Words and Photos by Will Radula-Scott
Covid cancelled almost all non-essential snowboard events this past year and come springtime when all the best events come around to close out a winter season of sending, it didn't look like anything was going to get through the Covid restrictive net, let alone a huge build and spectacle that Audi Nines is renowned for. But then, just a month before the proposed event dates, we start to hear some rumours that planning has started and the plans were sounding big! As you would imagine for an event like Audi Nines it usually takes the best part of half a year to organise and prepare, but The Distillery (the Audi Nines organisers) had just 5 weeks from start to finish and of course, had plenty of Covid safety hoops to jump through along the way to provide an epic but also safe event for all involved.
When we heard the event was happening after a 2-year hiatus we were instantly buzzing and keen to get involved. Though it wasn't that straightforward, due to Covid restrictions the guest list was almost non-existent with no hospitality and just a couple of spots for media, but in the final days leading up to the event, we got the call that one spot was for us. Travelling from the UK to Crans Montana in Switzerland we had a fair few Covid hoops to jump through too, but eventually got ourselves to what can only be described as the boardsports mecca of the world. This is because Crans Montana was not just hosting the Audi Nines event on the mountain with the incredible set up built at the top of their glacier 3000m above sea level, but in the valley, they have not only a state-of-the-art skatepark with outdoor and indoor ramps, bowls, rails and snake runs, they also have a brand new wave pool, so you could be surfing barrels in the morning, shredding the mountain in the afternoon and finish off the day with an epic skate! The place is unreal!
So, day 1 of the event, after meeting up with all the riders the night before at the epic skatepark, we headed down the mountain instead of up. The weather wasn't great on the hill so we kicked off things with a day of surfing! Cali rider Judd Henkes and Hawaiian shredder Lyon Farrell were right at home and ripped the place to shreds. Along with most of the riders actually. It turns out they can ride anything as long as they're standing sideways.
Day 2, and it was time for the main event. The weather was prime and everyone was hyped to see the insane setup in the flesh and start getting some airtime, and they certainly did! It's safe to say the Audi Nines course designers don't do half measures. The setup was HUGE. Straight out the top of the highest gondola lay the drop-in. The first features that lay in the rider's way was the "Ball" that had U-curved kickers either side of it and a tunnel launching to a steep landing behind it. That then led you into the main course, a 2-story high set of features including the mega step-up between two big quarterpipe spines, with a big bank in there too. To the side of that was a perfect gap kicker with an in-run from the other side of the valley. Then to the side of that were a couple rail features that could send you to the moon.
It didn't take long before the riders were warmed up and they'd all worked out that to hit pretty much every feature you just had to go straight and hoon it as fast as you could for ultimate airtime. Sebbe De Buck was back for more after taking home silverware at every Audi Nines snow event since it started (we're guessing) and he was followed in by young bucks such as Dusty Henrickson, Judd Henkes, Lyon Farrell all from the USA. Other Euro riders that were there to send were Boris Mouton, Moritz Thönen, Moritz Boll, Patrick Hofmann, Andre Hoeflich and Japanese rider Kaito Hamada.
The ladies were firing too on the classic kicker with Anna Gasser riding as smooth as always, Klaudia Medlova, Riera Iwabuchi, Annika Morgan and Maria Hidalgo all sending it and a real stand out performance from the Aussie Tess Coady. There were even some VIP appearances from Markus Keller and Terje Hakkonsen.
Day 3 saw the weather stay good once again and other than a little more wind, conditions we set for another day of jaw-dropping moves from all the riders. Patrick Hofmann, the young Swiss rider was a standout with his fresh style and moves on pretty much every feature there.
For the 4th and final day the weather was a little more unpredictable with the course sitting in the clouds for large parts of the day, but that didn't stop the momentum and actually it was rad to see the riders focussing on other areas on the course. That night after dinner a selection of the best photos and a handful of clips were screened and there was live voting from their phones to decided who would win 'Most Creative', 'Best Trick' and 'Ruler of the week' awards.
For the men the winners were: 'Most Creative' - Patrick Hofmann; 'Best Trick' - Boris Mouton; 'Ruler Of The Week' - Sebbe De Buck.
For the ladies, well, Tess Coady got a clean sweep and took home all 3 awards!
Watch the Snowboard Mixtape video here:
Until next year Audi Nines (fingers crossed there will be another one next year). You were wild!