While North America has had pretty much three months worth of solid snow (which bodes well for the Alaskan stop on the tour next month), Europe's not had the best start to the season. In fact, that would be an understatement - it's been so bad that freeride mecca Chamonix had to pull the plug on the first stop of the 2017 Freeride World Tour last week due to poor snow coverage and high winds.Luckily, Andorra has been getting the goods recently, so the second planned stop of the year today ended up being a banger start to the tour with the men's skiers kicking off proceedings on the same face from 2015, now re-named Smoothy's Garden after his insane run that same year.
WL was actually lucky enough to attend the 2016 edition, so it was with a mixture of fond memories for Sascha Hamm's win last year and sadness due to his current absence from the tour after a terrible crash on the Austrian leg that we tuned into to the live stream this afternoon, not to mention the tragic death of Estelle Balet late last spring. However, we're sure Sascha was watching it with a smile, so we'll continue with the results...
After the skiers had had their way with the face, Camile Armand was the first snowboarder to drop in 2017, taking a few big drops and some nice, high speed turns, all under control and all the way to the bottom. The rest of the euros present didn't fare so well, with wildcard Polo de la Rue (the middle brother) and Christoffer Granbom struggling to hold on through the variable snow conditions.
Apart from Austrian Thomas Feurstein that is. The FWT rookie qualified of the European FWQ series last year and obviously had something to prove on the big stage. Whilst his airs weren't the biggest of the day, he had the most playful style of the pack, carving and popping off anything he came across, even riding out a back 360 over a miniature tree.His cajones earned him second
- Sammy Luebke
- Thomas Feurstein
- Ralph Backstrom
His cajones earned him second place overall, squeaking ahead of tour veteran Ralph Backstrom who tore through the top half of the course with some of the most insane, high-speed turns of the day. He, in turn had just pipped Jonathon Penfield to the bronze spot, though the latter's beautifully flowing run top-to-bottom did make its own case for the podium.
However, it was current tour champ Sammy Luebke who had the day from almost the start. Dropping in second he rode confidently and was the only rider to grab all his airs, including a monster drop to kick things off and his trademark back 360 indy. In no way was he cruising this, but over the last few years on the tour he's gained the ability to make faces like this look like a breeze.