The women followed the men on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019 on Fieberbrunn's notorious “Wildseeloder” face in Austria. The skies remained blue, but it was apparent that the wind was picking up based on the rattling jackets in the start gate.
American Jacqueline Pollard, who won the FWT19 Kicking Horse event a few weeks ago, started things off for the women with a strikingly unique line right out of the gate. She had a number of airs throughout the upper half of the run, and then took on an unskied close-out chute with confidence. She added two more airs on the far looker's left of the venue, earning a high score of 82.00.
Most of the women who followed, including FWT19 overall leader Arianna Tricomi of Italy and Austrian Eva Walkner put down great lines, but skied fairly conservative and failed to add elements to their runs to stand out. Theirs score were in the 70s—good, but not competitive since their runs lacked style and aggression to earn spots on the podium.
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Then Norwegian Hedvig Wessel took to the course. She launched into two big airs and landed on her feet assertively after each one, then stomped a smooth backflip on the same air most of the men flipped off. Her confidence and trickery was enough to take the top spot from Pollard with an 86.00.
“Being able to be on top of these amazing mountains gives me so much energy," said Wessel. "I’m really thankful to be on the Freeride World Tour, and to ski with these amazing girls. I did the line I wanted and a backflip so I’m really happy.”
American Jackie Paaso followed Wessel out of the gate with high hopes. The veteran big mountain skier had two disappointing runs so far this season, so it was great to see her turn a double-stager into a single-stager, and quickly traverse across the face to add extra airs. Her hesitation before the big air hurt her score, however, and she ended up finishing in fifth place.
The final skier of the day, Switzerland's Elisabeth Gerritzen, was not to be written off. She attacked the same line as Wessel, and went even bigger on the second air, matching the take-off and landing of American Drew Tabke, who took the same air during the men's competition. She did not attempt a backflip, however, and the judges gave her a score of 80.00, good enough for a third place finish behind Wessel and Pollard.
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.