The first of the Winter Games NZ freeride events got underway today at The Remarkables ski field in Queenstown, with skiers and snowboarders competing in The North Face Frontier 2-star event. With 96 athletes on the start list hailing from 18 different countries, it was one of the biggest fields seen in this event.
A long-standing fixture on the Freeride World Qualifier international calendar and one of the first of the 2024 season, the North Face Frontier typically attracts a strong international field as competitors look to bank early season points.
Competitors were judged on the technicality of their line choice through the course venue, including their use of the natural features, and were rewarded for maintaining fluidity rather than hesitating before hitting features, and showing strong technique and control throughout their run, with points also awarded for ‘air and style’ including the size of any jumps, tricks and grabs.
The women’s ski category saw one of the tightest finishes between the podium placegetters, with the judges remarking that they were pleased to see the event’s biggest ever female field and an exceptionally high standard and scores.
Jenna Keller (SUI) took the top spot with 92 points from a possible 100, rewarded for her strong technical skiing, good line choice, and including a 360 in her run.
“This place is quite special to me because I competed here for the first time four years ago and I won this comp,” said Jenna. “I am competing tomorrow in the four-star comp so this is a good way to warm up.”
Australia’s Zanna Farrell finished in second place on 90 points with the USA’s Avery Bernholtz third on 88 points, the judges awarding them points for skiing fast and fluid lines.
Sweden’s Johanna Lindqvist was the standout rider in the women’s snowboard field, picking out a rock feature at the top of the course and hitting it straight on, landing solidly and boosting her way down the rest of the course with well linked turns.
“I had eyed up that cliff and I just got so much speed, it felt good, I’m very hyped,” said Johanna. “I’ve been pushing myself to do more drops and it’s always nice to stomp a run.”
Noémie Equy (France) finished in second and Jaimie Figueira (Canada) third.
Competing in his first ever freeride competition, Germany’s Kilian Welschof (80 points) incorporated his terrain park skills, landing three solid tricks and topping the men’s snowboard category with strong, technical riding.”
“It was exactly what I was aiming for,” said Killian. “I was hoping for a bit more airtime to get proper grabs but I’m happy to land my run and it was nice to ride different terrain.”
Jared Yanez (USA) finished in second place with Austen Brown (Canada) third.
With a large field of 45 riders, the judges had warned the men’s ski competitors that they would need to be landing near-perfect runs in order to make the podium. The scoring was tight but, in the end, it was Kiwi rider Fynn Powell who sealed the deal with a winning score of 97 points. No stranger to the competition scene having made his way up through the ranks of the junior freeride tour, Fynn put his years of experience to good use and stormed his way down the course venue.
Starting in the central couloir at the top of the course he stuck to the fall line and lined up feature after feature, first a double drop, then a huge backflip, finishing off with a huge triple drop at the bottom of the course, all with perfect landings.
“I am lucky enough to have ridden this face many times before, going through junior comps and I had a line picked out pretty early on, a couple weeks ago actually. My main concern was that chute at the top but it all felt pretty good.”
Spain’s Thibault Magnin, an experienced slopestyle and big air competitor, also competing in his first freeride event, finished a close second on 95 points, incorporating big, stylish tricks and drops into his run including a huge 720 and a backflip.
“I am lost for words,” he said after his run. “I feel like a kid again! It’s my first ever freeride comp and I just wanted to let it run. I didn’t have any expectations, but I’m really happy.”
Local freeride coach Joseph Pickering was the third-place finisher, picking up 92 points with a clean, fast run and the biggest air of the day.
Next on the Winter Games NZ freeride programme is the 4-star event which is scheduled to run tomorrow (Monday). With all of last year’s winners on the start list it promises to be another exciting day of competition.