Each year, the FWT reshuffles the deck: new blood joins seasoned competitors on the list of 34 prequalified men skiers. The new blood have fought their way up through the ranks via the Freeride World Qualifier events, and here they are, hungry young freeskiers, veterans still waiting for their moment in the limelight, and of course the top guns, eager to repeat past glories.
At the Freeride World Tour, nothing is predictable. Who would have bet on an overall win for Candide Thovex in 2010? Or a first place in Verbier for the young and fearless French skier Kevin Guri?
So, who is going to steal the show this year? King Drew Tabke or the unpredictable Julien Lopez (France)? The talented French freestyler Loic Collomb-Patton, or the smiley genius Markus Eder? The solid kiwi Sam Smoothy or the equally stoical Wille Lindberg (Sweden)?
After two stages in Courmayeur and Chamonix, we already have some clues. Rookie Collomb-Patton is on a roll with two consecutive wins. Here are four more to watch out for this season:
Samuel Anthamatten (CH)
The mountain guide and former ice climber from Zermatt is a strong contender for the title. Back when he arrived on the tour in 2011 he scored a first place in Sochi. Injured last year, he’s improved his big mountain skills and, as he demonstrated in Chamonix Saturday, he knows how to handle technical terrain.
Fabio Studer (AUT)
A magician in the air. A trickster whose creativity hasn’t yet been rewarded fully by the judges. Fabio makes such creative use of the face; every single one of his runs is a show in itself. In Chamonix, he threw a 360° in a very technical line and finished 4th – let’s hope that, like Nico Vuignier, Studer’s sparkling freestyle skills will help him rise in the overall ranking.
Reine Barkered (SWE)
This cool-headed Swede was the 2012 World Champion, and finished second overall last year. Swedes are strong in big mountain, as FWT’s Nicolas Hale-Woods commented: “I like the Swedes, who learned how to ski on ice and stone!” Reine mesmerized us in 2009, when he skied Verbier’s Bec des Rosses for the first time. I still remember the feeling: so fast, so clean, and he stomped a double cliff at the end. Today, he’s skiing stronger than ever…
Loic Collomb-Patton (FRA)
How’s this for a dark horse? The freestyler from La Clusaz, who grew up in Candide Thovex’s shadow, first made the headlines at X Games Aspen in 2006, when he finished 4th in Superpipe. Since then, he’s been skiing away from the spotlight. Last year, Loic hacked his way up to the top of the FWQ: this year he plans to do the same, as he brilliantly demonstrated in Courmayeur and Chamonix, winning both events with fast, technical lines and a huge 360 exit from the rock field in Chamonix.
Julien Lopez (FRA)
A true big-mountain skier, Julien is stubborn and fearless, with a single goal: win the FWT. He finished third last year, with a beautiful run in Verbier (losing precious points to a backslap on the last cliff). Unflinching on the most daring lines, Lopez seems fearless. Stainless steel commitment, combined with his FWT experience: could this be Julien’s year?