A full roundup of the Freeride World Tour 2020 - In one place.
The wait is over. The Freeride World Tour 2020 is upon us and as the Official Eyewear Partner of the Tour, we’ll be keeping you up to date with all the action as it unfolds.
So what is the Freeride World Tour?
Put simply, the Freeride World Tour is the highest level of competitive freeriding in the World. The FWT consists of 5 stops in 5 different locations. The goal is simple, each athlete gets one opportunity at each stop to impress the judges as they ride some of the gnarliest faces in the world. To learn more about the FWT and our role as the Official Eyewear Partner, click here.
Meet the FWT20 SunGod TEAM
We’re welcoming some fresh new faces onto the SunGod FWT team for 2020…
"I am super happy to be back on the FWT. I am going to push myself for real this year – I can’t wait!”
Verbier born and bred, freeriding is in Carl's blood. Half Swiss and half Swedish, Carl has been skiing his entire life, exploring the backcountry from the age of 10 with his mountaineer father. He is no stranger to freeride success, dominating the rankings as a Junior and storming to the top of Freeride World Qualifier rankings onto the Freeride World Tour at only 19 years old. Having taken some time out to ski for himself, Carl has made an effortless comeback to the Freeride World Tour for 2020. His unrivalled agility and unique talent for spotting the best lines makes him a force to be reckoned with…
Learn more about Carl's FWT journey here
“I am in it to win it. It’s awesome to be representing Australia and to get us on the map for the FWT!”
The beaches of Newcastle NSW, Australia don’t particularly lend themselves to the pursit of a career in snowboarding but that didn’t stop 8-year-old Michaela strapping on a board and doing just that. Now 28, Michaela is the only Australian on the FWT this year and is pumped to be fighting for that number one spot. We’re stoked to see her progress and we look forward to welcoming her to Verbier for the grand finale in March!
FWT 2020 gets going in Hakuba
By FWT Commentator Neil Williman
This year, SunGod Ambassador, former FWT athlete turned FWT commentator Neil Williman will be bringing us his own unique take on each stage and quite frankly, we couldn’t think of anyone better for the job. With over a decade of experience in competitive freeriding and having been on the Tour himself, he’s pretty well placed to be waxing lyrical on the events of each stage...
Although there was less snow in the Japanese Alps than we're used to, the surprisingly clear weather gave beautiful views of sunrise over a cloud-sea and the steep terrain that most people don't know Japan has.
This was the first ever FWT competition with equal prize money across all categories and the stoke was high in the camp. Marion Haerty wasted no time in storming to another convincing win to back up her perfect comp season in 2019. Fast, fluid and stylish riding from the French rider was reminiscent of her win on the Bec des Rosses last winter and she was awarded the top spot. 2nd place was a less easy prediction as last years 2nd and 3rd overall riders are both out injured- sending best wishes to Anna Orlova and Manu Mandl. That opened the door to Australian rookie and SunGod rider Michaela Davis-Meehan to put down a solid run and claim a spot on the podium at her first opportunity. Erika Vikander, the Rookie of the Year from 2018, took 3rd to get her comp season off to a great start.
In the same way as the girls the defending champ from 2019 came back to win the first stop- Victor de le Rue showing that he has the skills no matter the snow conditions, stomping a huge backflip on his first cliff and flowing stylishly down to the hot seat. Again it was fresh faces on the rest of the podium though, Nils Mindnich from the states, well known for his banger film parts and now wildcarded onto the tour slaying this new venue with multiple spins to claim 2nd spot. Elias Elhardt, the German wildcard charged onto the podium with a playful run topped off by a majestic transfer air at the bottom of the venue with a smooth 360. That feature became a favourite with other riders too, but even though they had Elias's track to follow, few of them made it look as effortless.
Hedvig Wessel, the former world cup mogul skier started her competition season exactly the same way as 2019- with a huge backflip. Taking first place in the first competition of the season sets Hedvig up for an interesting battle with double defending FWT champion Ari Tricomi, who claimed 2nd with her trademark relaxed and flowy free-style. Elisabeth Gerritzen, coming off a win at FWT finals in Verbier last season backed it up with a 3rd spot in Hakuba with a similarly hard-charging line.
The stacked field of guys on skis promised fireworks and did not disappoint. The level just keeps on rising on the FWT and now tricks seem pretty compulsory to get a shot at the podium. SunGod rider Carl Renvall came 11th in his first comp back on the FWT since 2017, the top 13 guys will qualify for the FWT finals in his hometown of Verbier, so he's in line for that so far. Showing that they can still keep up with the young guns, the FWT champs from 2013 and 2012 grabbed spots on the podium - Drew Tabke winning with a huge backflip on the same air as Victor de le Rue. Reine Barkered had a similar run and landed in 3rd place. When congratulated he beamed replying in his typical dry humour- 'thanks, it's been a while'. Storming into 2nd place in his first ever FWT comp with the most impressive single move of the day was Kiwi rookie Hank Bilous, with a mind bending transfer air over a blind gap- crashing was not a option. Such a great start to the season and looking forward to the Kicking Horse comp, coming up in early February!
fwt 2020 stop 2: kicking horse
By FWT Commentator Neil Williman
After the somewhat challenging conditions in Hakuba, athletes were rewarded with some signature British Columbia powder which made for epic conditions on comp day at Kicking Horse.
Marion Haerty, the defending FWT champ, started the day off with a bang. First out of the gate and showing why she won 4 out of 5 competitions last season, she put down a film part line in the deep fresh snow to sit in the hot seat and watch the rest of the field. The Canadian wildcard Claudia Avon showed why she’s been invited too, climbing onto the podium in second place, possibly picking up a wildcard for the rest of the season. Erika ‘the viking’ Vikander took 3rd to back up her 3rd place in the Hakuba stop, which has set up the overall standings for a tight race for 2nd, with Marion already far in the lead. SunGod rider Michaela Davis-Meehan is one of those eyeing second overall after getting into a gnarly zone at this comp to back up her podium in Hakuba. Sadly a control issue cost her a spot on the box this time!
The ski ladies put on a super strong performance - every single rider skied aggressively and stomped their line, making life difficult for the judges. The winner from Hakuba, Hedwig Wessel, put down a solid run early in the category only to watch every other competitor beat her score, with her eventually finishing last even though she make no mistakes - that’s how high the level was. In the end, Jess Hotter from NZ took the top spot, in only her second FWT competition, followed closely by the double defending champ Ari Tricomi, who spun a committed 360 at the top of the venue. Elisabeth Gerritzen took 3rd for the second comp in a row too, to put her in 3rd overall.
Sammy Luebke completed his return to form with a strong and stylish run that had him sitting in the hot seat for the snowboard men until the end of the field, when Jonathan Penfield put down a freestyle filled heater of a line to grab top spot for the first time in a long time. Victor de le Rue backed up his win at this event last year with a 3rd place this year, good enough to keep him in the yellow bib for first place overall.
In stark contrast to the ladies skiing, the guys couldn’t keep their aggressive runs together and many of them came unstuck in dramatic fashions, starting with the local wildcard Logan Pehota who had what he called "the biggest crash of my career". Fireworks continued with Yu Sasaki teeing off the biggest cliff in the venue, but it was the day of the Swedes in the end with 2018 FWT champ Kristofer Turdell flashing the venue to win and his friend and fellow Scandinavian Big Mountain Championship winner Carl Regner in runner-up. Utah native Andrew Pollard joined them on the podium, which means he’ll be wearing the yellow bib in Andorra for the first time. Watching the carnage unfold as the last to go was SunGod athlete Carl Renvall who laid down a solid run to finish in 8th. Things are set up excitingly for Andorra at the end of the month!
FWT 2020 STOP 3: Ordino Arcalís
By FWT Commentator Neil Williman
The sub optimal weather conditions didn't stop most athletes putting on a show in Andorra. The competition really is wide open this year and it really is anyone's guess as to who will take the overall crown with two stops remaining. Here is how it all played out at stop number 3...
After the super high level performance in Kicking Horse the ladies ski category was a highly anticipated one. Jess Hotter kicked things off with a high-energy line but couldn't quite repeat her podium topper from Canada, finishing in 4th at the end of the day. Ari Tricomi, the defending FWT was riding with an ankle injury and choose a super playful but less gnarly line, finishing in 6th and leaving the podium open for others. Elisabeth Gerritzen took 3rd for the 3rd competition in a row (which ironically puts her in 4th overall), the veteran Jackie Paaso claimed 2nd to back up her win here last year and Hedvig Wessel bounced back from a disappointing result in Canada to repeat her winning ways from Japan. Topping the podium today also meant she took the yellow jersey back off Arianna, so the title race will be very interesting to watch over the next couple of competitions!
After ski women putting on the most consistent performance in Canada it was the snowboard women's turn to slay in Andorra. Marion Hearty looked like she was on her way to another victory after a solid run put her comfortably in the hot seat, but then a surprise mega-run from the pseudo-local Nuria Castán Barón (same mountain range, different country) meant she had to get up out of the throne she'd become accustomed to. But the plot twists weren't done for the category after an even more solid run from SunGod rider Michaela Davis-Meehan put her on top to become the first Australian to win a FWT stop an any category! It also moved her into 2nd overall and within striking distance of the top spot...
The ski men were the last category of the day to drop, although that wasn't the plan, more on that in a second. The level was super high again and it was confirmed to us that anyone in this field could win if they put their desired run down. Early on, Isaac Freeland landed what he called a switch underflip off the top cliff, backing it up with a high safety off the next cliff fall-line below and then cutting across the venue to chuck a screaming seaman off the next air! That ended him up in 2nd and moved him up to 3rd in the overall standings. Carl Renvall, the SunGod rider out of Verbier, laid down a super stylish run to take 4th, his best result so far on the FWT. This has moved him up to 7th overall. Kristofer Turdell just edged him out to land in 3rd and back up his podium from the same competition last year, but it was the triumphant return from injury of Leo Slemett that was the ultimate story of the day- again! For the second year in row the Frenchman claimed top spot on the box in Andorra and most likely a place in Verbier and the 2021 FWT, while on his way back from an injury.
Unfortunately the weather closed in as ski men were finishing, and the last couple of guys in that category (Jack Nicholls and Blake Marshall) skied in pretty poor light. FWT organizers chose not to start the snowboard men until the conditions improved but they unfortunately never did, meaning that the snowboard guys will probably have to do two runs in Fieberbrunn to catch up...
FWT 2020 STOP 4: Fieberbrunn
By FWT Commentator Neil Williman
Another incredible competition on a bluebird powder dream day...
Snowboard Men round 1 (Fieberbrunn competition)
Due to the snowboard guys not being able to run in Ordino Arcalis due to the inclement weather, they had two runs in Fieberbrunn- one from each of the start gates on opposing sides off the ‘Wildseeloder’ face. Austrian backcountry freestyle superstar Gigi Rüf started things off with a bang, laying down a freestyle heavy run that put him in second place, by the narrowest of margins ahead of American Sammy Leubke who is having a great return to form. The story of the day though was Nils Mindnich, also out of the USA, a FWT wildcard and rookie who charged into top spot with an unbeatable fluid run, riding at least a quarter of the face switch!
After Marion Haerty put down a run she was happy with in Andorra and was still beaten by two rookies, including SunGod rider Michaela Davis-Meehan, she was out to prove something today, especially after Michaela put down a strong run early on. Nevertheless, Marion managed to find a return to her winning ways, meaning she is already crowned 2020 FWT champion with a competition to come, just like last year. Michaela came in second to put her in a strong second overall, and Erika Vikander joined them on the podium to also qualify for Verbier.
Writing this as a Kiwi makes me pretty damn proud. Craig Murray out of NZ had a season ending injury competing on this face last year, and came back to win it this year! Throwing freestyle tricks in full-on big mountain terrain - it will be long remembered. USA‘s Isaac Freeland backed up his 2nd in Andorra with another 2nd here to claim the golden bib as the current leader. Hank Bilous was hot on his heels in 3rd with another unique transfer and Blake Marshall took 4th with his trademark flowy style to put 3 kiwis in the top 4 for the day. All qualifying for Verbier along with Sungod rider Carl Renvall who will also be joining them in his home resort for the finals, after a strong and stylish season in his second year on the FWT.
In stark contrast to Kicking Horse where every single girl stomped her run, at least half the field crashed in Fieberbrunn! Jacqueline Pollard out of Utah claimed a podium to clinch her spot in Verbier and the 2021 tour, while the veteran Jackie Paaso took 2nd for the 2nd time in a row with her trademark hard-charging big mountain style. The defending champ Arianna Tricomi marked her return from an ankle injury with her first win of the season though, claiming the yellow bib back off Hedvig Wessel (who crashed), it continues to yo-yo between those 2 ladies this season!
Snowboard Guys round 2 (Ordino restaged in Fieberbrunn competition):
With the help of a heli ride, the male snowboarders moved over to the shadier Start 1, where the snow was still blower pow. The strain was telling with many of the field having control issues or crashes. Blake Hamm took 3rd for his first podium of the season, unfortunately still not enough to qualify him for Verbier and next year, it seems he will be bowing out along with Davey Baird and many other talented riders who did well last season! The Swedish rookie Cody Bramwell had an amazing run, including becoming the first snowboarder to gap the channel in the lower half of the face, which put him in second and secured his finals spot. But it was Nils Mindnich who took it out again, two wins in a day landing the Verbier yellow bib comfortably on his shoulders. Defending champ Victor de le Rue is going to have his work cut out to retain his title on the Bec des Rosses!
Congrats to all the riders who qualified for the finals in Verbier and commiserations to those who didn’t. Till next time!