Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In



The FWT Just Canceled its Finals Event in Verbier

This cancellation is not a postponement—no more FWT until the 2024 season begins.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Freeride fans: bad news, the Freeride World Tour recently announced the cancellation of the Xtreme Verbier, the finals event held in Switzerland that caps off the competition season. This cancellation is not a postponement—no more FWT until the 2024 season begins.

Unsafe snow conditions caused by recent snowfall led to the cancellation. On the morning of the competition day, the FWT sent their safety team to the venue to throw bombs and test stability. The assessment produced chilling results—multiple sections of the competition face, located on an imposing peak called the Bec de Rosses, avalanched. Images of the venue after avalanche control work show slide paths and dramatic feet-tall “crowns.” These natural signs indicated that skiers couldn’t safely ride the Bec.

Thus, after convening with the event series’ commissioner, head mountain guide, and general manager, FWT CEO Nicolas Hale-Woods called off the fight for the overall title. This is only the second time organizers have canceled the Xtreme Verbier since the founding of the FWT—the first time was in 2020 at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Despite this letdown, FWT organizers endeavored to neatly cap off the competition series by hosting an awards ceremony for participating athletes. This ceremony treated the previous FWT stop in Fieberbrunn as the season’s last event, tallying up riders’ points across the truncated competition season.

Austrian skier Valentin Rainer clinched the overall title on the men’s side.

“Unbelievable to win the title. I was prepared for a competition today, but Mother Nature was kind of on my side, I would say. I would have still wished to do a run here at Verbier, but we will next year! It was a really good season; everything from the first stop onwards was awesome – a dream season for sure,” he said.

Canadian Justine Dufour-Lapointe, who pivoted from competitive moguls to freeride skiing this season, won the women’s field.

“I am speechless. Honestly, I did not realize this would happen today, but now I am the world champion. I have been working so hard the last few months, but now I am feeling so proud of all the hard work and self-belief,” she said. “To finish the season with this title means the world to me. This was my dream coming into freeride, but I never thought it would be possible this fast.”
On the Instagram post announcing the cancellation, several skiers made their opinions heard, wondering why the FWT held most of their events this season in Europe, which often struggled with low snowfall and warmer temperatures. Europe’s less-than-ideal winter contrasts sharply against the killer conditions experienced throughout the American West.

“FWT should be a little less precious about the Bec and just move to a different venue or even a different resort for a final… Maybe leave europe out of it, North America been on a record year and the Tour don’t even go to usa these days. They should run the whole event there next year,” wrote one commenter.

“Is there a backup comp? Seems like there should be,” said another.

The FWT operates with a six-million-dollar budget each season. According to Hale-Woods, the FWT’s CEO, roughly half this budget emerges from partnerships with destinations like Verbier, Switzerland. Due to several factors, these European partners are more willing to support the Tour financially than those in North America, providing deals that maintain the event series’ financial viability.

“It’s pretty simple,” Hale-Woods explained. “The Freeride World Tour wouldn’t exist if we were only in North America.” For the Tour to include multiple destinations throughout North America, local resorts must match or exceed the partnership deals provided in Europe.

For instance, the seasonal partnerships associated with Kicking Horse, BC, the only North American FWT stop, provided considerably less than the European agreements. Between Destination BC and the town of Golden’s financial contributions, the FWT earned approximately $130,000 Canadian from Kicking Horse location partnerships. While nothing to scoff at, more than $130,000 Canadian is needed to cover the operating costs associated with a live-streamed freeride competition without additional support from European resorts.

“[The European destination partnerships] subsidize the events in North America,” said Hale-Woods.

These financial discussions fold into the question of backup plans: why didn’t the FWT move Xtreme Verbier to another nearby mountain with safer conditions?

While this might sound obvious, when the FWT accepts a check from a destination, they agree, at least in part, to host an event at said destination. Although Hale-Woods clarified that there’s some flexibility here, pointing out that postponed events can be held at upcoming venues.

In 2018, organizers canceled the FWT stop in Hakuba, Japan. To ensure that the season still had five stops, the FWT ran two rather than one events during the following week-long competition period in Kicking Horse. The first of these competitions, a make-up for the lost Japanese stop, was called “The FWT Hakuba Japan Staged in Kicking Horse, Golden, BC.”
But 2023’s Xtreme Verbier was the end of the road, with no upcoming venues, meaning hosting the competition during the next event’s weather window wasn’t an option. Similarly, few viable European freeride venues exist this late in the season.

What about waiting it out for another few weeks, though?

Money, once again, is part of the problem. For those unfamiliar: the FWT hosts competitions during pre-set weather windows. These periods generally run for about one week, allowing organizers to wait out poor weather so they can host events when conditions are safest. The FWT typically budgets for two competition “attempts,” meaning they can afford to try to get an event off twice during a weather window.

At this season’s Xtreme Verbier, the FWT had already tried to run the competition once on Saturday, March 25th. When the second attempt failed during the morning of the 28th, the FWT was out of options.

“Once we have an event after that cancellation, we try to do the second chance for the following events to do back-to-back events in that weather window to replace the previous one,” said Hale-Woods. “But that doesn’t work for the final in Verbier.”

Ultimately, a complete cancellation of an FWT event is rare and unfortunate. While organizers can often rely on scheduling footwork to sneak a competition through challenging weather and snow conditions, Mother Nature will eventually catch up. Add in budgetary constraints, and you have the perfect recipe for the occasional postponement or, in the case of this year’s Xtreme Verbier, cancelation.

“I’m not trying to say that we were great and that we couldn’t do better… But snow needs to arrive, the weather needs to arrive, and they need to be reckoned with… It’s quite the exercise,” said Hale-Woods, noting that freeride competitions will always be a delicate waltz between humans and mountains.