The Road To The Freeride World Tour | Nendaz Freeride
As the Nendaz Freeride rolls into its 16th year, we look back on its history to discover what makes this such a special occasion on the freeride calendar
Sitting just a few hundred metres north of what is likely the most famous face within the freeride community – the Bec des Rosses (the final stop of the Freeride World Tour) – Mont-Gond, in the Swiss resort of Nendaz, holds a certain notoriety in the freeride world.
Every March, Mont-Gond becomes home to Nendaz Freeride – a stage on the hotly contested Freeride World Qualifier circuit, where riders get the chance to stamp their creative flair on the face.
We recently caught up with those deeply rooted within the Nendaz Freeride community; from Freeride World Tour royalty, who have all had a chance to etch their mark on the slopes of Mont-Gond, to the organisers of the event itself, to learn what exactly makes this event such a special competition on the freeride calendar.
History of Nendaz Freeride
Nendaz Freeride has been going since 2007, and has rapidly snowballed into what it is now – with up to 500 skiers and snowboarders every year descending on the face as though it’s some sort of freeride Mecca.
“Huge props to the FWT for adopting equal prize funds”
Although there’s €10,000 up for grabs for both male and female ski winners (huge props to the FWT for adopting equal prize funds), the focus isn’t just on who can send the biggest backie during the heats. Nandaz Freeride has been set up to celebrate the community around the sport – as long-time commentator of the event, Charlie Boscoe put it:
“It’s a celebration of skiing and the spirit of freeriding. The competitors want to win, obviously, but the event is more about enjoying the mountains and the company of like-minded people than it is about winning a medal.”
And what would be the favourite moment of Cyril Lanfranchi, the man who has put fourteen years of blood, sweat and tears into founding and running the event? That’ll be the winning line by Leo Slemett in 2016, before Leo went on to win the 2017 Freeride World Tour on his debut season. Did we mention that this face is a rite of passage for all FWT athletes?
So, what makes a face like Mont-Gond worthy of labels such as ‘mythical’ and ‘revered’? We thought the answer to this would be best coming from past and present athletes who have all given it their all on the face.
Jeremie Heitz, heard of him? Arguably one of the most famous freeride skiers out there right now, most notable for his movie ‘La Liste’, where himself and Sam Anthamatten charge down some of the steepest faces out there with minimal turns and maximum speed.
We asked Jeremie to dig deep into his vast skiing memory banks to consider what the face meant to him, when he first stepped foot on it at the age of 16.
“It’s actually better than some of the faces in the Freeride World Tour. It’s a real mountain”
“I’ve been on that face twice, I think. Yeah, this face is really nice. It’s actually better than some of the faces in the Freeride World Tour. It’s a real mountain – you need to climb it first … For someone with an alpine racing background it’s really nice because there are direct lines, but then there is a lot of jumps where it’s also possible to throw some tricks, so every time we’re seeing a beautiful show on it”
From freeride legend to the next upcoming rookie, Maël Ollivier. Winner of the 2020 Freeride World Qualifier, Ollivier has recently been cutting his teeth on the slopes of Mont-Gond. “Mont-Gond is the dream playground! There are big cliffs, transfers, jumps but everything is pretty ‘safe’ because there isn’t a no-fall zone, so you can charge harder, go bigger with a lot of confidence.”
“You can charge harder, go bigger with a lot of confidence”
In the same way the Nendaz Freeride is a qualifier into the main event of the Freeride World Tour, Mont-Gond has also been highlighted as a great training face for those looking to ride the Bec des Rosses. Jeremie reflects that Mont-Gond is “kind of similar to the Bec des Rosses, it’s a little bit less steep and shorter, but it’s really nice for training, if you aim to go on the Bec des Rosses one time”
Team Nendaz Freeride
Nendaz Freeride is a freeride festival of events too. This year, if everything goes to plan, the event is due to take place between the 7th and 10th March. With five different competitions taking place, from the Nendaz Freeride Junior competitions all the way up to the 4* Freeride World Qualifier with athletes look to go a step closer to the summit of freeride skiing – the Freeride World Tour.
“The whole ethos of the Nendaz Freeride isn’t just to push people into the FWT”
The whole ethos of the Nendaz Freeride isn’t just to push people into the FWT. The team at Nendaz Freeride have also set up ’Team Nendaz Freeride’ where nine young athletes are selected with the objective to help and support these youngsters as they progress within their specific discipline – ranging from freeride and freestyle coaching, to avalanche safety training.
Support from Nendaz also trickles down to real youth level, where the ‘Nendaz Freeride Kids’ event sees some of the raddest 7 – 14 year olds on the planet getting the opportunity to learn the basics of freeride riding and avalanche safety training. Who knows, many of these kids could come on to become the next Leo, Sam, Maël or Jeremie.
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