13/02/2014 | by Jason Caines
The FWT is contested by an enviable line-up of the top skiers and snowboarders in the world and this year features an expanded field raising the level of competition even higher.
35 men and 14 women will make up the skiers and 14 men and 8 women from the snowboarding tour. Here’s a bit about the defending champions in each section and one of their likely competitors:
Ralph Backstrom – Men’s FWT Snowboard Champion 2013
The 30 year old American has serious FWT pedigree. He’s been a part of the tour since 2006 claiming numerous stage wins before taking the main prize last year. He also comes from a dominant action sports family, Ralph is the brother of award winning skier, Ingrid Backstrom, and the late Arne, a former FWT champion himself.
Long described as an ‘up and comer’, Ralph is doing it big time on film (for the likes of Teton Gravity Research) and in contests with style, bravery and zeal. He’ll be dedicated to keeping hold of his crown.
Challenger: Emilien Badoux is an experienced backcountry demon who rips with little regard for his own safety. He lives for powder, cliff drops and is undeterred by the steepest of faces. Having broken into the top five in 2013 he’ll be keen to take the next step.
Elodie Mouthon – Women’s FWT Snowboard Champion 2013
Elodie Mouthon is the perfect combination of aggression and consistency. Last year was her first year on tour but that didn’t stop her clinching the FWT title. She finished on the podium on four of the five stages.
What will stick in many peoples minds though will be her assault on the Verbier Xtreme. Her fluid riding and ability to seamlessly link big airs saw her fight off the challenge of more experienced riders. Her only regret for 2013: “I am just a little disappointed that my sister won’t be [here] any more” having failed to qualify.
Challenger: Laura Hader is better known for her work in the street but she’s not afraid to bring it in the big mountains as her second place in the now defunct North Face Masters of Snowboarding shows. Hadar isn’t just a jack of all trades but the master of most them.
Drew Tabke - Men’s FWT Ski Champion 2013
Tabke is looking forward to defending his title having finished top of the rankings in 2013. Having finished second in 2012 before his win a year later he’s developed a real taste for victory. He’s added aggression and invention to his solid technique and consistent finishes and has high expectations for himself.
He has said that the ‘desire to continue improving’ is a key part of will to win and is what keeps him motivated. We look forward to seeing just how far he’s come.
Challenger: Fabio Studer was earmarked by Tabke himself as a likely challenger and we can see why. His performance in the Skiers Cup showcased his huge bag of tricks as he outclassed Tim Durtschi in a heavyweight head to head and he’s aiming to take plenty more scalps on the FWT.
Nadine Wallner – Women’s FWT Ski Champion 2013
Nadine Wallner’s 2013 victory was something of a surprise given that she had only reached the competition after going through qualification. She proved her worth with a big win in Fieberbrunn and several impressive results throughout the tour. Having been skiing since the age of three she is comfortable on any terrain. Look out for her going big on the cliff drops.
Challenger: Pia Nic Gundersen is another young starter and has been skiing competitively since turning 10. She only finished marginally behind Wallner despite it being her rookie year. Pia Nic isn’t just a talented skier, she’s put her Masters degree in landscape architecture on hold to go on tour.