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Covid be damned, the 2022 Freeride World Tour is officially underway with a successful first competition in the books. Spain’s Baqueira Beret, a brand new venue for the FWT, played host to the first comp on Saturday, Jan. 22, and despite the unfamiliar terrain and crusty snow conditions, athletes went huge—like history-making huge—right out of the gate.
If you’re seeing Swedish skier Max Palm’s name splashed all over the internet right now, it’s because he successfully stomped the first double-backflip in FWT history during his run in Saturday’s competition.
That stunt, the highlight of an overall stylish and fluid run, earned Palm first place in the men’s ski category of Saturday’s opening FWT competition. And while the massive double-backie was a first for the FWT, it certainly wasn’t a first for Palm.
Watch: Max Palm lands first double-backie in FWT history
Born and raised in France to Swedish parents, 19-year-old Palm has been making a name for himself within the big mountain skiing world for years. He’s been a staple on the junior freeride competition scene since 2020 and last year was crowned 2021 Freeride Junior World Champion. Now a Red Bull-sponsored athlete officially old enough to compete in the big leagues, Palm was selected as a single-event Wildcard for the 2022 Freeride World Tour and promised just one ticket to ride in Baqueira.
But after his show-stopping performance on Saturday, Palm promptly received an invitation to continue competing on the 2022 Tour.
“Coming here as an event Wildcard really took the pressure off and it let me focus on making a run that would make me happy and proud,” Palm said. “I already lived my biggest dream this morning by just getting the chance to start in a FWT competition. To win the event is beyond what I ever imagined was possible.”
With Saturday’s performance, Palm bested his skiing idol and fellow Swedish Wildcard competitor Kristofer Turdell, who finished seventh in Baqueira, as well as other big-name FWT veterans like Craig Murray (third place) and Leo Slemett (14th). Spanish rookie Abel Moga finished second behind Palm.
The best American performance on the men’s side came from Andrew Pollard, who finished in eighth place just ahead of fellow American Jack Nichols.
On the women’s side, Canadian athlete Olivia McNeill staged a successful comeback by winning the women’s ski category in Baqueira after sustaining season-ending injury in 2021. The young Canadian who often struggled to finish a run on her feet last season took the win after connecting two big airs and showing clean, aggressive skiing in the sketchy snow conditions.
Watch: Olivia McNeill’s winning run in the women’s ski category
“I worked really hard to get back here after my injury, which made it feel extra special to land a clean run,” McNeill said. “My goals are just to requalify and ski runs that I’m proud of, so winning today definitely exceeded my expectations.”
Norway’s Hedvig Wessel finished second, with Poland’s Zuzanna Witych rounding out the podium in third. American pro skier Lexi duPont who rejoined the FWT this season as a Wildcard after a 10-year hiatus from competition, finished in eighth place behind fellow American Tracy Chubb (fifth place) and Lily Bradley (seventh place).
The next chance for these athletes to prove themselves will be in Ordino Arcalis, Andorra, where the second competition of the 2022 Tour is scheduled to take place between Jan. 30-Feb. 5, depending on weather and snow conditions.