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When you wake up to avalanche guns and bluebird skies, it’s tough to think about a safe ski competition. So the riders scheduled to huck their meat this week at the Swatch Skiers Cup, a big-mountain and backcountry slopestyle competition in Zermatt, Switzerland that pits a North American team against a European team, just had fun instead.
Eighteen of the best riders in the world, nine from Europe and nine from the U.S. and Canada, headed 12,000 feet up Zermatt to enjoy the shin-deep snow.
“I just ripped around with friends all morning,” says Cody Townsend, the American skier who took over the Internet this year when the video of him skiing an Alaskan line, known as “the Crack,” went viral. “Pow and jumping cliffs with friends, who are also some of the best skiers: so much fun.”
Of course there will be a competition, eventually, and the friendships will temporarily chill. That’s because there’s a lot on the line: $18,000 for the winning team, each team member’s name engraved on the base of a metal ski boot trophy, and, most importantly, continental bragging rights.
The Skiers Cup was founded five years ago by Swedish skiers, Sverre Liliequist and Kaj Zackrisson, who wanted to create a Riders Cup-like competition for skiers. The first two years the event took place in Valle Nevado, Chile, and then moved to Zermatt in 2013.
And the venue couldn’t be better. The skiers will compete on a large swath of backcountry—a 40-minute hike outside the resort—right at the base of the Matterhorn. The terrain is marked with several 20- to 50-foot cliff drops and organizers have built kickers where the skiers will be able to show off some of their best tricks.
The slate of skiers is impressive, too. The American team is captained by skiing legend Seth Morrison, and includes big names like Sage Cattabriga-Alosa, Dana Flahr, Townsend, and more. The European team is led by Julien Regnier, a former mogul skier on the French national team. That squad also includes Richard Permin, Sven Kueenle, Sam Favret, and more.
The events take place within a weather window. And they won’t happen Monday due to heavy cloud cover. Instead, the two teams will meet up shred together. The events won’t happen Tuesday either, because Monday night is Skiers Cup party, and, well, the athletes likely won’t be in shape to ski on Tuesday. But Wednesday is possible and Thursday’s weather is looking good.
Continue to check back in for interviews and updates on the events.
(Photos: Gordy Megroz)