The Freeride World Tour 2013 has reached an end and feelings about it can only be described as mixed. Mixed because on the one hand, it is over and we have to wait another year for the next one. On the other hand, TWO The North Face athletes are standing tall on the podium, crowned Freeride world champions in Ski and Snowboard. It has also been an incredible Tour, which is another reason to jubilate.
The men’s contest of the last stop of the tour, Xtreme Verbier in Switzerland, which has now run for 17 consecutive years, was slightly delayed due to cloudy conditions. Once the clouds lifted though, the first one down the infamous Bec des Rosses face was hard-charging Ralph Backstrom (USA), leading the cavalcade for the snowboard category. Team snowboarder Ralph was third in the overall tour before Verbier, but scored an extremely high 93.67 points for his fluid, yet aggressive run down the face, coupled with several big airs.
Ralph was closely pursued by Aurélien Routens (FRA), who’s Big Mountain style took him to second place. Defending world champion Jonathan Charlet (FRA), meanwhile, came in third. Ralph consequently came first at both Xtreme Verbier and in the overall tour, clinching the World Champion title. When asked how he felt, he explained that: “I’m pretty emotional. I’ve had a lot of years trying to get this. I’ve been second a few times and really happy to finally take down the whole tour!“
Team athlete Xavier de le Rue deserves a shout-out, as well, for his impressive run. Despite some difficulties in the upper portion including a slight tumble, he then proceeded to display a run which encapsulated all that he is famous for: a creative, super hard-charging, big air line which scored him 74 points.
The men’s ski on the other hand was fraught with intrigue and a nail-biting finale, as the winner of the overall title was fought out between the 5 last skiers of the event. Team skier Drew Tabke (USA) has throughout the tour displayed an impressive number of runs, and managed to hold on to his position as leader of the contest with a strong line that placed him sixth at Xtreme Verbier.
Drew was challenged by Kevin Guri’s (FRA) high-speed run and big air landings, which clinched him the Verbier win. Drew’s World Champion title couldn’t be confirmed, however, until defending champion Reine Barkered (SWE) completed his outstanding run which put the Swede in second place. When hearing that he was had won the Tour, Drew said: “This is what I’ve worked for, for almost 10 years of competition. Verbier couldn’t be a better place to do it. It’s a lot time we put in. Everybody dedicates a lot of their lives to this, so to have it come around is a big payoff for sure.”
The tour is unfortunately over, however, it ends on a great note for The North Face athletes, and a huge congratulation is owed to both Drew Tabke and Ralph Backstrom for their wins!
Photo Credits : D. Carlier, P. Field, J. Bernard