When: 3-10 February, 2009
Where: St. Leonard, Austria
The third competition day at the O’Neill Big Mountain Pro was held in the resort of St. Leonard at the Große Leppels Kopf.
It was a pretty early morning call fort he mountain guides who went up the hill at 4 am to check the conditions and decide whether the contest would be held or not.
Although we all had an awesome time with the masses of powder during the last days, it was right on the edge of having too much new snow to ride a face like today’s. Anyway the strong winds kept the snow cold enough and the sun was shining on a bluebird sky.
Due to the still high avalanche risk the youngest snowboarder Fredrik Evensen decided to stay out of the comp. “Looking at all the avalanches that went down on the opposite faces, it’s too risky fro me today. I think I don’t have enough experience yet," he reasoned.
All the other riders hiked up the north face to give the crowd of spectators that had gathered at the foot of the hill and on the terrace of the next mountain restaurant a bit of a show. The middle aged ladies were so impressed they would wanted to take the skiers right to their bedroom – at least until they saw half of them could easily be there sons…
The skiers went down first and sped down on full speed, Cody Townsend released a small slide but got away safe. The first snowboarder to drop was Austrian Eric Themel. As the snow was much more difficult for the snowboarders than the skiers his run was rather cautious after a few drops in the top section: “I was so scared the whole thing would release on me". Afterwards he was a bit disappointed that there hadn’t been more features to do some tricks in the face. “You just couldn’t get enough speed to really pop over the lips". The other riders proofed the impression that the face looked steeper than it actually was. Cody commented Mitch Toelderer’s run with did two big jumps in the upper part: “After the rocks in the top you’re pretty much done, there’s not much left."
But Jeremy Jones once more showed he could master probably every mountain in the whole wide world and left the crowed breathless as he went straight through the rocks and then full speed down with the nicest powder turns and biggest sprays. “I went surfing with Jeremy Jones," Cody whooed.
Xavier de le Rue, last rider of the day, hit a beautiful double drop right on the top and went then chasing Jeremy’s speed, which he clearly caught. Asked about the double drop no one else did, he just said: “If you have enough speed you’re totally fine, you can see the landing and everything." This guy is really snowboarding like a crazy man and seems to have no fear of anything. Although he did say that he was scared the snow would break after Jeremy’s run, it is unbelievable how he still rips the gnarliest mountains after he almost died in an avalanche last year.
For a possible last contest day everyone mounted the tour bus again to go Heiligenblut. On the one and half hours ride we had the second encounter with the police on this trip and it was only thanks to Mitch’s diplomatic Geschick that fine was as low as possible and we were on the road again after a few minutes.
As the trip is almost over now, we will surely see some more highlights tomorrow – as skier Loris Falquet put it: “You either want to end the event with an epic line or crash really big with everything flying over the mountain". We do hope badly they’ll all go for the first one…
Stay tuned and check out what happens on the last day tomorrow!
- Anna Langer