XAVIER DE LE RUE & KAJ ZACKRISSON TRIUMPH AT SWATCH O’NEILL BIG MOUNTAIN PRO 2007
The final day of the Swatch O’Neill Big Mountain Pro 2007 saw 18 of the world’s best freeride snowboarders and skiers coming together in the city of Innsbruck, where they crowned France’s Xavier de le Rue and Sweden’s Kaj Zackrisson as snowboard and ski champions respectively.
Taking place on Saturday evening, the peer-based video judging session provided all competitors with the ideal opportunity to scrutinize one another’s three contest runs before determining who would walk away as the first ever champions of this innovative and mobile freeride event.
Going into the judging session, Xavier de le Rue was considered by many as a clear favorite in the snowboarding competition, and emerge as champion with the €10,000 winner’s check is exactly what he did. The Frenchman’s performances on the mountain over the last 10 days have been of an exceptional quality, and have seen him mixing up freeride and more freestyle-oriented aspects to devastating effect. Voted into second place by his fellow competitors was multiple Big Mountain Rider of the Year Jeremy Jones, who brought his backcountry expertise to the European Alps and impressed everyone with his technical choice of lines. Switzerland’s Cyril Neri, meanwhile, rounded off the podium for the snowboarders thanks to his fluid freeriding ability mixed with freestyle trickery.
Speaking immediately after the awards ceremony, Xavier was clearly delighted to top a list of such distinguished names in the world of freeride snowboarding, and said: “I’m just really honored to ride with all these guys, and I’m so stoked I got enough votes to walk away as champion. This win is a great boost for my confidence, as it makes me realize that I can hold my own in the company of the world’s best." US freeriding legend Jeremy Jones was equally pumped to claim a spot on the podium, and said: “The last 10 days have been great – the mobile contest format means we’ve got to explore new mountains and it’s just been so much fun to hang out with all these guys."
In contrast to the snowboarding competition, the skiing contest was a much tighter affair, with no runaway winner going into the final day. In the end, the competitors voted Sweden’s Kaj Zackrisson into first place after his faultless displays over the three contest runs. Flowing down each mountain with effortless style, the dreadlocked freeskier never hesitated for a moment as he nailed each line perfectly and stomped all of his huge cliff drops and airs. As well as the crown, the Swede also walked away from the contest €10,000 richer. Cody Townsend, the only North American in the skiing competition, destroyed the European Alps over the ten days. The Californian’s exceptional first contest run in Italy’s Courmayeur was enough to push him into second place, just ahead of French freeskiing legend Seb Michaud.
Reflecting on his win after the awards ceremony, Zackrisson was pumped to be crowned champion, and said: “It’s just a great feeling to be voted champion by these guys – the atmosphere over the whole event has been so laid-back, and freeskiing with all these friends has been a real pleasure. I’m stoked to win the event – especially as it’s my birthday as of midnight!" Cody Townsend – in Europe for the first time in his career – was also super-happy with his second place finish, and said: “To ski with all these guys was a great honor for me, and to finish second in the event is amazing. I’ve made a lot of new friends since I got out here, and I can’t wait to come back!"
As if his win in the snowboard category wasn’t already enough, Xavier de le Rue outshone even Zackrisson to be voted Best Overall Rider of the event by his fellow competitors. Having received the award, the Frenchman said: “I’m super-happy to walk away with the Best Overall title, and I’m really stoked to close the gap that sometimes exists between freeride skiing and snowboarding. Thanks to everyone who voted for me!"
With the prize ceremony completed, it was time for everyone to hit the bar and celebrate the end of the inaugural edition of the Swatch O’Neill Big Mountain Pro. Speaking towards the end of the night, event organizer Bernhard Ritzer said: “Getting 18 of the world’s best snowboarders to the best mountains and the best snow conditions in the European Alps was always our mission, and in spite of some pretty challenging conditions, we did exactly that. Thanks to all the riders and everyone involved for putting on such a great show. See you all next year!"
1. Xavier de le Rue (FRA) € 10,000
2. Jeremy Jones (USA) € 6,000
3. Cyril Neri (SUI) € 4,000
Best Overall Impression:
1. Xavier de le Rue (FRA)
For more about the Swatch O’Neill Big Mountain Pro 2007: www.bigmountainpro.com