The North Face Ski Challenge presented by GORE-TEX ended up its yearly winter tour this year again in Val Thorens, France for the 5th time and discovered remarkable new talents from both Sweden and France.
A 5th edition to remember.
Under the remarkable blue skies of Val Thorens, Europe’s highest ski resort and top of the world’s largest ski resort, the Trois Vallées, riders from all over Europe gathered to The North Face Ski Challenge’s 5th edition. Over the last 5 years, the weather has always played with our nerves, but this year we were blessed with blue skies and sunshine.
The jury had a decision to take before the riders arrived: to let the contest run in its logical order ( safety day, freeride and freestyle) or adapt to the weather forecast that seemed to give us two perfect days before a depression would hit us.
Priority was given to a fair event and obviously to visibility and safety. The order of the event course was reversed and we started by a freeride event on the very top of Val Thorens.
Riders were explained what area could be skied and what parts of the chosen face were closed due to rock presence. Remarked were young Dylan Florit who had won the French qualifying event end of February and Julien Héricher, from Chamonix who demonstrated yet again his big mountain skiing science on the demanding terrain of Val Thorens’ high country.
Snow made a quick appearance and riders got worried about the Freestyle day to follow. But in this unusual year, the sun has definitely taken over and the next day, blue skies filled the Val Thorens horizon.
The freestyle day would take place in a huge Val Thorens snow park, yet again prepared with blood , sweat and no tears by the park crew. The riders who had tested the upper part of the park after the freeride event had 2 hours to train before the contest started.
Unfortunately and for the first time since the beginning of the Ski Challenge, a rider from Poland named Mateusz Augustyn got seriously injured ( broken vertebrae ) in a fall that scared all of us on site. He was evacuated by helicopter in a stable condition and is now resting in hospital before he can fly home to Poland.
We managed to finish both runs normally and after a long day, everyone met in the riders’ lounge to listen to Rob Sawyer and discover his second record. Music, great food prepared by our beloved chef Sébastien and a great evening all together. Many came to the jury and asked for results but nothing would be announced until after the safety day to end up the event.
The next day, participants were divided into several workshops and could learn about the latest techniques to search for anyone buried under an avalanche. Recco, ABS, Ortovox, product training, hands on and in their language, riders could learn on site how to use the existing technology. Our event doctor also had a workshop about first aid on an accident site.
And then , this year’s winners finally were announced. The crowd was anxious to know who would win the ultimate prize: a two year contract with The North Face and Atomic.
Winners this year were:
QUEENS: Michaela Utsi (SWE)
KIDS: Dylan Florit ( FRA)
TEENS: Daniel Walchofer ( AUT)
KINGS: Per Fernik (SWE)
EMPERORS: Julien Héricher (FRA)
So Sweden and France dominated the contest, domination however shared by Daniel Walchofer from Austria who’s definitely a name to keep in mind in the future since he so often climbs on the top of the podium every year.
As for young Dylan Florit, the future seems to be bright. Coached by his father and sonsored by Enak Gavaggio in the planning of his skiing career, his abilities in both disciplines impressed everyone.
Per Fernvik will be the new pro rider of the year, the winner in the Kings category. He will be now an official The North Face and Atomic pro rider, profiting from the experience both brands have to guide his career.