Words by: Harry Warren Wilson
Photos by: Carlo Spaliviero & Vit Julinek
As a competitor in the final stop of the Italian Freeride Tour, my first priority was to get comfortable with the contest face, be aware of the snow conditions, and most importantly, know my line. It would be the first freeride competition I took part in, and I only knew what to expect from friends & colleagues who had given me some advice. The day before the contest, I drove to the resort, which lies around 30 km from the Austrian border and shares some of its peaks with Slovenia, to check out the place.
It was late April, but there was still plenty of snow. Sella Nevea is renowned for receiving some of the largest amounts of pow in Italy, second only to a handful of resorts which lay in the western side of the country, in the alps close to Switzerland. We took the gondola and spent a few runs testing the snow and examining the harsh scenery. There was one tall, dark vertical face of rock which seemed to look down on you, a constant reminder to anyone of the hostility of this environment.
The stained vertical rock protrudes up towards the sky at the side of the piste.
We then headed towards Rifugio Gilberti, the restaurant / hut which allows a direct view of the contest face. Upon arrival we came across several guys who seemed to be scouting their lines, but they turned out to be the judges, and they were discussing whether the face was safe enough for the next day, or if they needed to move to a different slope. Another factor which played a role in their decision was the weather, seeing as all competitors would be lifted by helicopter to the starting line.
Plenty of rocks and cliffs offered good opportunities for the riders to show their skills.
I shot a few photos of the face so that I could look at them back home and spend some time memorising important features. Later on we met up with some Austrian friends, who decided right then that they would take part the next day, and rushed down to get registered on time. In the evening we went to the hotel Canin for the number allocation & event opening ceremony, and spoke to some of the other riders about their ideas and planned lines. Everyone was pumped for the next day, and the pre-comp party was well attended.
Morning came and I awoke, surprisingly, without any anxiety. I expected that the nervousness would start when I stood at the top of my line, although when we met up with two more friends at the gondola around 08:00, they said that they could feel the pressure already. We rode the lift up together and spent some more time deciding which lines to take, viewing the face from different angles, and then eventually we geared up & skied down to the heli pick-up zone at around 13:00.
Groups of four riders were moved towards the landing zone and helped into the heli.
The pilot rested the skids skilfully on the snow for a quick load up.
View from the cockpit.
Once at the top, we unloaded and collected our skis, then moved down to the gathering area. It took a while for everyone to arrive at the starting gates, despite the pilot's fast and efficient flights. Around 14:00 the first rider was given the green light.
Waiting for all the riders to arrive at the top.
From that point on the number of riders slowly went down, as skiers and snowboarders dropped into their runs one by one. The view from the top didn't allow any sight of the face, which meant we relied on features such as trees, bushes and rock patterns to find our lines. The anxiety never came, not even when it was my turn to ski my line, but there was always some fear inside me, and I knew that even with protective gear and proper planning, something could still go wrong. My run was a mixture of deep concentration, focus, and the instinctive movement of my legs, which thankfully saw me all the way to the bottom. I came to a stop next to the riders who had already finished, heard some clapping in the audience, and slowly reality faded back into my vision. I was stoked to have laid down a solid run, dropped a few cliffs, and still be alive.
The biggest cliff required some rock-skiing but the rider landed it, and took 5th place.
The winning run included some nice technical airs and manoeuvres.
Some falls were taken, people stopped mid-line, and some even missed their line completely, but I am happy to be able to write that everyone arrived safely at the finish.
Narrowly avoiding several rocky patches after a fall, this rider was probably glad to walk away unhurt.
The feeling at the finish area was great, everyone was congratulating everyone else and nearly everybody was happy with their performance. While the judges tallied the scores and the "pasta party" at Rifugio Gilberti got underway, we took a few more off-piste runs around the resort to celebrate the fact that everyone had survived the contest!
After a long wait, at around 15:30, the "international" event (riders from Italy, Austria, Czech Republic, Great Britain, Finland & the USA) came to an end. The winners were announced (in Italian only!) while the prizes were handed out, and with a large crowd standing around, happy riders everywhere, and some people dancing to the loud music, the event seemed to have been a success.
Excitement as it gets closer to the announcing of the winners.
For just 80€ entry, which included a flight in the heli, a goodie-bag, food & drink vouchers and a starting place, I thought this contest was well worth the money. Happy to walk away with 10th place, I know for sure that next season I will be riding in plenty of freeride competitions.
Full riders list as follows:
1st Zeno Cecon
2nd Carlo Cosi
3rd Oscar Lo Baido
4th Nicola Vitali
5th Armin Senoner
6th Marco Rossini
7th Simone Filippini
8th Denis Tschaffert
9th Christian Bortolin
10th Harry Warren Wilson
11th Gabriele De Crignis
12th Michael Sölle / Enrico Mosetti
14th Giorgio Troncarelli
15th Wolfgang Sölle / Alexander Huber
17th Alessio Dresti
18th Christoph Sölle
19th Bernhard Sölle
20th Stefano Guenzi
21st Stefano Linda
22nd Vit Julinek
23rd Mattia Felicetti
1st Arianna Tricomi
2nd Beatrice Munaron
3rd Teresa Fabris
4th Valeria Apostolo
1st Zeno Cecon / 2nd Carlo Cosi / 3rd Oscar Lo Baido
1st Arianna Tricomi / 2nd Beatrice Munaron / 3rd Teresa Fabris