February 15, 2017 – Vallnord-Arcalís, Andorra – Brilliant sunshine marked the competition originally destined to be the ski season opener for the 2017 Swatch Freeride World Tour in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France.
After rescheduling the original event due to snow safety concerns caused by high winds in the French Alps, fifty riders were able to participate in their second event in two weeks at the same ski area in the Pyrenees.
Conditions were challenging for both riders and organizers. Snowfall over the last week brought fresh accumulations to the face and changeable weather resulted in a slight crust forming on the snow surface, making turning conditions variable in some parts of the venue. Despite these challenges and with the aide of the sun which softened the snow during the day, the athletes demonstrated their finest freeriding skills on the Baser Negre venue, situated at 2700m in the Andorran ski resort of Vallnord-Arcalís.
Snowboard men opened the day and perhaps no one rode better in the category than Jonathan Penfield (USA), who was nudged into fourth place after his stunning line featuring creative transfers succumbed to a mid-venue fall. First place was awarded to Christoffer Granbom (SWE) for his fluid run that seemed to touch on all of the finest features of the face.
The next category to explore the day’s evolving conditions were the snowboard women, a group topped by powerful riding from Marion Haerty (FRA), who was able to hold a strong line featuring airs that earned her first place.
“This morning I was little apprehensive about the snow conditions because of yesterday’s weather but this morning when we did practice runs, the snow was soft and I was really excited to find part of the face that might actually have some untracked and non-rollerballed snow. I had a lot of fun and I didn’t push it probably as hard as I necessarily could have but it’s kind of the name of the game. Should I really push it or play a little bit safe?” Shannan Yates (USA), 2nd snowboard women.
First place for the ski women was awarded to Lorraine Huber (AUT) for skiing a clean, fast, and feature-packed run involving multiple airs and solid technique. As conditions softened slightly on the face, Kylie Sivell (CAN) stomped a powerful and consistent run down the venue, putting her in second.
“Two podiums! I am super surprised and very, very happy. I’m going to continue to just try to keep it chill, ski the runs that I want to ski and hopefully I can make it to Verbier.” Kylie Sivell (CAN), 2nd place ski women, tied for overall lead.
There was no shortage of action in the ski men category as Léo Slemett (FRA) edged out fellow Frenchman Loïc Collomb-Patton (FRA) with the judge’s favorite line of the day that started with a 360 at the top of the venue and terminated with a full-throttle double-set air into a stomped backflip. While many of the top riders landed high amplitude flips and spins, it was Yann Rausis (SUI) that was able land the most impressive upper-venue air which secured him the third place position on the podium.
Riders have just one more chance on March 6th, 2017, in Fieberbrunn, Austria before the best two results of the 2017 season are used to determine whether they advance beyond the qualification cut for the final two events in Haines, Alaska and Verbier, Switzerland.