The best freeskiers in the world have traveled from all over the globe to Livigno, Italy because of the crazy snow sculpture that has been taking shape on the ski field of Mottolino Fun Mountain. Marker Völkl team rider Nico Zacek, the host of event, sent out invites and all of the riders gladly accepted the honor to hit the legendary castle of the Suzuki Nine Knights. After lack of snow at Germany’s Nebelhorn cancelled the event last year, everyone is beyond stoked to be back for the fourth installment of the event.
Tom Wallisch & Russ Henshaw. Photo by Flo Breitenberger
The legendary Schneestern crew together with the cat drivers from the Mottolino snowpark have broken boundaries while shaping the multi-feature structure known as “Il Castillo” out of 75,000 cubic meters of snow. The main part of the castle is the huge jump in the middle with an 18-meter gap and 27-meters from take-off to knuckle with an almost endless landing. The jump is flanked by two gigantic hips on either side, which look like they will send the riders into orbit. With an in-run under arches, two six-meter quarterpipes are in the center of the structure, with a gap possibility over a balcony. After the quarterpipes, the riders have the chance to ski through the structure and hit a flat-down-flat rail or a down-rail stair set. The behemoth structure has countless options, gaps and transitions for the riders to explore.
Luggi Brucic & Nico Zacek. Photo by Klaus Polzer
The list of the riders who have come to conquer the castle is almost more impressive than the castle itself. The king of afterbang, Tom Wallisch has come to Italy to compete at the event for the first time after winning the Dew Cup, a gold medal at Winter X Games and a silver medal at European X Games. Current AFP World Tour overall leader Gus Kenworthy has also turned up, fresh from winning the Jon Olsson Invitational and landing the first ever switch triple 1440. In addition to those two, multiple X games medalist Jossi Wells, Australian Russ Henshaw and local challenger and Smith Optics team rider Raffaele Cusini have come to session the feature along with numerous others.
Paddy Graham. Photo by Klaus Polzer
Laurent 'Lolo' Favre. Photo by Klaus Polzer
Monday was the first chance for the riders to check out the Castle and get use to all the different features. It was a sunny day, however a strong, gusty and cold wind was affecting the conditions, which meant that riders kept things a little bit more mellow and safe. The invited filmers and photographers still captured some pretty crazy and creative lines through the features. Most of the Knights hit the jump, with Lolo Favre standing out with some super styled out 360's and 540's. The riders also spent a lot of time sessioning the quarterpipes, with Nico Zacek and Benoit Valentin sending the impressive gap over the snow balcony. Some riders even gapped from the quarter to the landing of the hip!
Nico Zacek. Photo by Flo Breitenberger
Benoit Valentin. Photo by Klaus Polzer
When the wind picked up, most of the knights moved on to session the Power Balance stair set rail, where Völkl youngster Øystein Braaten stood out with some crazy trickery. However, the biggest cheer of the day probably came when Tom Wallisch did a switch frontflip on the quarterpipe.
Tom Wallisch. Photo by Klaus Polzer
Roy Kittler. Photo by Klaus Polzer
Following the first session, all the riders and media were invited to a five course Italian dinner thanks to the tourist board and the Major of the city of Livigno. Everyone also had a chance to check out all the prizes for the event, including some banging Dotz rims and custom Suzuki Nine Knights iPads. With the weather looking to calm down at the end of the week everyone was discussing what is going to go down during the different sessions. Undoubtedly we are going to see some incredible progression, so stay tuned for more updates throughout the week including the highly anticipated football match between the athletes and media.
For more information on Nine Knights, check out http://www.nineknights.com.