25 Candles for 25 Years of the Verbier Xtreme

Last month, 25 freeride icons came together to illuminate the Bec des Rosses in Honor of the 25th Anniversary of the Verbier Xtreme.

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For a quarter of a century, the Verbier Xtreme competition has graced the slopes of Switzerland with the top freeride athletes from around the world. This legendary location has marked the grand finale of the Freeride World Tour (FWT) since it’s conception in 2008.

Unfortunately, like the FIS Alpine World Cup, the 2020 FWT Verbier Xtreme has been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, the FWT was able to celebrate this anniversary of the Verbier Xtreme with a dazzling light display of 25 candles illuminating the Bec des Rosses.

On February 20, 2020, stars filled the nighttime sky as 25 skiers, each who had an important role in creating the legend around this competition, hiked along the ridge and summit of the imposing Bec des Rosses with headlamps provided by Altis. Three skiers also descended the grand face with headlamps and a camera set at long exposure was able to capture it all.

Dominique Daher setting up for the iconic shot.
Daher lines up the shot. Photo credit: Freeride World Tour/ Nicolas Falquet

According to the FWT, primary photographer Dominique Daher, “who conscious of the importance of the moment, admitted to trembling slightly before pushing the shutter to release for the 6 minute exposure. He could not afford to miss this crucial shot.” 

The three freeriders daring enough to send Bec des Rosses with only a headlamp included Yann Rausis, a Verbier local and FWT rider since 2017; Jérémie Heitz, who has competed in the FWT for the past five seasons earning both a second and third place standing overall; and Xavier De Le Rue, perhaps one of the best freeride snowboarder on the planet. He has not only won the FWT three times, but also won the Verbier Xtreme three times.

From 17-year-old Victor Hale Woods to 72-year-old Jean Troillet, the flanks brought together freeriders of all ages. The 25 influential athletes that lined the ridge with candles that illuminated the Bec des Rosses were:

Athletes gathered at the Verbier Xtreme
The athletes gather to prepare for the ascent. Photo credit: Freeride world Tour/ Dominique Daher
  1. Isabelle De Lalène: Member of the organizational committee for the Verbier Xtreme in 1996 until 2011.
  2. Francine Janet-Moreillon: Member of the organizational committee for the first Verbier Xtreme: Francine was head of communication and then judge during 2 following editions of the Xtreme.
  3. Nicolas Hale-Woods: CEO of the FWT, co-founder of the Verbier Xtreme along with Philippe Buttet.
  4. Elisabeth Gerritzen: Winner of the 2019 Verbier Xtreme and FWT rider since 2017.
  5. Alain Guigoz: Member of the organizational committee for the first Verbier Xtreme and legal advisor for the FWT.
  6. Ueli Kestenholz: Rider in the 1st Verbier Xtreme and bronze medalist in Snowboard Giant Slalom in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano.
  7. Géraldine Fasnacht: 3x winner of the Verbier Xtreme 2002, 2003, 2009.
  8. Jean Troillet: Co-safety manager for the 1st Verbier Xtreme with Thierry Gasser. More than 10 summits of 8000m peaks including the 1st descent of Everest on a snowboard.
  9. Julien Hess: Member of the organizational committee from 2010-2020. General Manager of the FWT from 2016 – 2020. Co-founder of the Verbier E-Bike Festival.
  10. Victor Hale-Woods: Nicolas Hale-Woods son. Freeride Junior Tour (FJT) and Freeride Junior World Championships (FJWC) participant.
  11. Thibault Hale-Woods: Nicolas Hale-Woods son. Freeride Junior Tour (FJT) and Freeride Junior World Championships (FJWC) participant.
  12. Claude-Alain Gailland: Head mountain guide and head of safety for the Verbier Xtreme for 20 years as well as head mountain guide for several FWT competitions (Japan, Alaska, etc.)
  13. Hugo Dentan: Pierrick Dentan’s son and Freeride World Qualifier (FWQ) rider.
  14. Paul Dentan: Pierrick Dentan’s son and Freeride World Qualifier (FWQ) rider. Vice World Champion (2nd place in Men Ski) at the FJWC.
  15. Pierrick Dentan: Member of the organizational committee since the 1st Verbier Xtreme and weather coordinator for 22 years.
  16. Raphy Gillioz: 3rd place Ski men in the 2009 Verbier Xtreme. Mountain guide and patroller at Telenendaz.
  17. Julien Willenegger: Member of the safety team.
  18. Michel Marcon: Member of the safety team.
  19. Leo Slemett: 2017 Men’s Ski World Champion. Member of the Pro Freerider Board (PFB)
  20. Phil Meier: Rider during the Verbier Xtreme and first FWT competitions.
  21. Nicolas Pasquier: 3rd place in Ski men category in the 2007 Verbier Xtreme.
  22. Michel Voirol: Gilles Voirol’s father. Gilles finished 2nd place in the 1st Verbier Xtreme in 1996 and 3rd in 1997. Gilles died in Canada in 2002. The Verbier Xtreme trophy is named in his honor
  23. Ruth Leisibach: Quintuple winner of the Verbier Xtreme (2001, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008) and snowboard world champion in 2008
  24. Lars Langenskiöld: Former Marketing manager for Red Bull Switzerland, title sponsor for the 1st Verbier Xtreme.
  25. Yannick Ducrot: Member of the organisational committee since the 1st Freeride World Tour competition in 2008 / Head of operations.

Behind the Scenes: 25 Candles for 25 Years of the Verbier Xtreme 

The 25th anniversary cannot be fully celebrated without the 25th edition of the Verbier Xtreme, which is now cued for the 2021 season. Legends who have helped build the reputation of this comp over the years have already confirmed their presence, and if this delay tells us anything, it’s that next year could be one of the best ever.

Sunset in the Swiss Mountains
The sun sets before the crew’s ascent. Photo credit: Dominique Daher

Watch: Freeride World Tour FWT20 Season Highlights


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