The Freeride World Tour (FWT) is the premier skiing and snowboarding freeriding competition on the planet and is the monstrous lovechild of the Swatch Freeride World Tour, the Freeskiing World Tour and The North Face Masters of Snowboarding. It has existed in its current iteration since 2012 and showcases the world's top big mountain skiers and snowboarders.
The FWT takes place over a number of stages at some of the world's most incredible locations in Europe and North America before culminating with the prestigious Verbier XTREME in Switzerland.
This guide explains the format, scoring, locations and heavy hitters taking part in the FWT and is broken down into the following sections.
- On MPORA
[part title="Format of the Freeride World Tour"]
For the men's World Tour there are five stages and then the final which takes place in Verbier. The best three results from the five stages are counted and then the cut is made.
For women there are only four FTW stages, again with the best three scores qualifying the athlete for the showdown in Switzerland.
After the final stage in Verbier the FWT Champion is chosen taking into account four best results for the male and female competitions. Scores clocked in Verbier count the same as any of the previous stages.[part title="Scoring of the Freeride World Tour"]
Athletes compete individually and receive a score between 1.0 and 10.0 from a panel of six judges. Winning runs will feature creative line choices, tackling natural features all while staying constantly riding with style and control.
Judges score runs in line with the following five criteria:
- Line: Where in the face the contestant rides, including difficulty, originality, features and chutes undertaken and the size of jumps.
- Control: Both when riding and in the air.
- Air and Style: Number and of size of jumps, tricks and style. Loss of control is penalised.
- Fluidity: Rewards a rider that keeps moving without traversing, falls or stops.
- Technique: The quality of the turns and how they're linked. How the rider tackles steep and narrow sections is also examined.
On its six stops the Freeride World Tour takes in the the world's best off-piste locations. They offer the perfect combination of daredevil couloirs, rock fields, cliff drops and huge spines. We've got the lowdown on the six stages right here:
Courmayer Mont Blanc, Italy - 18 January 2014
The first journey to Mont Blanc is a guys only affair and kicks off the FWT properly. Courmayer sits on the south-east side of Europe's highest mountain and is packed with couloirs, big drops and awesome lines. This is the fourth year that Courmayer features on the tour.
Chamonix-Mont Blanc, France - 25 January 2014
The women join the party as the FWT crosses the border into the French Alps and arrives at Chamonix. Chamonix hosted the first ever Winter Olympics back in 1924 and remains a staple venue for serious skiers and snowboarders from around the world. Having hosted a part of each of the past six FWTs it's the one everyone wants to win.
Fieberbrunn, Austria - 1 February 2014
This charming village in the Austrian region of Kitzbühel is host for the third stage of the FWT. As one of the premiere freeriding locations in Austria it offers limitless opportunities for the competitors to test their mettle. Fieberbrunn is home the north face of the Wildseeloder which features 70-degree faces and wonderful natural features - it's as much a playground as it is a challenge.
Kirkwood, USA - 1 March 2014
The tour takes a month hiatus and returns in March on the other side of the Atlantic, ready to commence the second half of the competition. Located in the Lake Tahoe region of California, it's a place that many of the world's skiers and riders call home. Enjoying an average snowfall of over 15m each year, pow is ensured for when the tour comes to town.
Revelstoke, Canada - 10 March 2014
Revelstoke is a world-renowned resort in British Columbia which offers world class free-riding opportunities. It features the highest vertical drop in North America and boundless acres of resort. As the final stop before the finals back in Verbier, it offers a great location for competitors to get those precious final points.
Verbier, Switzerland - March 22 2014
Fittingly, the curtain falls on the Freeride World Tour in the European Mecca of off-piste - Verbier. The Xtreme in Verbier has seen exceptional feats over the last few years and gives riders their own chance to claim glory. The main feature of Verbier is the monstrously steep and rocky face of Bec des Rosses - shit gets serious in Switzerland.
[part title="Riders of the Freeride World Tour"]
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.
If you can't make any of the stages in person than fear not. We'll be bringing you all the action live on MPORA, as well as highlights from each stage and behind the scenes access.
Right now you can watch an interview with last years men's skiing champion, Drew Tabke or a fantastic look back through the history of the FWT final - the Verbier Xtreme. Keep your eyes on the site over the next few months as we get you so close to the action you'll be able to taste the pow!