Sammy Luebke storms down a fresh face in Chamonix for back-to-back wins in france.
Photo: Freeride World Tour / J. Bernard
After a few sub-par winters in Europe, even we have to admit that the Freeride World Tour was starting to look a little tired. Sharky take offs and landings with spring snow in January just don't do some of the venues justice - was competitive freeriding in Europe becoming a distant memory?
But after a fresh dump of snow over the last week with a final smattering last night before a glorious bluebird start, Chamonix was flaunting its goods today like a recently divorced mother on her first night out single. After the skiers put on an impressive performance down the Aiguille Pourrie, it was the snowboard women who dropped first.
A huge shout out has to go to Kjersti Buass, doing her best to send it at her second ever freeride contest, but her rookie legs weren't quite up to the challenge just yet. An amazing array of tomahawks down the face followed, all failing to knock the smile off her face. A well-deserved wooden spoon for the trophy cabinet!
In the end it was a Swiss-French podium takeover, with Marion Hearty taking bronze for the host nation, Estelle Balet snatching silver and Anne-Flore Marxer claiming gold for both countries with a line that wasn't at all planned, but packed in heaps of features and face shots. Contest riding rarely looks as fun as the riders made it today!
Then it was the turn of the snowboard men, with Sammy Luebke starting first and dropping a run straight out of a movie part. Back and front threes with clean, nicely held grabs into a straightline over a rock-strewn drop led him to claiming the Chamonix podium for the second year running, pretty pleasing for his new board sponsor Jones.
Ralph Backstrom and Jamie Rizzuto made it three and two, giving the men's podium a definite North American flavour, both doing so by sending it down the face at full speed and launching some of the biggest airs of the day across all disciplines. Flo Orley gets a nod from us for once again competing in a gorilla suit - surely a sweaty feat to just make it up to the start gate - whilst Sascha Hamm once again forgot how to turn and tried to launch himself into another dimension via a roller into a blind chute. Lunacy.
So with everything over before lunchtime, for the first stop since Alaska last year we witnessed something a little like proper freeriding. And oh, it was good.