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There were loads of surprises during the 25th edition of the Verbier Xtreme freeride competition in Switzerland in both the men’s and women’s ski fields. Going into the event, which is the final stop of the 2021 Freeride World Tour (FWT21), the two overall point leaders faced a myriad of threats from Tour veterans frothing at the mouth to move up in the rankings.
In previous competitions, the more freestyle-oriented riders would usually ski the Petit Bec, where the wind lips and cliffs make tricks easier. The hard-charging big mountain skiers would head to the Bec de Rosses’ main face for massive cliffs and high-speed lines. The announcement came yesterday that, due to high winds, the true face of the Bec de Rosses venue would be closed for the competition and all of the competitors would be required to ski on the smaller—but by no means “small”—Petit Bec face. The venue change would also work in favor of the two FWT21 Overall Points Leaders going into the competition, Hedvig Wessel and Ross Tester, who are known mostly for their show-stopping tricks.
FWT21 Verbier Xtreme Women’s Ski Results
Despite the venue adjustment, the women skiers still struggled with variable, wind-affected snow at the top of the Petit Bec which transitioned unevenly to softer snow in the apron. France’s Juliette Willmann and Poland’s Zuzanna Witych dealt with the tricky snow in different ways—Willmann failed to land a massive cliff with variable snow in the landing, and Witych took a tumble up high due to grabby snow.
Italian Wild Card Arianna Tricomi and Switzerland’s Elisabeth Gerritzen skied confidently through the unfavorable snow conditions and took as many airs as possible throughout their runs. But Gerritzen charged harder down the fall line with a very fast and fluid run that incorporated three major cliffs. Her score of 88.33 edged out Tricomi by four points.
The last two riders of the day, American Tracy Chubb and Norwegian Hedvig Wessel, skied more conservatively than any of the other riders. Wessel, who led the overall points ranking going into this year’s Verbier Xtreme, skied a steep and rocky line aggressively, but it lacked the drops that made both Tricomi and Gerritzen’s runs stand out.
Watch: Elisabeth Gerrtizen’s Winning Run – FWT21 Verbier Xtreme
Wessel’s conservative skiing landed her in third place overall, and Gerrtizen, who won this event in 2019, became the first woman to ever win the Verbier Xtreme twice. The points total from this result also awarded Gerritzen 15,000 points, which was enough to take the FWT21 Overall Title from Wessel by the tiniest of margins—Gerritzen won the season’s title by a total of 20 points.
“I was semi-happy about my run, but it didn’t feel as good as my line in 2019,” said Gerritzen after the competition, referencing her win in 2019. “It was nervous moments waiting for the overall rankings to show up. I knew it would be tight, and I didn’t think it was in my reach to take the overall win, so it was really unexpected and an amazing surprise… Knowing that no woman skier has ever won twice on the Bec, it became my goal, so I’m stoked to make it happen and to feel comfortable in the steep terrain.”
FWT21 Verbier Xtreme Men’s Ski Results
In the ski men’s competition, American tour rookie Ross Tester only needed to finish on the podium to win the FWT21 Overall Title. And while the Petit Bec suits his confident style and deep bag of tricks, he was the last rider scheduled to descend in the competition—a precarious spot to be for someone who has never skied in the Verbier Xtreme before.
Things really got started for the men with the fourth skier out of the gate, Spaniard Aymar Navarro, who lined up a massive double cliff drop and skied away from it on his feet. Unlike the previous FWT21 competition in Fieberbrunn, Aymar avoided any extra credit in the apron and skied straight to the finish. With a score of 86.33, he set a high standard for the rest of the field to beat, and none of the other competitors came close until the last five skiers of the day.
Three Swedish skiers skied back-to-back to kick off the final five. Carl Regnér Erikson, the most freestyle-savvy of the three Swedes, stomped a clean and stylish flat-3 in the middle of his run and popped huge off a popular cliff, landing well below everyone’s bomb holes. Erikson’s score of 83.67 was the closest to Navarro’s lead but wasn’t enough to take the Spanish skier out of the leader’s chair.
Erikson’s countryman and the next skier out of the gate, Kristofer Turdell, skied the entire Petit Bec without hesitation or a single wobble. His rock-solid skiing and incredible level of fluidity were unmatched by any other skier in the competition. With a number of technical drops sprinkled throughout the run, it was Turdell’s final air that demonstrated technical mastery. He was able to turn onto a tiny sliver of snow to perfectly align his take-off and landing. The judges awarded Turdell’s highly competent skiing with a score of 90.67, enough to take the lead from Navarro.
The final skier of the Swedish trio, FWT veteran Reine Barkered, skied the same line at Navarro but landed more cleanly and skied more controlled throughout the apron. He over-rotated an extra credit backflip at the bottom, however, which gave him a low overall score.
The penultimate skier of the competition was the winner of the last Verbier Xtreme competition in 2019. France’s Wadek Gorak proved he can do more than just insane backflips when he spun a 360 early on, which he then promptly followed up with two more backflips. His high-flying antics and line choice earned a score of 88.00, which was enough to take second place from Navarro, but not enough to take Turdell’s top spot.
The final skier of the day and FWT21 Overall Points leader Ross Tester took an uncharacteristic straight air off the same feature that Erikson landed a flat 360 on. But Tester’s run included the biggest backflip of the day that he landed very cleanly. His run overall was fairly conservative, however, and his score of 85.67 was good enough for fourth overall.
Watch: Kristofer Turdell’s Winning Run – FWT21 Verbier Xtreme
Tester’s finish just off the podium and Turdell’s win meant that the Swede narrowly edged out the American rookie for the FWT21 Overall Points total by only 920 points. This is the first time Turdell has won the Verbier Xtreme and, after winning the FWT Overall Points title in 2018, it’s his second FWT overall win.
“I don’t know how to describe it,” said Turdell when the final point totals were announced. “The excitement and nervousness you build up before the competition makes it hard to sleep and eat in the morning. Then, suddenly, it’s over. I over-planned my line but did a second face inspection this morning and altered it. I am really happy to link this line together.”
Despite two canceled stops, the FWT21 was still able to host four great competitions during a global pandemic. Over the course of the Tour, 1,500 Covid-19 tests were administered and there wasn’t a single positive case on the entire tour. Let’s hope the 2022 Tour sees more exciting action in parts of the world that will once again be open to travelers next season.