The female skiers showed a new level of riding at the first Freeride World Tour event of 2019 (FWT19) in Hakuba, Japan. As the afternoon started, the wind picked up significantly at the top of the course as the women lined up in the start gate, evidenced by the snow flying off the higher peaks despite the blue sky.
The overall champ of FWT18 and DownDays.eu European Skier of the Year, Arianna Tricomi of Italy, dropped out of the gate first. She attacked the top air that the majority of the male riders hit, landing a clean 360 despite the numerous bomb holes scattered through the landing from previous riders. She kept the energy high throughout her run, smoothly taking off and stomping on a number of smaller airs throughout the rest of the course. Her score of 80.67 would stand as the score to beat for the rest of the riders.
Elisabeth Gerritzen, of Switzerland, dropped immediately after Tricomi and started off with a huge straight air. Like the Italian before her, Gerritzen left no air untouched, taking on drops fluidly and riding away cleanly throughout the rest of the course. But, without the style and opening trick of Tricomi, Gerritzen was awarded a 75.00, and was put into second place.
“Still jetlagged but oh what a day,” Gerritzen wrote on Instagram after the competition.
Two other riders, Wild Card American Jackie Paaso and Norway’s Hedvig Wessel, went for backflips off the opening air. Paaso didn’t quite get her head up on the landing, leading to an unintended somersault.
Wessel, on the other hand, laid out one of the biggest backfilps of the entire day, and rode away cleanly. The former Olympic mogul skier became the first woman to stomp a backflip in a FWT competition, and earned the Peak Performance Radical Moment award. The rest of Wessel’s run was smooth and cautious, however, and lacked the airs of Tricomi and Gerritzen, earning a score of 72.33 and sneaking into third place.
The podium appeared to be set until the final rider of the day, Maude Besse of Switzerland. The FWT rookie skied significantly faster than most of the women through the top half of her run, and somehow arrived on a completely untouched portion of the course for the second half of her run. She lined up a number of technical airs in the pristine powder, maintaining the fluidity and energy she showed at the top of the run. The judges were stoked, and awarded Besse a score of 78.67, knocking Wessel off the podium and putting Besse into second place.
"I entered this competition with a really good feeling, I was looking forward to ski this face because it’s crazy playful and it was really nice and stompy!" said Tricomi after winning. "I really enjoyed myself skiing down and feels so good to finally have an event here in Japan. Looking forward to the next one already!"
You can rewatch the entire FWT19 Hakuba stop here. FWT19 continues to the second stop of the season at Kicking Horse, B.C. next month, with a competition weather window from February 2-8, 2019. 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.