Volkl Freeride Team's big season

snow action team 03.05.2013
X Games Aspen 2013 - January 27, 2013

Photo by Tom Zuccareno / ESPN Images

A few World Championship titles, many victories and a whole bunch of podiums at freestyle and freeride contests of the highest level! The Marker Völkl Freeski Team has experienced a truly outstanding winter season 2012/13. First and foremost one has to mention Virginie Faivre, Nadine Wallner and Nick Goepper, each and everyone a World Champion in a different discipline and for a different organisation. But the rest of the team managed to impress as well, be it well established riders like Russ Henshaw, who completed an astonishing comeback this season following a torn ACL, or young guns like Nina Ragettli and Felix Stridsberg-Usterud, who both won a Junior World Championship title.

Nick Goepper’s name was already well known before this season, but only few would have expected such a performance. Following some hints early on, his big breakthrough came during X Games in Aspen. Nick showed four different doubles in his slopestyle run, two each spinning left and right side while taking off forward and switch, and landing each to perfection. Nobody else has done this before and the young American took a well deserved Gold medal. He continued the season on the same level winning top events like the Dumont Cup and the Austrian Open, before finishing off an outstanding winter as second at the WSI Slopestyle in Whistler, thus securing the top spot in the Overall Slopestyle Ranking and the title of Slopestyle World Champion of the Association of Freeskiing Professionals (AFP). At the FIS World Championships in Norway Nick added a bronze medal in slopestyle and only the most miserable weather conditions during his qualification runs at the European X Games in Tignes kept him from another success. At the end of the 2012/13 freeski season, Nick Goepper is widely considered to be the world’s best slopestyle skier and a favourite for the first Olympic Gold in that discipline next year.

Nadine Wallner’s rise to the top of the freeride world was even quicker. The young Austrian from the famous Arlberg region had qualified for the Freeride World Tour 2013 by dominating the World Qualifier events the year before and went on to upset the established Big Mountain elite without hesitation. Two second place finishes at her first ever FWT contests in Revelstoke and Chamonix made her ambition clear and her first victory on the tour at her home contest in Fieberbrunn put her in a comfortable lead before the final event in Verbier. With a rock solid performance at the legendary Bec des Rosses and a third place finish Nadine Wallner secured the top spot of the FWT Overall Ranking and thus the title of Freeride World Champion 2013 – the year that saw all the world’s best big mountain riders fight for the title on a unified tour for the very first time!

Nadine Wallner (AUT)

©freerideworldtour.com / D.DAHER

Equally surprising, but not out of the blue came the World Championship title for another rider of the Marker Völkl Freeski Team. Virginie Faivre had won both the FIS World Championships and the FIS World Cup in halfpipe before, but she only returned to the contest circuit this season in the wake of the Olympic Halfpipe premiere in Sochi 2014 following her focus on movie projects and her own signature event Nine Queens in previous seasons. And what a successful return that was! The first World Cup showings in Copper Mountain and Park City were maybe a bit hesitant with a fourth and a third place respectively, but then the Swiss veteran won the FIS Halfpipe World Championships in Oslo and the Olympic test event in Sochi. A solid second place finish at the World Cup finals in Sierra Nevada was enough to secure the Overall Halfpipe World Cup and another Crystal Globe for Virginie Faivre.

Less fortunate, but equally impressive was the winter season of Russ Henshaw. The Australian demonstrated his outstanding quality in slopestyle early on with a convincing victory at the first major event of the season, the Dew Cup in Breckenridge, and a second place at the US Grand Prix in Copper Mountain shortly after. But then he tore his ACL while training for the X Games in Aspen! His season seemed to be over, but Russ Henshaw fought back. He returned to the competition scene later in the winter and finished his season with a fantastic third place at the WSI Slopestyle in Whistler, thus moving into second place of the AFP Slopestyle Ranking. Without a doubt Russ Henshaw is back and ready for the Olympic Games next year.

Russ Henshaw

Another season stand-out was Italian Markus Eder. He had missed most of the previous winter due to a severe knee injury, but returned on snow last summer with an impressive performance at the Swatch Skiers Cup in Chile. This set the tone for his winter season and obviously the South Tyrolean freestyle ace is determined to prove himself on a different ground: the backcountry of big mountain ranges! Markus Eder earned a wild card for the Freeride World Tour and managed to win the tour stop in Courmayeur – only his second real Big Mountain contest. He went on to be an integral part of the European team that defended the Swatch Skiers Cup against the Americas in Zermatt, before he shifted his focus on filming. Meanwhile another young rider of the Marker Völkl Freeski Team stood up at the Freeride World Tour. Charlie Lyons from New Zealand made the podium as third in Kirkwood and collected no less than four top ten finishes in six events. A ninth place overall and the qualification for next year’s main tour is more than a respectable outcome of his rookie season on the FWT.

Markus Eder

© Alessandro Belluscio

On the freestyle side another two youngsters of the Marker Völkl Freeski Team managed to impress this winter. Alex Beaulieu-Marchand from Canada had a great start placing third in slopestyle at the US Grand Prix in Copper Mountain and he continued to prove his potential with several great results, among others he made the slopestyle finals both at the European X Games and the WSI. Arguably even better was the showing of Johan Berg. The young Norwegian claimed second place overall at the FIS Halfpipe World Cup, clinching his first World Cup victory at the Corvatsch in Silvaplana on the way. Meanwhile another veteran of the freeski scene made her comeback at the competition scene in the wake of the Sochi 2014 Olympics. Grete Eliassen won a bronze medal in slopestyle at the FIS Freestyle World Championships in Norway, a respectable feat considering her rather long absence from the contest circuit.