For those of us that do big mountain comps the biggest part is choosing your line. How do you approach it? Will there be a rock under my landing? How soft is the snow? Just some of the many questions going through your head as you stand at the bottom of the face looking up.
I have heard in America you get chance to actually inspect on the face, Which to myself as a European find it completely bizarre. The rush of a comp run is also the uncertainty of being able to pull off the line that screamed out at you.
Now the first thing to consider are the judging criteria found here: http://www.freerideworldtour.com/understanding-the-sport.html. Difficulty of line, Control, fluidity, Jumping.
These are the steps I take when choosing a line:
1. Pre-comp photo inspection
Generally on the days leading up to any comp the organizers will post photos of the current conditions of the face. For the most people this is the first chance to see the face. Spending time analyzing these photos can reduce a lot of pressure when arriving at a venue. It will give you idea's of where is skiable and what looks like an interesting line with cliffs etc.
Engadinsnow 3*FWQ face
2. Visual Inspection
Having arrived at the venue (ideally a day or 2 before the comp). You can now see the venue for the first time. Those lines you have in your head from the photos now start to come together or look impossible as you witness from another angle. This is your chance to speak to other competitors and see what they have imagined and get feedback on your ideas (bonus points if you come across a Judge and get an idea of what they are looking for). Take as many photos as you can (line options, cliffs, markers)try pick out 3 lines (one that pushes you completely, one within your comfort zone, and a safe line) with back up plan for each as you never know what will happen once you are on the face.
Considering the line you want to choose something that flows so you are not zig zaging the face. A minimum of 3 jumps (no one wants a one hit wonder).
Fabian Lentsch's run at 4* FWQ Obergurgl is considered a benchmark in comp runs
3. Riders Meeting and Photo Revision
In the bar with fellow riders, or back at your ghetto lodgings with your crew go through the photos discuss more about options. What cliffs seem viable, will your run stoke the judges? is it safe? Get those line options stuck in your brain. Pick out markers that will help you stay on your line. Take in what information you are told in the riders meeting as this will inform you on snow conditions and what is considered safe.
Where's that line at?
4. Pre-run Inspection
Today is the day, Adrenaline is pumping, Coffee is running through the veins. Get down to the venue for last minute scoping, is your line still there? did avy control set off a slide where you wanted to stomp that 30 footer? (last chance to hunt down those judges). Most comps give you the chance to watch 2 forerunners hit the face to give you an idea of how the snow is. Use it to your advantage.
5. Go Time
Now at the top of the mountain, looking down at your face for the first time. Where is that line? Blind roll overs are the enemy. Most starters have another photo of the face. Get a last glimpse, Where are those markers?
Now you are all set, get stoked shred that line now impregnated in your brain and remember, HAVE FUN! It's the main reason you are there after all.