What we just witnessed at the Freeride World Tour was on another level
The 2021 Freeride World Tour was condensed, but still packed a mighty punch. Our takeaways include upsets, mind-blowing descents and new champions.
The 2021 Freeride World Tour may have been narrowed down to a jam-packed month of European-only stops, but the calibre of riding and competition provided enough excitement and action to last the year. After scrapping the Japanese and Canadian legs of the tour due to travel restrictions, 43 of the world’s top freeride athletes landed in Europe for back-to-back events in Ordino Arcalis, Andorra, before heading to Fieberbrunn, Austria, and onto the finals in Verbier, Switzerland.
Yes, it was condensed. But what a season it turned out to be. Here are our takeaways from one of the most heavy-hitting years to date on the FWT.
Check out the best action from the grand finale of the Freeride World Tour at Xtreme Verbier in the video at the top of the page.
1. Kristofer Turdell is still the most dominant force in freeride skiing
Kristofer Turdell has been a force on the circuit ever since his firstrun in Andorra 2016. The commentators – who were unsure how to pronounce his name at the time – were speechless as he rode away from the biggest cliff on the face. From that moment on, he became a serious contender at the highest level of competitive free riding.
Turdell has stood atop dozens of international podiums, won an overall FWT title in 2018 and, as of 2021, fulfilled his career-long goal of winning Xtreme Verbier and securing his second FWT title.
“Xtreme Verbier is the most prestigious freeride competition in the world,” said Turdell. “So to actually pull off this win – which I’ve dreamed about for the past three years – amid such a competitive field and take home the overall season title is unbelievable.”
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2. Home court advantage is real
On a bluebird day at Xtreme Verbier, hometown hero Elisabeth Gerritzen casually linked up a double cliff drop atop Petit Bec, then flawlessly stomped a huge air as she exited the face. She displayed a superior level of control, composure and style, and – little did she know – she’d just performed the unthinkable.
This run secured her spot as the first women’s skier to win multiple Xtreme Verbier crowns, allowed her to leapfrog from fifth to first in the overall standings, and win by a narrow 20-point gap – marking one of the wildest grande finale finishes in the event's history.
And yes, even Gerritzen was lost for words.
3. Marion Haerty is the queen of freeride snowboarding
For a fourth consecutive year, women’s snowboarding at the FWT was undisputedly dominated by France’s Marion Haerty. She won all four events this season – including in Verbier – and has won all but two events over the past three seasons of competition. Add this to her second-place finish at Travis Rice’s Natural Selection Tour, and you’ll find an athlete in the highest echelon of their sport.
While Haerty’s feats are impressive, her post-victory interviews are often marked with a sense of humbleness. She’s never one to flaunt her successes, but rather, she identifies areas in which she can improve, thus signalling an eagerness and responsibility to continue pushing women’s freeride snowboarding to the next level.
4. The rookies are here to stay
A common theme that emerged throughout the 2021 season revolved around the ‘veteran vs rookie’ and ‘experience vs freshness’ narrative. New faces brought a wealth of style, tricks and approaches to the traditional stops on the tour, and many rose above the competition and their roots for the years to come.
For the skiers, Ross Tester and Zuzanna Witych shook up the overall rankings. Tester surprised the tour with his freestyle approach to technical lines and was quick to earn two victories in his first three appearances on tour, while Witych, the newcomer out of Poland, burst onto the scene with her win in Fierberbrunn and a fourth place at Xtreme Verbier.
Snowboarding also saw a number of rookies stand atop the podium. Blake Moller began turning heads early on when he stomped a mind-blowing 180 combo in Ordino Arcalis. Canadian rookie Katie Anderson also established herself as a top contender after placing second in the first two rounds of the year.
5. Nobody sends it harder than Aymar Navarro
Aymar Navarro has been the FWT’s stuntman for years. His powerful, aggressive, full-send approach doesn’t always earn him a spot on the podium, but it has made him one of the most well-respected athletes on the tour.
Long story short: when the Spaniard drops in, everybody’s watching, and this season was no different. In Fieberbrunn, Navarro took an unimaginable line off a tightly threaded cliff drop, and in Verbier, he straight lined it down the largest drop cliff drop on the face of Petit Bec, earning himself third on the podium.
6. The tour is lucky to have Victor De Le Rue
Victor De Le Rue is an essential part of snowboarding’s progression at the FWT. He’s got the tricks, style, creativity, power and, most importantly, the will to charge down some of the tour’s larger faces with full commitment. For this reason, De Le Rue dominated the ranks at Fieberbrunn and Verbier after putting down back-to-back consequential runs, and claimed the 2021 overall title.
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