On Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, the skis over Fieberbrunn cleared for the Freeride World Tour's (FWT) third stop of 2019 in Austria. The first of three European stops, the judges at Fieberbrunn demanded big mountain attacks complemented by freestyle maneuvers, especially on the playful aspects lower down on the course.
The second rider of the day, Italian Markus Eder, was favored to win in Fieberbrunn. The FWT18 Overall Champion needed to make the podium to clinch the Overall Champion title for this season, and he took to the the course with his usual fluid, playful style. With a left side 360 to start off, followed by some glory pow turns, two impressively large transfer airs, and a massive backflip on the bottom bump, Eder set a high standard early on in the comp. With a score of 92.33, he would remain the man to beat for the rest of the day.
American Andrew Pollard, likely inspired by his sister's winning run in Kicking Horse a few weeks ago, dropped out of the gate as the fifth rider of the day. He seemed hellbent on going faster than Eder, and stomped two 360s both at the top and bottom of the run. His foot-to-the-floor style impressed the judges enough to earn him 85.33 points, putting him into second place, but there was plenty of talent left to take on the course.
For many of the riders, the judges rewarded tricks as much as they penalized slightly sloppy landings off of cliffs. Riders such as Americans Berkely Patterson, Drew Tabke, and Frenchman Wadek Gorak all put down solid runs, but wobbles on landings or high-speed exits that bypassed extra airs dropped their rankings towards the middle of the pack.
The first major scare of FWT19 came when Kicking Horse Champ and New Zealander Craig Murray decided to launch a 360 off of the spine Eder made some glory turns on. It was hard to say if he went too big, too small, or just picked the wrong landing zone, as he landed right on a rocky outcropping which led to a gut-wrenching wreck. He snapped a ski in half, but luckily his skeleton remained all in one piece.
Check out the female competition: Wessel Wins at FWT19 Fieberbrunn
The final run for the men came from France's Léo Slemett, who appeared to be heading to a close-out chute that few other skiers had sent. Instead, he hesitated at the top of a cliff to the looker's right of the chute before sending a sketchy double cliff drop and getting shot out of the second air like a cannonball. He maintained his speed to the bottom air where he launched an Eder-sized backflip, capping off a creative, full-throttle run the judges rewarded with a mark of 84.33, which was good enough for third place.
After the competition, Eder was all smiles. “[It's an] amazing moment and I’m really happy," the Italian said. "It’s the first time in three years of competing here that I was able to do the line I wanted. It’s crazy to have had three good comps in a row!”
The penultimate stop of FWT19 will be held at Ordino Arcalìs, Andorra, with a weather window that starts on March 2. Keep up-to-date with all of the FWT19 action on SKImag.com's FWT page, as well as SKI Magazine's Facebook and Twitter channels, and the FWT Website.