November 16, 2007

Getting Started…

Snow is here and we can't wait to get started this week. But it's only a few more days and then Romain (our Tour Manager); Daniel (our cameraman for the first stage), Aurélein ( our event co judge) and myself will be heading north to Landgraaf in the NetherlandsManaging a tour is fun, although a lot of work. We have to focus gradually on smaller and smaller things. It's like starting to look at something with your eyes and finishing with a super powerful microscope. The microscope is ready for Landgraaf, NL next week end! Funny to see that snow is forecasted all this week in the Alps, with colder weather, snow and more winter delights hitting us. Nothing gets more excited than snow! I even met a doctor telling me that I was genetically made for winter weather, probably a bear gene is living in my blood! We're checking all our gear, packing our first boxes and spending hours and hours per day on the phone.

See you there!

November 24, 2007

Landgraaf

DAY 1

The long road… The GPS showed 900 kms and some… Long 10 hours of driving but what we discovered was worth waiting ! We couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw the place. SnowWorld is HUGE !! But don’t forget your gloves. It’s permanently -5° C in there and even though the outside temperature was quite cold, we were surprised by it as Romain and I tried the slopes to check the event location when we arrived. Today, the riders will soon arrive after school and Aurélien Ducroz, the famous French freerider who has – among others- won the Verbier Extreme in 2006 will be our head judge for the whole event. Romain Raisson, our Tour Manager will assist him in this task and tomorrow by mid-day we’ll know who gets to go to Val Thorens in April 08 !

   

EVENT

After school, everybody arrived at SnowWorld. Aged from 12 to 18, they all came eager to demonstrate their skills in front of the curious eyes of the two judges Aurélien Ducroz and Romain Raisson, the Tour Manager. A small briefing, a quite bite and the whole troop – all from nearby Belgium – hit the slopes among the Friday night crowd. The kids got to ski 4 runs and as soon at the debrief with the judges was done, they hit the park to train and get ready for the next morning. Very quickly, a few names started to circulate among judges and the judges were surprised by the level of ability demonstrated by these young skiers. “It’s refreshing to see these kids have such a burning passion for skiing, so far away from the Alps. It makes me think that we’re actually really lucky to have the mountains in our backyards… Would I have myself such a passion for skiing if I lived here? I’m not so sure….” reflected Romain Raisson, our Tour Manager. Aurelien Ducroz shared this impression. “ I think we’re a bit spoiled in the Alps . We don’t go skiing one day or the other if the conditions aren’t perfect. These kids would like to come here everyday. But they can’t. So they come as soon as they can ski the longest possible days – or nights like tonight- and only wish for one thing: to come back for more !!!”

   

DAY 2

6°°AM, another day starts. Romain slept better last night simply because my cold is over and I snore less (!). It’s still dark outside and our bags are heavy since we’re leaving the hotel to not come back. At around noon, we should be in our cars heading back to France. Aurélien Ducroz who’s a real marmot can’t wake up at this early hour so Romain and I decided to let him sleep until 7:30. When we get to SnowWorld, Jasper, the ski school and event manager is already there. He welcomes us with yet another comforting smile and tells us that we’re early enough to go skiing on a perfectly groomed slope. Quickly we set up our banners and flags, check the registrations and head out to ski. There’s music but the cold air dampens the noise. We’re alone. Slowly, the top is reached and we throw ourselves in one unique descent towards the base of SnowWorld. I live for ski moments like that. Wether on top of Val Thorens, my home in the winter or here: what counts is the excitement of skiing, the wind in my face, the chill I get down the spine when I manage to carve a good turn. Riding up the lift again with Romain, duty calls us back to reality and we’re already planning where to set up our branding material and judging post.

   

   

8 skiers from Belgium drove 150 kms to get to SnowWorld and participate in the first qualifying event of The North Face Ski Challenge Tour. Unfortunately, one got injured so he didn’t participate. The kids came with their parents and coach, Katrien Aerts a freestyle skier who could teach many skiers a lesson in jibbing !

The first day dedicated to freeskiing showed us how kids today are able to ski switch at any speed, any carving angle and it was fun to see all these kids cruise backwards. Some with racing background also showed the judges how good they are and very quickly a hierarchy appeared. The next day in a perfectly groomed snow park, kids were more than eager to start jibbing. And the combination of both and per age category saw the qualification of 2 skiers made in Belgium: winner was Dries Lemmens (1991) who demonstrated a smooth technique and real abilities to do well in Val Thorens. Second was Rembert Notten, who got slightly injured after the end of the event and was replaced on the podium by the little Ward, our youngest skier in the event. Third was Dries’ bigger brother Wouter Lemmens (1989).

The judges decided to qualify the first 2 skiers and encouraged third and fourth skiers to come back to try to qualify again in another qualifying event of The North Face Ski Challenge.

December 3, 2007

Manchester

EVENT

The second stage of The North Face Ski Challenge Tour took place in Manchester UK, Nov 30-Dec 1rst at the Chill Factore, a new ski dome that only recently opened its doors. We had for this stage 13 applications, 10 riders (among whom 2 girls) actually competed and two additional riders qualified for the final in Val Thorens. Andy Longley (born 1990) and Katie Summerhayes (born 1995) joined the two riders that had already qualified in Landgraaf, NL two weeks ago and demonstrated that they will be names to look at in Val Thorens in April for their respective age categories. Jason Shutt comments: “Obviously the kids don’t have a lot of exposure to mountains and steeper conditions of skiing. But their passion and heart are into skiing and it’s so refreshing to see.” Aurélien Ducroz added: “We definitely gave them ideas and comments on how they could improve their skiing generally and especially if you think that the freeride part was what made last year’s winner in the Kings category (16 to 18 years of age). We want them to ski in the meantime so that they can improve everywhere, not just the freestyle part”.

The Tour will now have a break for 6 weeks before it hits the Alps with the first outdoor stage to be held in Zermatt, Switzerland (Jan 12th 2008).

  

DAY 1

“What are you doing with ski boots in your bag ? You’re flying to Manchester! There’s no snow there !” The airline check in manager looked at us like we came from Mars. We stared back and said “ Actually, there is skiing in Manchester. A new ski area has come out of nowhere: The Chill Factore !”

And off we went to the plane that would take us to the second event of The North Face Ski Challenge Tour, the second in a ski dome. Manchester can seem an odd place to go but when you know that the very first applications we ever received for The North Face Ski Challenge 06 came from the UK, we felt we had to host a stage over here. Manchester seemed dull and quite depressing to be honest as we landed. It took us also forever to get to our hotel and frankly we felt little enthusiasm to spend 2 days in ski clothing here… Only when we woke up, we discovered the full size of the Chill Factore which recently has opened. And if from outside we felt impressed, we even felt better and overwhelmed inside. The walls fully decorated with photos of the Alps, natural daylight filtering through the transparent walls, the place looked totally unreal.

Aurélien Ducroz, once again one of our judges along with freerider Jason Shutt went for an on slope check and watched the flood of skiers arrive and invade the ski dome. Looking at their happy faces and smiles, I remembered the days when I was a kid and watched snow fall, knowing that the next day, I’d be skiing. I admire this passion for the sport, especially in England, a country where mountains are scarce and snow even harder to find… We had 13 applications for this event but unfortunately, only 10 made it since traffic in that part of the country can get so bad, people only count in hours rather than kilometers.

 

DAY 2

7:30 sharp and everyone is there and ready to roll! What always strikes us in flat countries (and God knows it shouldn’t be the case since skiing is so fun!) is that everyone seems to be so happy to be here. Unfortunately, we can’t really start until snow stops falling down from the roof. In a ski dome however, weather forecast is programmed in a local computer and just before 9°° AM sharp, snow machines stop

January 15, 2008

Zermatt

The North
Face Ski Challenge Tour in Zermatt got totally snowed in today in Zermatt   and the qualifyers couldn't be held regularly.

With 31 riders who had applied and 27 on site (since one had a broken leg sustained recently
and the three others were in bed with the flu) the event gathered this tribe of
young skiers wanting to try to qualify for the final in Val Thorens on April
12-13th, 2008.

JP Baralo, Tour creator and organizer: "It's of course disappointing for the rider who've travelled to get here, for the ski resort who's helped us with the organization and our event partners for The North Face Ski Challenge. But we've decided long ago that we would never complain about snow! Today, it's snowing and we're in fact happy! Skiing is an outdoor sport, we have to accept that sometimes nature takes over."

And happy faces were to be found of the "lucky losers" as the organizers decided to qualify all Zermatt kids participating in the event as well as the skiers from the Genève ski club. As for the French participants who came with their ski clubs (Megève and Chatel), the organization decided to give some wild cards to some riders selected by the coaches themselves. The updated list of pre qualified skiers will be issued after Garmish.

Thanks to Jason Shutt, Nicole, Jorg and Vincent who came to help us today in extremely difficult conditions. Enjoy the powder (safely!!) as soon as the weather clears up!!

Next
stage : Garmisch January 26th !

 

 

January 28, 2008

Garmisch

On Saturday January 26th, 33 riders from Germany, Austria and Belgium gathered on the top of the Zugspitze, the famous top of Germany to try to qualify for the final of The North Face Ski Challenge, Europe's biggest scouting event for young freeskiing talents.

Our judges today were Germans freeskiing legends Toni Brey and Flo Hess and were impressed by the field and the dedication the young skiers demonstrated.

The conditions were ideal on the dream Zugspitze area, with a slightly annoying wind losing its power during the day. We found an ideal area to run the freeride part of the event that allowed all participants to take three tuns. Quickly afterwards, the crowd of skiers gathered at the top of the super big park, perfectly groomed (thanks Garmisch!!) and it was time to watch the kids jibbing. The kids were allowed to run the long park 3 times and were quite tired at the end of the day. Notice also that we had two girls from Austria participating in the event, who demonstrated some young talent as they only started to dedicate themseleves to freeskiing a few months ago.

And out of the 33 participants, the jury decided to qualify 6 riders, 5 Germans and 1 Austrian. Toni Brey, Flo Hess and David Stiehler from the tourist office of Garmisch handed out the presents that kids could take home after their exceptional day on the top of Germany!

February 18, 2008

Livigno

The North Face Ski Challenge Tour was yesterday in Livigno to scout for more young freeskiing talents!

If you don't know where Livigno is, it's one of the most secluded areas in the Alps since in the winter there are only two ways to get there: through a pass above 2000 metres from the south through Bormio and through the famous Engadin valley in Switzerland, over yet another pass and a one lane tunnel!
But the valley is worth being
discovered! Its beauty is simply amazing, the architecture harmonious and the
pace very nice and relaxing. And as always in Italy food is simply amazing!

We were welcomed by a very nice team of people, (thanks to Rudy & Maurizio and his park team!) and met there 28 riders from Italy, Austria and… Czech Republic!

The park, in perfect shape allowed the riders  to express themselves the way they wanted. The freeride however if not in powder conditions  -  as high pressures have rested over Europe since last week and have changed the snow pack significantly – was challenging which allowed Giulia Monego and Nicole Pernull to judge and evaluate who could get to the final. And in the end, it was pretty clear that Pepe Kalensky (CZ)  was above the field and will be a major contender for the title in the Kings category (16-18) in Val Thorens in just 7 weeks…

But for the time being, The North Face Ski Challenge is heading north to Are (Feb 23rd) and Ruka (March 1st) before coming back to Chamonix on March 1st, 2008!

 

February 25, 2008

Âre

Now we knew entering in the last phase of the qualifiers in
Scandinavia and France that we would have even bigger crowds trying to qualify
for the final in Val Thorens. But apparently, The North Face Ski Challenge, a combined event in freeride and freestyle
dedicated to young freeskiers aged 12 to 18 had already attracted some
attention in the country of the mighty vikings!

It all started when we arrived in Âre and turned on the
local TV. Last year’s final in Val Thorens was on and every 20 minutes, the
moderator on the local TV explained the whole idea of the event encouraged
locals and skiers on vacation on site to come and participate. The next day, we
entered the Stadium shop in the center of town and 8 kids were waiting
for us. And more came during the whole
evening!

“What if I crash ? How many runs do we have ? Can we take two pairs of
skis?” And so on and so on. Three hours later and after having answered probably
to 300 questions, the result exceeded our expectations: 42 boys and 3 girls
would participate the next day in the event. A record for us, especially since
we had decided last summer to only accept 40 kids in each event by lack of
time.

Then next day (Saturday) the weather decided to remind us
that we indeed were in
Sweden:
gusty winds, heavy snow falls and clouds were our menu for the day. And you
know it’s going to be tough when you need to put your googles on just to walk
to your car!

Arriving at the meeting point, a huge chalet on the slopes,
it got even worse. But nothing scares off a Viking as Robert and Pär, the local
event managers reassured us: “ We have trees pretty much everywhere: the wind
won’t be a problem. And at 10 AM, the weather is supposed to get better”. They
were right about the first part. As for the second part; well, let’s say that
if we didn’t like the weather, we only had to wait 10 minutes to see it change!

The freeride was held on “Slalombacken” (the slalom slope) where the
Alpine World Championships were held last year, totally snowed in and totally
unprepared. Romain, our tour manager commented: “ Now we’re going to know who
can really ski…” The two runs took some time and the best skiers stood out.
Among them, a young talent (Erik Nordin) impressed the judges by his telemark
technique. He finished 4h and gained his ticket to the final. Another rider who
placed 9th (Carl Regnér) was one of my personal picks of the day and after a
discussion with the judges, I decided that he would also join the field of
qualified riders to come to Val Thorens by profiting from a wild card.

The freestyle was held in the park line that could still be used and
wasn’t snowed in. And then the show was really impressive. The level of jibbing
in Sweden
is simply comparable to its
international stars Jon Olsson, Henrik Windstedt and more… Simply the best we’ve seen so far
this year! Corkscrew 720, Rodeos 900, fakie tricks, grabs of all kinds, etc,
etc… A real delight for the fans that we are ! A special thanks too to the
Norwegians that came to the event ! Please train hard and come back for more
next year!

But chosing is always hard… And the judges Staffan and Johan, local
skiers who themselves organize and participate in back country jibbing events
chose the following list of riders to come and participate in the final in Val Thorens in April.

 

 

March 3, 2008

Ruka

The North Face Ski Challenge Tour Breaks Ice in Ruka, Finland!

Last stage before coming back to the Alps, Ruka in Finland is more than a special place. It’s an experience to live at least once in one’s life. Actually, most people that have once experienced the Arctic and Lappland come back…
After yet another 1200kms driven through Swedish (almost) endless forests, after having crossed yet another boarder, we arrived in Ruka and enjoyed the quietness, the cold and the northern lights that periodically light up in the Finnish skies. There we met a team of people dedicated to helping us ( thanks Noora and Synkkä !) and make of that awaited stage a special event.

AJ Kemppainen, last year’s winner in the Kings category had just arrived from Japan and volunteered to judge the event along with Petteri Liikainen, a local pro.

With -25°C in the back side of Ruka this morning, it wasn’t hard to motivate the kids to come and participate in the morning briefing inside the warm chalet that served a event base ! 42 riders, all Finns in a small lodge, along with parents rapidly heated up the air and questions such as “ what happens if we qualify ?” were risen. It was a like they already knew that, impressed by their talents the judges would qualify at least as many as last week in Sweden…And indeed, impressed they were!

We had decided to reverse the program ( freestyle first and freeride later) as Ruka wanted to totally close the park for The North Face Ski Challenge in the morning. With temperatures still well under -17°C, the riders at the start looked like if they were getting ready for an alpine race, stretching and warming up methodically to not get injured. A good lesson to learn for all riders!

And then the show started ! Jump after jump, landing after landing, we discovered real talents ! You could hear Romain -our tour manager- with William -our starter- discuss about the jumps and riders on the radio. And the judges had exactly the same conversations every time, rider after rider. AJ Kemppainen on his fellow countrymen: “ So many good riders… It’ll be hard to choose !”

After a third run in freestyle, we headed to the surprise area chosen for freeride. New snow had come during the week and the descent chosen offered varied terrain and a wide choice of short lines. And again, most of the skiers that stood out in the morning confirmed all the good we thought about them in the second event. A quick warm up / judges meeting later, we agreed on the list of the riders to qualify to the Val Thorens final ( see list below). The flying Finns are coming…

The North Face Ski Challenge Tour heads back down to France and will hold its last qualifying event in Chamonix on March 12th on the famous Grands Montets.

 

 

March 13, 2008

Chamonix

The North Face Ski Challenge Chamonix stage was cancelled yesterday on March 12th due to a snow storm and gusty winds that wouldn't have allowed a fair competition between the 34 riders present there. Romain Raisson, Ski Challenge Tour Manager: " We decided along with judges Aurélien Ducroz and Jason Shutt to cancel the stage here in Chamonix since winds, heavy snow pack and a snowed in park were the conditions we had today. We cannot postpone the event since Wednesday in France is a half free school day for most kids. And unfortunatly the next local vacation will start the day before The North Face Ski Challenge final in Val Thorens on April 12th-13th. Chamonix also has a full schedule of events in March and we can only say that we'll be back next year ! We want to thank the Compagnie du Mont Blanc, Michel Royboz, and his team for their warm welcome !"

But the kids weren't disappointed too much: the organizers decided to give wild cards to most of the participants present there along with numerous prizes and work hand in hand with the coaches to bring to Val Thorens the cream of the young crop to find out who the best future skiers are!

The North Face Ski Challenge now enters its final phase with the next event being the final in Val Thorens. The list of qualified riders will be published next week, along with a riders' guide to the final in Val Thorens. The event will be made for young riders, with different workshops including for instance a Recco avalanche rescue information event or a workshop animated by a major ski magazine chief editor and a pro rider on how to work with the ski press, etc…

So a month full of news for The North Face Ski Challenge Tour final in Val Thorens !

 

 

April 11, 2008

Val Thorens – Great Snow Await Europe’s Top Riders at The North Face® Ski Challenge

The excitement mounts. Only a few days remain before France’s Val Thorens welcomes the best young skiers in Europe for one of the most unique contests in the world. “Our goal,” says event director JP Baralo, “has always been to encourage young skiers to showcase their overall skills. The North Face Ski Challenge is the only event in the world right now that combines both freeride and freestyle elements. That’s why we’re confident that the winners of this contest will be complete skiers.”

And with winter refusing to leave this high Tarentaise resort, conditions couldn’t be better to highlight the skiing skills of these junior athletes. “It’s pretty exciting,” says event manager Romain Raison. “This winter we managed to hold contests throughout Europe – from England to Finland, by way of Italy, Germany, Sweden, France and Holland. And the level of skiing we encountered at every stop of the Tour was truly impressive. Now the season’s winners are going to gather in Val Thorens this coming weekend for the final event of the year. And the snow cover couldn’t be better. I can’t wait to see who comes out on top!”

Already in its second year, The North Face Ski Challenge Tour is quickly becoming a must-do event for skiers 18 years of age and under – particularly if they’re serious about eventually embarking on a professional career. “It’s an incredible contest,” says last year’s winner, A.J. Kempapainen of Finland. “And it’s super fun to get together with such a wide range of skiers. But more importantly, The North Face Ski Challenge taught me how much more I had to work on my skiing.  I thought I was pretty good before coming to Val Thorens last year. But I soon realized how much more there was to being a modern pro athlete. I can say honestly that I am now a much better skier because of that event.”

And his words have been echoed by young skiers and coaches everywhere.

“It’s pretty simple,” explains Baralo. “With the growth of park skiing becoming such a big part of the global youth movement, we began noticing that some of these young athletes were not mastering the skiing basics. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a great park skier. But the mountain offers far more challenges than just being able to ride switch or pulling a grab on a 1080. We want to encourage kids around the world to explore the many dimensions of the skiing experience. With The North Face Ski Challenge Tour, young riders around Europe can now show us exactly what they can do.”

It would be hard to find a better venue for this event than Val Thorens. The highest resort in Europe – and featuring a ski domain that many people consider to be the jewel of the Trois Vallees – Val Thorens is above all a skier’s place. “It really fits with our philosophy here,” says Floriane Meheut of the Tourism Office. “We’ve always been popular with young riders. The North Face Ski Challenge simply highlights that relationship. I’m quite confident this is going to be a wonderful weekend of competition!”

by Michel Beaudry

 

 

April 15, 2008

The North Face® Ski Challenge Celebrates a Great Weekend of International Competition in Val Thorens, France.

Sunday, April 12, 2008.

Young riders from France, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Finland and Slovakia score podium finishes in unique freeride/freestyle contest.

First it snowed. Then it got cloudy. Then it snowed some more. By the first day of The North Face® Ski Challenge in this high Tarentaise resort, the top young skiers from around the continent were showcasing their freeriding skills in winter-deep snow. Alas, the lack of visibility made it impossible for the panel of internationally renowned judges to properly perform their work on the first contest of the weekend.

“The most important thing for us,” said event manager Romain Raisson on Saturday afternooon,” is that the event is run in safe – and fair – conditions. Today we had planned to run the freeride event on the Portette Rouge face. But with the low cloud conditions and heavy snowfall, we decided to postpone the event until the weather improves.”

His words were echoed by perennial freeride champion, Aurélien Ducroz. “This event is all about learning mountain skills too. And knowing when to cancel an event – or even when to decide to abort a descent – well, that’s a huge part of a big-mountain freerider’s toolbox.”

The longtime The North Face® Team rider backed up his words with an avalanche transceiver exercise on the mountain while the young athletes awaited their fate near the start zone of the freeride run. “I’m really glad to see how Aurélien took the initiative to get these skiers involved in knowing more about mountain skills,” says veteran Chamonix coach Greg Liscot, as a handful of riders tramped through the snow searching for a buried pack (with transceiver enclosed). “The more these kids know how to behave safely in the mountains,” Liscot added, “the more fun they’re going to have.”

Later that evening, guests of The North Face® Ski Challenge were treated to a feast of paella and roast chicken – and a slate of events ranging from a discussion on rider/sponsor relations to mountain safety tips – and even a bowling session at the local lanes. Meanwhile, organizers nervously checked the weather to see what the next day might hold in store.

“We have no choice,” said the founder of the event, JP Baralo. “No matter how difficult it’s going to be, we’re committed to running both events on Sunday. I think our on-hill crew can handle the logistic. And with the cooperation we’ve gotten to date from Val Thorens, I’m quite confident we can pull this off.” He smiled, with just a hint of the fatigue and stress he was feeling at the moment. “Now, all we need is the sky to clear…”

He need not have worried. “I peeked out the window first thing Sunday morning,” said Dynastar Team Manager, Yo Boutin, who was scouting the event for new talent. “And I couldn’t believe it. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Blue from horizon to horizon. I knew right away that we’d get a great show today.”

And he wasn’t exaggerating.

But it wasn’t a slam-dunk – at least not yet. With two profoundly different events to run in the same day –and with 150 descents to judge! — JP Baralo’s team had a huge challenge ahead of them. Nothing could go wrong. Athletes and coaches would have to cooperate. Judges would need to be quick and precise with their assessment. The weather would need to remain stable. And everyone on the event management team would have to raise their game to assure that the freestyle contest was concluded before the pisteurs closed the hill at 5:00.

It was a case of holding an event “against all odds”. And in such a high-mountain environment as Val Thorens, few gamblers would have risked taking that bet. Yet at the stroke of 10:00, the first skier dropped down the face of Portette Rouge in knee-deep powder under alpine-blue skies to inaugurate the Freeride segment of the day. And everyone assembled around the finish area could feel that this thing was going to work after all…

“This is what this event is supposed to be all about,” said a beaming Patrik Frisk, VP/General Manager – The North Face® EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa). “It’s no secret that our company is committed to promoting mountain sports at all levels. But we feel this event is particularly important. For it addresses the future of our business in a number of profound ways. If we are all to survive and thrive into the 21st century, we must assure that the youth of today become mountain enthusiasts for life!”

He smiled, as he looked around at all the healthy young faces around him. “An event like The North Face® Ski Challenge is a truly revolutionary way of addressing these issues. For by combining two such apparently disparate events as freeride and freestyle, we are introducing a new way for kids to view skiing. And only good things could come from such a change in perception.”

Because of the time constraints, the Freeride segment of The North Face® Ski Challenge was not as long or as demanding as some of the judges might have preferred. But given the conditions that presented themselves on Sunday– and the will of the athletes to raise the performance bar and show spectators how committed they were to contest – the overall results were more than satisfying.

On standout in this first phase of the contest, was a 17-year old girl from Chamonix who charged the steepest part of the face with confidence and determination that earned her admiration and cheers from the crowd – and a slate of marks from the judges that would have placed her rather well in the men’s category. “It was really a fun run,” said the always-smiling Jessica Muniesa, who took the lead among the women. “I’d discussed the line in detail with my coach. And I felt pretty confident that I could handle the terrain well. It couldn’t have gone much better…”

On the men’s side, the freeride event illustrated well the disparity between ‘pure’ freestylers and ‘pure’ freeriders – even at this age! For while the highly touted Finnish park gymnasts really found the going tough on the steep powder pitch on which they found themselves that morning, others like the French, the Austrians and the Swiss put on a great show of modern freeskiing.

When all the powder had settled, Sweden’s Tom-Oliver Hedvall held top spot among the Kings group (under 18’s). Jordan Bricheux of France led the way in the teen category while among the kids’ group, it was another Swede, Lukas Högland, who was judged top freerider.

But all that could soon change.

The hard work done in the terrain park during the week by the Val Thorens and The North Face® Ski Challenge crews, presented a competition site that has few equals in Europe. And with the sun shining bright and the skies remaining clear, athletes were keen to show the judges what they could do.

Within an hour of the completion of the freeride segment of the day, riders were already lining up in the start gate for their first (and final) freestyle run of the contest.

“These kids can jump,” marvelled Dynastar Team standout, Antoine Diet, who was acting as a judge’s consultant. “They are really putting it all on the line for us today.” And while the strong afternoon sun softened up the approaches a little and caused some riders to lose speed a critical moments, others managed to do just fine.

Among the women competitors, it was wild card entry, Suzanna Stromkova of Slovakia who put her gymnasts’ skills to the fore to take a commanding lead in the freestyle. Though her points in the park roughly corresponded to the points of French skier Jessica Muniesa on the powder face, Stromkova’s overall strength easily overwhelmed Muniesa’s limited park skills. Third place overall went to Malou Peterson of Sweden…

In the kids’ (12-13) category, it was a young telemarker from Sweden by the name of Erik Nordin who wowed the crowd in the park with clean jumps and big airs to claim top marks in the park. Combined with a competent freeride run, it was good enough to give him the title. “I was pretty happy with the way I skied today,” said the promising young freeheeler. “But I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would win here. This is crazy cool!”

The competition got really tight among the teens (14-15). And it was their performances in the park that allowed the top skiers to dominate the overall. France’s Max Fornier didn’t win the freestyle segment, but he was close. That mark, totalled with a very decent Freeride mark allowed him to sneak by second place finisher Robin Sabitoni of France. In third was the day’s top freestyle performer, Morten Grape of Sweden who recorded a less than stellar freeride run. “I wish I could have done better in the freeride segment,” he said. “But overall, I’m really happy to have participated in the event. I can’t wait for next year…”

With a two-year sponsorship agreement with The North Face® and Dynastar & Lange at play for the skiers in the Kings Category (16-18), things got hot and heavy in the terrain park. Top performer in the final program was Finn Roppe Leppänen. But his very modest effort on the mountain face pushed him back to third overall. A much more balanced program was presented by Tom-Oliver Hedvall, who took his lead into the terrain park, jumped solidly (if not spectacularly) to give him a slight lead over Julien Héricher, another Chamonix skier who used the same tactics to reach the second step of the podium.

“I can’t believe this is happening to me,” said the slightly dazed Hedvall, after hearing the final result. “This is like the most magical dream come true. Everyone in our world imagines one day getting a pro contract with companies like The North Face® and Dynastar & Lange. But we all know that this only happens to the best of us. And only if you work very hard. I’m very excited to see what this is going to bring me over the next few years…”

As the sun began to set behind the Cime Caron and all the participants gathered together for one last “team” photo, it was amply evident from the smiling faces and sun-kissed cheeks that The North Face® Ski Challenge in Val Thorens had achieved all of its objectives – and raised the bar for next year.

“I’m still a little bit in shock,” said a very happy JP Baralo. “I always knew we had a good team here this week. But they really raised their game today. I’m quite confident in saying that no other organization has ever accomplished this kind of a combined event in one day – and especially not with kids. I think, more than anything that today positions The North Face Ski Challenge as one of the most progressive kids’ events on the planet. I can’t wait until next year.”

by Michel Beaudry

 

 

December 10, 2008

Getting Started…

Organizing an event isn't really easy in fact. For the riders that show up to the event, the months in which we now are, can mean two things:
either everything is ready since the prep work started early or nothing is ready and the prep work hasn't been done…

People have asked me what I did last summer. Sure there was the beach and the time off. But the preparation of this year's edition of The North Face® Ski Challenge presented by Gore-Tex started pretty much the day after the final on April 14th. I had to go to Switzerland, to Slovakia, Sweden, Germany twice, Chamonix, have staff meetings, sponsor meetings, etc…

Our event has become what we hoped it would: a stage for young local riders to participate and show the world what they can do, a type of decent Ski American Idol or Ski Star Academy with snow instead of glitter and make up!

The circuit that everyone watches to see who's coming next. The circuit that has already "produced" AJ Kemppainen and which will help the world discover Tom Oliver Hedvall this season.

And soon maybe you?

 

 

February 2, 2009

Garmisch Partenkirchen, Feb 1rst, 2009



The North Face® Ski Challenge Presented by Gore-Tex Hits The Zugspitze and Steals The Show in Garmisch-Partenkirchen ! Nine Young Freeskiers Qualified For Final in Val Thorens.

The North Face® Ski Challenge presented by Gore-Tex made its second appearance this year on the top of Germany , on the famous Zugspitze and noticed a remarkable increase in the level of the competitors this year on the top of Germany. 41 riders gathered on Germany’s highest ski arena to compete in both freestyle and freeride for two days and in almost ideal conditions.

Romain Raisson, Event Manager: “ The park was perfect and well shaped, the temperature surprised us and with virtually no wind , the riders could throw all the jumps they had in store ! And today, for the freeride, it got a bit colder but it didn’t disturb the competition. We saw great skiing and we’re eager to see what the qualified riders will do in the finals !” And indeed, great skiing to watch was on the agenda of the week end with participants coming from Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Czech Republic, Austria and Italy!

Kings And Looking For More!

This year’s demonstration of the young skiers present at the event showed that they had trained. “ I don’t ski often in freeride” admitted Kings (16-18 years old) winner Johannes Drexl, from Germany” but now I’m going to train for the final in Val Thorens”. Second in the Kings category was Dries Lemmens from Belgium who has won the Landgraaf stage last year and participated in his third Ski Challenge event. “ It’s always good to come back and I’m so happy that I qualified again ! I can’t wait until I get to the Alps again !” he said.

Family Business

In the Teens (14-15 years of age) category, the competition was dominated by Tobias Mangold, from Germany who inspired his brother Lucas to win the Kids (12-13 years of age) category too ! “ I guess our parents now have to come with us to the final” they both commented ! They demonstrated that they not only knew their mountain but also true dedication to becoming complete overall freeskiers.

Young Talent Revealed

In the Queens category ( girls 12-18) , we discovered a true overall talent, Arianna Tricomi from Italy who skied as well in freeride as she did the first day in freestyle, demonstrating her skills in the park. She’ll definitely be one of the skiers to follow in the finals this year and aspires to get to the next level in her skiing career.

Join Now!

The North Face® Ski Challenge presented by Gore-tex now heads up north to Ruka, Finland next week end (Feb 7-8) and Âre, Sweden the week after (Feb 14-15) before coming back to Chamonix on Feb 28-Mar 1 and discover Jasna, Slovakia ( March 7-8). All qualified riders will then meet in Val Thorens, France on March 27-28 to determine who’ll win the ultilmate prize: a sponsoring contract with The North Face®, Dynastar and Lange and become a pro rider ! More info and applications online on www.thenorthface.com/skichallenge

 

 

February 10, 2009

Ruka, Finland, Feb 8th, 2009



Finnish Lapland Resort of Ruka Welcomes The North Face® Ski Challenge Presented by Gore-Tex® For The Second Time In The Country Of The Flying Finns !

The North Face® Ski Challenge presented by Gore-Tex continued its tour this year by going to Ruka, in the Finnish Lapland to once again admire freestyle skills of the Flying Finns. Chilly temperatures didn’t prevent 33 kids from throwing a major freestyle show and ski difficult blown snow in freeride.

If there’s a country were our eyes are always turned to the skies, it’s Finland. This year again, we were amazed at the freestyle skills participants demonstrated! Their jumps and tricks in the air attracted a fascinated crowd in spite of the polar temperatures. This year again, and even if the Finnish winter vacations hadn’t started yet, 33 kids travelled sometimes more than 1000 kilometers to Ruka to participate in this year’s edition of the Ski Challenge.

And temperatures didn’t rise in spite of the hot freestyle show: Järi, our snowmobile driver in the park, said: “ It’s only -22°C but with the wind chill factor, it’s more like -50°C in fact !” And on the freeride day, it got even colder with wind chilled temperatures of -60°C !

Confirmation of mature talents.

Some of the young riders participating this year were already known to us and qualified again for the final in Val Thorens to be held at the end of March. Roppe Leppänen & Antijussi Heikkinen were two of the young skiers we knew would probably do well, as they demonstrated so much talent and skills last year. Roppe Leppännen: “ I clearly came here today to win and qualify for the final again. I was third last year in Val Thorens and when you see what happened to AJ Kemppainen, the first edition winner, it motivates you to come back and try to win”. For AJ Heikkinen, he has clearly come to qualify again and go back to the Alps.

Impossible to determine winner

If no girls showed up this year to participate, the Kings category was so competitive that the judges couldn’t determine who was the strongest skier between Roppe Leppänen and Aleksi Laitinen. Along with Ville Koskela and Juha Mourujärvi, who qualified in 3rd and 4th place, they will form a team that will come to the top of the Trois Vallées end of March with legitimate ambitions. Remains for them to train in more demanding snow conditions on steeper terrain to maybe win the ultimate prize: a sponsoring contract with The North Face®, Dynastar and Lange.

Record number of qualified riders!

The jury decided to qualify 11 young riders this year in Ruka, setting a new record for pre qualified riders of the event series. William Revenaz, our starter: “ The kids here are really above the field in freestyle. And given the mountain here, I can understand why. But they’ve also improved their skills in freeride. Young Anttijussi Heikkinen for instance, came to Val Thorens and discovered big mountain skiing there. This year, he won’t come back to discover only !”

The North Face® Ski Challenge presented by Gore-Tex now heads west to Âre next week end (Feb 14-15), located 1300 kms from Ruka. Then the young riders will come to Chamonix on Feb 28-Mar 1 before travelling to Jasna, Slovakia ( March 7-8).

All qualified riders will then meet in Val Thorens, France on March 27-28 to determine who’ll win the ultilmate prize: a sponsoring contract with The North Face®, Dynastar and Lange and become a pro rider! More info and applications online on www.thenorthface.com/skichallenge

 

 

February 16, 2009

Åre, Feb 15 th, 2009



Åre Welcomes The North Face® Ski Challenge Presented by Gore-Tex® For Second Time, Matches Record Number of Young Freeskiers Qualified For Final in Val Thorens !

The North Face® Ski Challenge presented by Gore-Tex made its second appearance in almost ideal conditions in the famous Swedish resort of Åre. Wonderful park preparation and great freeride snow conditions helped the qualifying stage become probably the best ever since the tour began last year ! Eleven young Swedish riders qualified and will compete in the final to maybe win the ultimate prize: a sponsoring contract and get help to become a pro rider and change ski lives !

In its third year, the Ski Challenge is still finding new talents accross Europe. 47 riders gathered in Åre to participate in this year’s stage of The North Face® Ski Challenge by Gore-Tex. And although a rather large participation wasn’t a surprise to us, the kids’ determination was. Some had travelled all the way from places more than six hundred kilometers away from the Swedish resort located an hour west of Östersund. And in their eyes, as we ran through their applications in the local Stadium store on Åretorget, you could see that they had come back to try to win and qualify for the final in Val Thorens.

Bräcken Park Forever !

This year again, Åre & Skistar helped us put up a show really didn’t look like a series made for young talents only, but rather a contest for pros and experienced riders. Many spectators stopped in the black line of the Bräcken Park and watched the kids throw huge tricks. From Corkscrew 900 to Alley Hoops, Misty 720 and more, you had both variety and quality ! The young skiers profited from incredible park preparation and varied modules adapted to different levels. The whole field could compete in ideal conditions !

Judges Tom Oliver Hedvall and Tommy Eliasson were impressed: “ It’s a bit hard for me to judge my own friends “ Hedvall commented “ but in the end, they would do the same for me if I was still of age to compete. And this victory last year had changed my ski life so much that I really want to help qualify people that will stand a chance in the final !”

A total of 4 runs were taken, one of the Red Line (a slightly easier jump line), two in the Black Line (experts only! ) and one in the huge rail section of the park.

Tired and cold, riders went home to rest and wait for the weather to hopefully clear up and the wind to stop.

Incredible Weather Allows Incredible Freeride Day!

The freeride day started under the most wonderful of blue skies, with virtually no wind. And the freeride area selected was so wide that the lines were both diverse and numerous enough to allow the whole field of skiers to express itself both in style and diversity.

Equipped with ARVA transmitters, shovels, probes and backpacks, the participants met on the top of Åre to enjoy an incredible scenery of the valley thousand meters below.

As usual, no inspection was allowed and riders had time during their first run to choose their own itinerary and test new ones during the second.

Judge Matteo Vettorel, The North Face® Team manager commented: “ the sky is blue, the riders are really good and you can see that they have trained in all snow conditions since last year’s event. Not surprising, of course but very encouraging for the event !”

Former Winners and New Blood !

Morten Grape in the Kings’ category was the big winner, repeating his victory from last year in the teens. But competition was both strong and numerous as Max Hedvall in the teens demonstrated incredible maturity and is now dreaming of following the steps of his bigger brother Tom Oliver and maybe become a sponsored athlete !

Join Now !

The North Face® Ski Challenge presented by Gore-Tex is now heading south back to the Alps, to Chamonix on Feb 28-Mar 1 and will travel east to discover Jasna, Slovakia ( March 7-8). All qualified riders will then meet in Val Thorens, France on March 27-28 to determine who’ll win the ultilmate prize: a sponsoring contract with The North Face®, Dynastar and Lange and become a pro rider! More info and applications online on www.thenorthface.com/skichallenge

 

 

March 2, 2009

Chamonix, March 1rst, 2009



The North Face® Ski Challenge presented by Gore-Tex was on the mountain slopes of the Grands Montets, in Argentière, over the Chamonix valley. And this week end , Europe’s premier contest for young freeskiers enjoyed a record crowd of 63 young freeskiers participating. Twenty one additional qualified boys and girls will compete in the final in to maybe a sponsoring contract and get help to become pro riders and change their ski lives !

The event was back in the famous valley of Chamonix and enjoyed in this region a popularity that sees French, Swiss, English and Belgian riders come to participate in the event. On the hills of the Grands Montets, the event had two wonderful and full of action days.

Plan Joran & Breakfast For All !

The Compagnie du Mont Blanc helped us prepare the park, Dynastar in its test center invited us for breakfast on the Plan Joran plateau. Early start, early inspection in the shadow of the world mountains of Chamonix and at around 10:30 the event started. The park in Chamonix is split in two separate parts and the jury decided to take one run in the upper section of the park, designed for less experienced riders and two runs in the lower part, with bigger jumps.

Amazing Spring-like Weather And Air, Air and More Air!

The shining sun left us with tan faces and the feeling that the best was yet to come after each rider coming down the park. Corkscrew 720s, 900s, 1080s, you could name it: it was on display in the action the participants threw during the competition. Judges Michel Beaudry and Quentin Mermet were quite impressed and sometimes, a bit scared « it seems to us that the kids often want to impress the judges with tricks they don’t completely master and control. We think they need to rethink their strategies !» And indeed we saw a crowd of skiers so eager to do well that their landings were often approximative, if not sketchy… The bruises were in the end very few, but we felt we had seen a lot of dare devil action and only a few riders with a real plan.

White Out in Freeride

The freeride was going to change that since the weather didn’t allow a good visibility on the steep, bumpy part of the ski area we had selected. « It hasn’t snowed for a week and since it’s winter vacation time this week, the crowd skies everywhere and it’s all tracked out « Romain Raisson said. Because of the pooor visibility, organizers hesitated to do a second run and the decision was finally made to run twice the same course but start a bit lower for the second run. Almots everyone seemed this time to have a plan and if some grades obtained during the freestyle were only confirmed, some were improved. And in the Kings’ category, a newcomer Thimothée Picq qualified in first place and rejoiced: « I’m going to train during this coming month for the final. I could definitely use the gear should I win the contest…But also now, after this victory, I want to win again !»

Join Now !

The North Face® Ski Challenge presented by Gore-Tex is now heading east to discover Jasna, Slovakia ( March 7-8). All qualified riders will then meet in Val Thorens, France on March 27-28 to determine who’ll win the ultimate prize: a sponsoring contract with The North Face®, Dynastar and Lange and become a pro rider! More info and applications online on www.thenorthface.com/skichallenge

 

 

March 9, 2009

Jasna, Slovakia, March 7th, 2009



The North Face® Ski Challenge presented by Gore-Tex headed east towards Jasna, Slovakia this week end. The event confronted the worst weather conditions of the year in the Low Tatras: heavy rain, gusty winds, heavy snow and virtually no visibility until contest day. Six additional qualified boys and girls will complete the filed of young riders in the final in Val Thorens to win a sponsoring contract and get help to become pro riders.

Europe’s premier event for young freeskiers in search of support to become pro riders headed east for the last qualifier of the season. Tailed by mild south Atlantic winds, we drove through Austria looking at the temperatures rise until we reached Bratislava. And when we reached Jasna, rain had replaced snow. Three days later, after having been washed preparing the event, we met twenty riders that had found their way to the biggest ski resort in Slovakia .Their enthusiasm was obvious, in spite of the weather conditions and after a delayed start, the skies cleared enough for the event to start.

Visibility…

The mountain was covered with clouds that reminded Michel Beaudry – our head judge- of his home resort of Whistler. « I cant believe how much it looks like British Columbia here ! Even the weather and humidity remind me of it ». Visibility didn’t allow an early start, so riders had time to go up the mountain and try the park. At 11 AM, clouds lifted and allowed jumps to be tested without too many risks. Judges took their posts, riders put their bibs on and the show began.

Park, Rails and… Hikes

The upper part of the park still in the clouds, judges posted themselves on different jumps and communicated by radio to compare their judgements and inform each other on jumps and tricks made by the riders. We managed to take two runs on jumps in spite of the long rotations by chairlift. The lower park of the park equipped with numerous rails, the riders were able to ski twice through it, but had to hike up back to the start to reduce rotations.

Limited Freeride

The freeride was reduced to its simplest expression: the slope was steep, unprepared and extremely slushy… Everything we needed to evaluate the level of the riders on ungroomed terrain. Once again, we noticed that if some riders spend a lot of time in the air, they lacked some basics in freeski and this would probably handicap them in the finals.
JP Baralo , creator of the event talking to Suzana Stromkova, winner of the Queens category and overall tour winner last year: « You are really talented in freestyle but are too limited in freeride to one day throw big jumps in the outback, for instance. Think about that and spend some time training also in all conditions, and even on the slope on harder snow. You’ll gain so much from it and will be able to profit from all the mountain!»
On the Kings side, winner Richard Jurecka was asked if he could participate to the finals in Val Thorens and openly answered: « I really don’t know: my Mom is very angry with me regarding school… I hope !»

Time For The Finals March 27-29!

The North Face® Ski Challenge presented by Gore-Tex is now heading home to Val Thorens, France, in the resort that has welcomed us ever since the first edition in 2006. Check www.thenorthface.com/skichallenge to keep in touch with the event’s news and the qualified riders!

 

 

March 30, 2009

Val Thorens, France, March 27th, 2009



FRENCH RIDERS DOMINATE DURING FREERIDE SEGMENT OF THE NORTH FACE SKI CHALLENGE

The snow fell. The weather cooperated. And some of Europe’s top young freeriders got to show their stuff today on the steep, demanding slopes of the Glaciers de Thorens.

It was the opening event in the third running of the North Face Ski Challenge presented by Gore-Tex, and according to event director, Romain Raisson, it was a true test of the skiers’ big-mountain talents. “I’m really happy with the way things turned out today,” said Raisson. “This was a real freeride contest. The venue was excellent – tough and unforgiving, but still safe. More importantly, the athletes who came to compete today skied smart. We really got to see who could manage steep terrain and who couldn’t. I can’t wait to see what happens in the freestyle segment now…”

In the women’s event, the Queens, French skier Samantha Bernos of the Young Riders Crew showed why she’s considered such a promising freeride prospect on the world tour. Showing a level of mountain maturity well beyond her eighteen years, the Chamonix-based skier ripped through some of the toughest terrain in the venue with ease. “What I was most happy with,” said her coach Greg Liscot, “was the way she stuck her landings. We’ve been working on that all winter. Today, she reached a new level in her skiing.” Her mark of 33.6 was a full eight points ahead of her nearest rival, second place finisher Ariana Tricomi of Italy. Still, young Tricomi was able to impress the crowd with a scintillating telemark run that saw her choose a very technical line and ski it beautifully. “Very impressive,” said judge Matteo Vettorel. “She showed a lot of determination out there.” The Italian skier was followed by Young Riders Crew team member Elise Lecluse, who finished the day in third place.

In the Kids category (12-13 years old), it was YRC rider Rafael Muniesa who took top honours. “His line choice wasn’t all that great,” commented coach Liscot (who’s known to be tough on his charges). “That said, I thought he managed his run really well. I think he showed some pretty high-level skiing skills up there today.” Close behind him in second place, was Slovakian sensation Pavol Kuric. Only nine years old, and still reeling from his 1500 kilometre road trip to Val Thorens, the young skier showed some big mountain moves that many a 20 year old would like to master. “I’m just happy to be competing here this weekend,” said Kuric. “I’m tired. But I’m still having a great time.” Third place in the kid’s freeride event went to Finnish skier Anttu Oikkonen.

The Teens category (14-15 year-olds) was a hard fought battle. But when the powder snow had cleared, it was French skier Jules Mandin who led the standings. “I really didn’t expect such good skiing out of him today,” said Chattel coach Yannick Ceria. “When we did inspection this morning I showed my team all the lines that I thought they could take. But it was up to each of them to decide how they wanted to manage their own race. Jules really went for it! He certainly impressed me.” Close behind Mandin, in second place, was Maxime Gisin of Les Menuires who rode solidly all day. Quentin Glath of Val Thorens was third.

The Kings’ category (16-18), always an entertaining group to watch, did not disappoint. Raphael Vouillamoz of Chamonix, pulled of a near-flawless second run to just sneak past Swedish ace Niklas Granlund, less than .6 of a point behind! Raphael’s good buddy, Timothée Pick, also of Chamonix, came back from an impressive crash in his first run to score the third best mark of the day.

“I think we reached a whole new level of competition today,” says event founder JP Baralo. “The North Face Ski Challenge will never be the same again. Why? Because I saw young freeriders do things on the mountain today that I really didn’t believe was possible. They blew my mind!”

By Michel Beaudry

 

 

March 31, 2009

Val Thorens, France, March 29th, 2009



NORTHERN FREESTYLERS SHINE ON FINAL DAY OF THE NORTH FACE SKI CHALLENGE

The good weather came back. The sun finally shone on the Val Thorens snowpark. And some of Europe’s most talented young freestylers got to show their moves on the last day of The North Face Ski Challenge Presented by Gore-Tex.

“As tough as yesterday’s conditions were,” said event founder JP Baralo. “As disappointed as we were not to be able to crown overall winners in the Teens and Kings, today’s freestyle contest showed just how high the skiing level is here this week. These guys rocked the park!”

Finish rider, Roope Leppänen was the big winner today, showing off stylish jumps, classy moves and serious amplitude. He was followed in the Kings division by his teammate Ville Koskala and Sweden’s Niklas Granlund. “I’m so stoked to be competing here,” said Grandlund (who was also a strong performer in the freeride portion of the event). “I had so much fun jumping in the park today. This whole event is so-o-o cool!”

In the Teens, it was Swedish rider Jesper Tjäder who carried the day with a score of 29 points. But his win was never assured. For close behind – less than a point away in the final compilation – were Perttu Hyvärinen and Antii Ollila, both of Finland. “It was a really close contest,” said judge and The North Face Team Manager Matteo Vettorel. “These young riders certainly put it out there today. Very impressive. It’s really too bad we couldn’t have finished off the event yesterday…”

Sunday’s storm was indeed frustrating for all concerned. While the judges were able to evaluate one slopestyle run in the park for the Queens and Kids — and thus ensure an overall winner in these categories — the inclement weather refused to let up in the afternoon and the older athletes were forced to sit on the sidelines and watch. “It was so close,” explained Baralo about the decision to award separate freeride and freestyle titles to the Teens and Kings. “But in the end, with some of the top overall contenders having to leave the resort to go back to school, we decided it wouldn’t be fair to carry over the contest to today.”

Instead, top Freeride Teen, Jules Mandin of France was honoured for his scintillating run last Friday. His French teammates, Maxence Gisin and Quentin Glath -both locals from Val Thorens- were also recognized for their second and third place performances on the demanding Glacier de Thorens. “I really had fun on my freeride run,” said Mandin. “It was a great venue for this kind of event. It really encouraged us to show the judges what we can do…”

In the Kings, it was French rider Raphael Vouillamoz, who took top freeride honours. In second place was Swedish all-rounder Niklas Grandlund and third was taken by mop-haired Timothée Picq, also of France. “This is truly a fun event to compete in,” said Picq. “I feel like I learned a lot here this weekend.”

As was already mentioned, the bad weather held off long enough on Sunday for the overall title to be at least decided in both the Kids’ and Queens’ categories. And while mountain conditions were far from at their best, the guys and gals who went out there and jumped showed just how motivated they really were. “It was far from easy,” said the 13-year old Kids’ winner, German rider Lucas Mangold. “But I’m really happy about winning this event. I’m proud of being crowned the overall winner today.”

Second place finisher in the Kids’ overall was Sweden’s Toby Jenssen. In third was nine-year old skiing sensation, Pavol Kuric of Slovakia. “Pavol was very disappointed with his skiing in the snowpark during the contest,” said his coach, Andrej Maslik. “There were a lot of tears. But it was also the first time in his life that he completed a 900. That brought lots of smiles. So I think, overall, he is really happy. We learned a lot this week.”

In the Queens’ category, the only female division contested in The North Face Ski Challenge, the riders were tested to their very limits. A combination of poor visibility and big jumps created difficult moments for the young women.

With a near-unbeatable lead in the freeride segment, France’s Samantha Bernos seemed to have the overall title in the bag. But nerves and bad decisions almost cost her the coveted title. “I skied so-o-o bad in the park,” she moaned after the day was over. “I don’t know what happened. It was just one of those things…” Still, she managed to hold off her rivals. But just. In second place was Ariana Tricomi of Italy, who had solid runs in both the freeride and freestyle segments. She was followed in third place by Bernos’ Chamonix teammate, Jessica Muniesa. “I wish I could have skied better this weekend,” said the 18-year old. “But still, I’m very happy to have made it to the podium today.”

As the riders prepared their bags and got ready to head home – with smiles on their faces and new friends’ names in their phone directories – event founder Baralo reflected back on the last three years. “It’s been quite a ride,” said the Val Thorens resident, “but now, I think we’re really beginning to show what great athletes these kids are. This week had its challenging moments. But then, that’s what competing in real mountains is all about. Sometimes the weather cooperates. Sometimes it doesn’t. What I’m most excited about are the positive attitudes we encountered among the riders this week. No matter how tough it got – no matter how much we asked of them – they were always ready to go. It was a real pleasure to host them on the mountain this year.”

By Michel Beaudry

 

 

November 2, 2009

Opens New Website for 2009-2010 Season

The North Face® Ski Challenge presented by GORE-TEX®, Europe’s premier ski event for young freeskiers, opens up a brand new website for the coming season. New functions will make the riders’ lives easier: applications, event information, videos, photos and a lot more !

Banner-Mailing-TOP_new-version

The North Face® Ski Challenge presented by GORE-TEX®, Europe’s premier
ski event for young freeskiers, opens up a brand new website for the coming
season. New functions will make the riders’ lives easier: applications, event
information, videos, photos and a lot more !

 

The North Face® Ski Challenge presented by GORE-TEX®
is growing and its new website reflects the event’s evolution and growth. New
functions and services have been added to improve ease of use for the riders.

 Applications, messages, latest news, services such as
riders’ messages to each other are now online on
www.thenorthfaceskichallenge.com

 Follow each event online.  Find and download videos or photos for each
stage. Find the immediate links to organize your trip to the qualifying events.
Relive your weekend of competition and share your results with friends and
family. Plan your trip to the next qualifying stage.  Get information about each event and
understand the rules. Follow the pre-qualified riders’ list. And much more! The
information available on
www.thenorthfaceskichallenge.comis made for riders by riders.

 

An Event
Near You

 

The North Face® Ski Challenge presented by GORE-TEX®
will travel across Europe and come to a location near you. If you don’t qualify
the first time, just go to the next stage and, hopefully, you’ll meet all your
pre-qualified friends in Val Thorens, France for the finals in March.

 

An Event
Dedicated To Young Freeskiers

 

Launched during the 2006-2007 winter season, The North
Face® Ski Challenge presented by GORE-TEX® grew over the last three years to
include a roving pan-European qualifying tour, concluding with event finals in
Val Thorens, France. Open to all European residents—both boys and girls—born
between 1989-1997, The North Face® Ski Challenge presented by GORE-TEX® is
arguably the most important competition for younger skiers hoping to break into
the circuit. The event promotes all mountain skiing, as each kid competes in
both big-mountain freeride and park & pipe freestyle contests. The event
also places increased emphasis on avalanche awareness and mountain safety.

 

The tour schedule is as follows:

 

National Qualifying Events

Ruka,
Finland Dec 20, 2009

Grasgehren-Obermaiselstein,
Germany Jan 23-24, 2010

Donovaly,
Slovakia, Jan 23-24, 2010

Ped Pod
Snežkoum Czech Republic Jan 30-31, 2010

 

International Qualifying Events

Flachauwinkl
(Austria) Jan 30-31, 2010

Hemsedal
(Norway) Feb 13-14, 2010

Åre
(Sweden) Feb 20-21, 2010

Chamonix
(France) Feb 27-28, 2010

Alagna (Italy) Mar 6-7, 2010


 

Final

Val Thorens ( France ) March 26-28,
2010

 

 

The North Face® supports big mountain sports around the world.

Follow our partner events on the snow around the world,
including The North Face® Ski Challenge in Europe, The North Face® South
American Freeskiing World Championship, and in the US both The Masters of Snowboarding
and  the Subaru Freeskiing World Tour.

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