The 2021 Freeride World Tour (FWT21) event in Fieberbrunn, Austria delivered some of the biggest lines possible during a very warm March in the Alps. The FWT declared last week that there would only be one event in Austria, meaning Saturday’s competition was the last chance for many athletes to qualify for the Verbier Xtreme final as well as qualify for next year’s FWT.
The first skier of the day, Sweden’s Reine Barkered, opened things up by dropping straight to the famed Eagle Cliff, a committed series of drops that cut across the Wildseeloder competition face. After stomping his first big air, Barkered cut across the venue and popped a rollover into refrozen avalanche debris. With his legs apparently made of steel, the Swede rode away cleanly and earned a score of 89.00, setting a very high standard early on.
After Barkered’s super-fast run, the majority of skiers dropped into the more playful, poppy terrain on the looker’s left of the venue. American Ross Tester, who was the sixth man to ski out of the gate, executed a textbook backflip and spun a smooth 360 in this section, but what really stood out was his confident and stylish turns between the two tricks. His slash on the wind lip and perfect arcs in particular looked more like he was skiing for the cameras instead of just trying to survive the venue.
Despite avoiding a final feature, Tester and his confident style impressed the judges. They awarded the American a score of 90.00, which was enough to take the lead from Barkered and would be the highest score of the day for the ski men. During an interview after the competition, Tester mentioned he was pretty influenced by fellow Völkl skis teammate Markus Eder, who skied a very similar line last year at this venue, but crashed on the final feature that Tester skied around.
FWT21 Fieberbrunn Winning Run – Ross Tester
Two Swedes, Kirstofer Turdell and Carl Regnér Eriksson, skied very similar lines to Barkered on the Eagle cliff. Turdell did not traverse to the rollover that Barkered sent, but instead gapped over the chasm that cuts down the lower competition face. Eriksson skied a nearly identical line to Barkered, and even added a 360 on a middle air, but his landings off the Eagle cliff and the rollover were just slightly less clean. The judges awarded both Turdell and Eriksson a score of 87.00, landing them in a tie for third.
The only two non-Swedish riders to send the Eagle cliff definitely had runs worth watching. Verbier, Switzerland local Yann Rausis entered the zone cutting off slough before sending and stomping the big cliff cleanly. Similar to Tester, Rausis’ confident style looked more like ski movie turns than a competition on the upper face, but a poorly-placed take-off lower down ended his run early.
The biggest send on the Eagle cliff came from Spaniard Aymar Navarro. The Atomic skier left the start gate like a heat-seeking missile and pointed it to a very runout cliff with a very narrow landing. Watching the GoPro footage, Navarro landed inches from the rocks and skied away going almost out of control, but he was able to pull his skis back under his feet and ski away. He took that speed all the way to the channel gap on the lower face but a bumpy landing got the best of him, leading to a no score. But his upper air was awarded the Peak Performance Radical Moment, and rightfully so.
Peak Performance Radical Moment – Aymar Navarro
“I wasn’t expecting to take the win today with so many good runs,” said Tester after the competition was over. “I was a little bit nervous but found my center and kept it low-key. The top of the face is scary, but I chose a lower angled area. I’m stoked and scared to head to Verbier and will see if I can find some good stuff to do there.”
The 22-year-old American now has two wins on his first season on the FWT and is headed to the finals in Verbier as the overall leader. Two former FWT overall champions, Turdell and Barkered, are hot on the American’s heels in a tie for second place overall. Tester’s win in Fieberbrunn means that Americans have won all of the gold medals awarded so far in the ski men’s category of FWT21.
Polish Rookie Zuzanna Witych’s Action-Packed Run Earns First FWT Win
The ski women’s field was absolutely stacked in Fieberbrunn, led by three-time FWT Overall Champion Arianna Tricomi making her return to the tour and Frenchwoman Coline Ballet-Baz made her first FWT appearance as well. The primary focus was on the three overall leaders, however, with France’s Juliette Willmann, Norway’s Hedvig Wessel, and Switzerland’s Elisabeth Gerritzen all vying to go to Verbier wearing the overall leader’s jersey.
Tricomi and American Tracy Chubb started the competition with some big airs but overall fairly conservative skiing. Chubb’s cleaner run earned a higher score, putting her in the top spot early on.
Gerritzen, who won the second event in Andorra, wasn’t able to land the second big air in her run. Willmann, on the other hand, skied conservatively in a different part of the venue. The judges found it too conservative, apparently, giving her a score below Tricomi even though the Italian tumbled during her run early on and the Frenchwomen stayed on her feet.
Wessel, a former competitive mogul skier known for big backflips on the FWT, demonstrated strong big mountain abilities by confidently skiing above exposure and then sending a very large cliff. Her run took the top spot from Chubb, but not for long.
Polish skier and FWT rookie Zuzanna Witych, who wasn’t able to put together strong runs in Andorra, came out of the gate swinging in Fieberbrunn immediately after Wessel. Witych jumped off nearly every single feature on the looker’s left side of the venue, including a very committed drop with a tight landing in the middle of the face. The judges were stoked on the Polish skier’s use of terrain and awarded her a score of 74.67, the highest of the day.
FWT22 Fieberbrunn Winning Run – Zuzanna Witych
Witych’s win was enough to put her in the third overall spot, just behind Willmann, who is now in second. Wessel, who has a win and a second-place finish, is now the overall leader heading into Verbier.
The Verbier Xtreme, the final event of FWT21, has a weather window scheduled for March 20-28.