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Dealing with tricky refrozen snow conditions, the athletes of the 2021 Freeride World Tour (FWT21) showed off a variety of skillsets throughout the day during the first competition of the season at Ordino Arcalìs, Andorra. But Norwegian Hedvig Wessel set the tone for all of the skiers with a great run.
FWT21 Andorra – Women’s Results
The women’s ski field was the first out of the gate to kick off the FWT21 season. The first two riders, Zuzanna Witych of Poland and Elisabeth Gerritzen of Switzerland, were the perfect juxtaposition of how the riders could deal with the tricky snow. Witych, who was dealing with a triple first—first run of her FWT career, first run of the event, the first run of the entire FWT21 season—took a conservative line and skied cautiously between airs. She landed everything, but never went full gas. Gerritzen, on the other hand, went full gas from the start gate to big air, but a punch-crust landing took her ski off and ended her run just after it started.
The three podium finishers were the only three women to have both full-throttle lines and keep their skis on from top to bottom. Maude Besse, of Switzerland, skied after Gerritzen with a super smooth and fluid line, but she avoided bigger cliff drops due to the snow conditions in the landings. France’s Juliette Willman had a very strong line as well, keeping the run nearly true to the fall line and incorporating two cliff drops. Bess and Willman finished third and second, respectively.
Norwegian Hedvig Wessel, who was the sixth woman out of the gate, took her run to another level compared to the other women in the competition. She opened things up with a massive backflip at the top of her line and cleanly shut down her speed with numerous rocks and cliffs below. She then committed to more drops, landing everything smoothly, and sailed into the finish corral with a smile. It was the best run of the day, according to the judges’ scores.
Later on, a number of the men tried to ski similar lines, but no skier handled it quite as well as Wessel.
Watch: Hedvig Wessel’s Winning Run at FWT21 Ordino Arcalìs
“I’ve been dreaming about this backflip,” said Wessel after the run. “ I knew it was going to be the biggest one on this cliff and I was definitely at the limits. I’m so happy to set it all down and stay on my feet.”
The final women’s skier of the day, Olivia McNeill of Canada, charged hard as well but lost a ski after her final air. Her run was exemplary of the women’s ski field this season: Every rider has the potential to have a podium run as long as they can keep their skis on. But Wessel’s massive backflip and solid run proved she is the skier to beat.
FWT21 Andorra – Men’s Results
After the women dealt with tricky frozen snow, the men were able to take advantage of rapidly warming conditions and send bigger airs with more confidence. But a number of snow snakes lingered throughout the venue at Ordino Arcalìs, and big names such as Kristofer Turdell and Tao Kreibich fell victim to losing skis or not being able to stay upright after landing big airs.
After a few creative lines that were mostly conservative, France’s Maël Olliver flashed a 360 into a tight couloir and followed it up by being the first to send the day’s most obvious big air with a very tactical landing. He rode everything fast—and cleanly stomped his airs—putting down the first exciting run of the day for men according to the judges, who awarded him a score of 89.00.
The tenth skier of the day and the only skier from New Zealand, Blake Marshall, took what could be considered a stock run, but his airs oozed more style than nearly any other rider. A crossed-up tail grab 360 on his first air followed by a safety grab on the same big air that Olliver opened up put him just behind the Frenchman.
Despite a number of great runs, nothing really excited the judges until American rookie Ross Tester dropped in. The 22-year-old opened things up with a floaty 360, a unique air in the middle of the face after a technical entrance, and then one of the biggest backflips of the day on his bottom air. The final trick really impressed the judges, who gave him a score of 92.33, the highest of the day.
Watch: American Ross Tester’s Winning Run at FWT21 Ordino Arcalìs
“I never expected to win my first event,” said Tester. “After all the training and everything to come together, it’s definitely a dream come true.”
Both reigning FWT Champion Issac Freeland and Sweden’s Carl Regnér Eriksson skied phenomenal lines and just missed the podium in fourth and fifth place, respectively. Eriksson in particular skied very fast and smooth, incorporating three 360s early in his run, but it just wasn’t quite enough to impress the judges.
There is some weather moving into Andorra this weekend, but there’s a chance FWT fans could see another full competition at Ordino Arcalìs sometime next week within the current weather window. SKI will have a full rundown of what to expect when the FWT makes a move.
Rewatch the Entire FWT21 Andorra Event