words & photos: cko
Candide's hometown of La Clusaz yet again played host to his Invitiational, this year in its fifth incarnation. This was my first time to the event, and the course, the vibe, and the hospitality managed to somehow exceed expectations created over four years of seeing the massive features in segments, mags and posters galore. When they tell you that Candide is treated like a god in La Clusaz, they're not kidding. The whole town gets down with the event, with hundreds of spectators on hand for the events on the mountain as well as the rail jam in the village. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen that many people take in a freeskiing event before.
This years slopestyle setup did away with the signature step-ups, but replaced it with one massive hip with step-over through the gap in the hip. The big air jump, or Big Bertha as it's known was a ridiculous 44m (145 ft.) long with one of the largest landings ever. Lower down on the course a ridge of features included: two kickers, a large gap, a pillar of snow with a whole cut out of the middle, and two butter box setups. Unfortunately due to strong winds and incliment weather, only the lower features got sessioned, leaving the big jump and the hip for Candide and his crew to session over the next couple of weeks.
Not only is this event well supported by the town, but the throngs of athletes that make the journey from Europe, Asia, and North America keep the stoke level high all weekend, no matter what the weather. After all, these are some of the biggest and most creative features that these skiers will get to hit all season.
Saturday teased us with beautiful sunshine early morning, while the riders checked out the course, and their nerves, and began warming up on the gap jump and the kickers to it's left. As the day wore on Candide made a few attempts to hit the hip and open it for the rest of the riders, but with the winds remaining high, and the clouds rolling in, no one was in a hurry to take their chances. The same was true for Big Bertha, which did get hit a couple of times, though no more than that after the massive bomb-holes in the knuckle scared off anyone that was still thinking about it.
After sessioning the slope course until 5:00 pm, the riders hustled down to the village for the rail jam, this year consisting of a really kicky jump, a 5-kink, and a flat-down with a large gap to it. Most of the action went down on the kink, though no one was able to get it in the almost 3 hour jam session. After a nasty crash in which a rider carved too far on the kicker and landed on a banner before crashing to the flat ground, Candide re-amped the crowd with some stylie cork 5 double true-noses, and signature 450s and 810s on the gap to flat-down.
Sunday brought much the same as the previous day: bluebird conditions in the morning with clouds, wind, and this time snow moving in for the afternoon. This kept the big features closed again but didn't stop the riders from sessioning the lower jumps and this time the huge tree jib. In the evening, Candide spent over three hours signing autographs for the fans that waited patiently outside the riders tent. No wonder everyone loves this guy.
Big thanks to Candide and the crew at La Clusaz for the hospitality. Check out the videos below from Skipass.com!
View the Slopestyle Video, courtesy Skipass.com (runs 5:07).
View the Rail Jam Video, courtesy Skipass.com (runs 4:03).
Skye, Frank Raymond, Joe Schuster, and the coolest dog ever enjoy the athletes tent.
Sunshine in La Clusaz
Top of the lift brings with it a gorgeous view of Mont Blanc.
The lower course where most of the action went down.
The gap in the hip ensured no one was going to under-air this one on their first try. Candide zero-d it to get things started.
Big Bertha. Rumour tells us it took a team of 10, three weeks to get the course dialed.
Even though these were some of the smaller jumps on the course they were still the biggest that some of the riders had hit, ever.
Joe Schuster airing over the gap.
Even the ladies got into it on Saturday.
The top kickers with La Clusaz in the background.
Nose pressing around the hole.
Kye putting his skateboard skills to good use.
The evening rail jam set up.
Frank Raymond trying his luck along with dozens of others.
The man himself going tail to tail on the kicker.
Candide on the gap to flat-down.
Joe through the hole on Sunday.
Candide finished the day off with the largest air of the weekend on the tree jib.
LP, Frank, and Joe enjoy the Fosters-inspired apres-ski chill time on top of the hill.