So who tuned in to Red Bull TV yesterday for 4 hours of live backcountry freestyle snowboarding from a selection of the very best snowboarders in the world!? From the epic venue and snow conditions to the follow-cam filming with racing drones, and of course the insane level of riding, we were glued to the screen and overall damn impressed by it all. So first off, a big shoutout to all the organisers and riders involved, Day 1 was a blast!
If you didn't manage to catch Day 1 live then you can watch the full recap here on Red Bull's Youtube:
Here's a little run down of what went down and what's in store for Day 2.
Being European ourselves, we were, of course, rooting for the Euro riders in the field and first to drop on that untouched powder-filled heaven of a run was the legend himself Gigi Ruf against Austen Sweetin. Being the first rider to drop, Gigi had no tracks and nothing but his own experience to judge his speed by and unfortunately knuckled a hit early on, but then threw a perfect fs7 off the last booter, which was probably one of the best tricks of the day. This instantly set the pace for the event to follow and got everyone watching seriously hyped. Austen saw this and also went huge on the last hit, actually about 30ft too huge, but we loved it! The standard had been set, and it was on. In the end it went to a tie-break with Austen taking the bracket. Gigi also said 'Fuck' on the live stream and then laughed like a little kid about it once he realised what he'd done.
Every run we saw got us more fired up to witness what might go down in the next. Be it another crazy trick stomped in waist-deep pow, a new line through the course or just an attempt at something that 100% did not work out, it was still awesome to see things being tried by these riders on their first-ever runs down a mountainside scattered with huge drops, kickers, gaps to pillows, hips. Not until you got the second angle from the replays do you actually realise how massive some of these hit were!
Pair after pair of riders went through the course in a head-to-head battle for a spot in the next round, throwing 3s, 5s and 7s every which way off so many different hits, whilst all getting just as stoked on their competitor's runs as their own. The American riders in particular came through strong in the men's first-round with Austen knocking out Gigi, Blake Paul winning his round against Elias Elhardt and Sage Kotsenberg coming through against Victor De La Rue. Maybe some home turf advantage there, or just that these guys are insanely good at riding the backcountry. One European match up was that of Werni Stock and Mikkel Bang. Werni was the stand-out rider from last year's test event but was unfortunately struggling to find his signature flow. Mikkel took the bracket, charging on a 170cm board and stomping a super clean switch back 5 in his second run.
It was awesome to see Mark McMorris step it up to the backcountry, he's known all too well for his perfect slopestyle runs but has transitioned seamlessly into the pow, taking a spot in the next round by knocking out backcountry legend Eric Jackson, who himself almost knocked out a tree. Travis Rice just scraped through against his good friend and filming buddy Chris Rasman after both put down equally solid runs, and some equally good shit-talking at the bottom. This one was really tight, Rasman was one of the most solid looking riders on the course all day and if he had landed a clean run he may well have knocked Travis out, but that's just how it goes in the pow. Ben Ferguson gave us the Method we all wanted and took his spot in the next round over Bode Merrill, and the East-Coast bracket ended up going to a tie-breaker with Pat Moore managing to find fresh landings and taking the win against Nils Mindnich. Props to both of them, they had some of the smoothest runs of the day, despite riding last and having to power through tracks and bombholes.
For the women, we're not gonna lie, it was tough. They dropped after the first round of the men and there were some savage tracks and bombholes throughout the course that they had to negotiate, but it didn't stop them from sending it. Jamie Anderson, the queen of competitions but not used to backcountry freestyle comps, had one thing in mind: go big or go home. With a few bails in her runs, she also stomped some massive back 3s and big drops, but the flawless top-to-bottom run of veteran pow slayer Hana Beaman took her safely through to the Semis. Wildcard Zoi Sadowski-Synnott came through firing just ahead of Robin Van Gyn, Elena Hight grabbed a spot in the Semis knocking out Hailey Langland and French rider Marion Haerty beat Anna Gasser to advance. You could really see which riders had had more experience with a freestyle approach to backcountry riding, but we can't understate how important it was that the women were riding on the same platform as the men.
After Day 1 here are how the standings look:
And here's a shots from Day 1: