[Every podium should have a man in a gorilla suit - props to Flo Orley! All photos: Dom Daher/FWT]
Anyone who tuned into the Freeride World Tour's live stream last night, and was wondering why they couldn't see anything, apparently an errant sattelite link was to blame. However, while we may not have been able to witness it, a hell of a contest still went down in Alaska.
The previous leg in Fieberbrunn, Austria saw the first cuts made to the field, so absent from AK were FWT rookie Kjersti Buaas among others. Also not present was Sascha Hamm, who had a horrific crash at the last event and is on the road to recovery.
"Occasionally the conditions make FWT events look like very expensive masochism, but not this time"
For those who did make the trip, there was a long wait as the notoriously inclement Alaska nearly burned through the whole weather window. However, Monday was about as good as it gets; blue skies, sunshine and plenty of white stuff on the famous face known as 'The Venue'. Occasionally the conditions make FWT events look like very expensive masochism, but not this time.
The men were up first, and Flo Orley - once again resplendent in his gorilla suit - managed to take third place after somehow holding on to one massive air, only to wash out just as he was approaching the edge of the judged area.
With a commanding lead in the overall standings, Sammy Luebke rode a little more conservatively then he might otherwise have done, but his line still had some massive drops and a backside 360. In the end the judges still rewarded him with a 90.0, which would end up being enough for 2nd place AND the overall tour title.
Last to drop was Ryland Bell, born and raised in AK and looking to make the most of his home advantage. Straight out of the gates he was on a tear, with a frontside 360 swiftly followed by a backside 360. The rest of his run was just as solid, and he topped the scoreboard with a 95.00.
In the women's event, defending champion Estelle Balet was first up, aiming to repel the challenge from Anne-Flore Marxer. A mostly smooth and fluid run earned her a score of 80.00, but would it put her on top?
It was just enough to stay head of Marion Haerty, who suffered a butt-check early on that took her out of the running. She made up for it further down, though, not letting the fast-melting snow stop her from getting a couple of solid airs and slashes.
But at the end of the day, it was Anne-Flore who took the win. The experienced freestyler linked her run effortlessly, with a massive roller capping what was unquestionably a deserved first place. She's not yet got clear of Estelle, but the tour is Anne-Flore's to lose when Verbier rolls around.