with organizer Nicolas Hale-Woods already looking to the future, and saying: “Thank you to all the riders and spectators, and a big thanks to everyone involved in the organization of this fantastic event. We look forward to seeing you all back here in 2008!”
For more information about the O’Neill Xtreme by Powerade, including a full run-down of results, head over to www.xtremeverbier.com