The fourth edition of the Suzuki Nine Knights was a phenomenal week for athletes, media and spectators alike. The exceptionally beautiful feature, “Il Castello” provided the perfect venue for some seriously awesome videos and photos, while a progressive Big Air competition and raging after party ensured that everyone went home with a big smile on their face.
The Knights. Photo by Klaus Polzer
On invitation by Marker Völkl athlete Nico Zacek, some of the world’s best freeskiers turned up to the picturesque Italian town of Livigno for a week of photo and film shoots on the imaginative and huge castle feature built on the slopes of Mottolino Fun Mountain. The Suzuki Nine Knights Big Air contest, recently declared an AFP gold-level event, attracted the likes of X Games medalists Tom Wallisch, Russ Henshaw and Kai Mahler, current AFP Overall Ranking leader Gus Kenworthy, European Red Bull athletes Paddy Graham and Bene Mayr as well as local heros Raffaele and Davide Cusini.
Nico Zacek. Photos by Klaus Polzer
Paddy Graham. Photo by Klaus Polzer
Bene Mayr. Photo by Florian Breitenberger
A week of unpleasant weather predictions made for an apprehensive mood at the start of the week, however once everyone had a chance to check out the feature the vibes improved to all out stoke! “The feature is super sick,” said Smith Optics athlete Gus Kenworthy. “There are a lot of different options, a big jump in the middle, two massive hips, two quarterpipes with a gap option, a canon rail, and a bunch of other rail options!” What more could you want in one feature? The conditions were far from ideal at the start of the week with wind and snowfall making it difficult to session the castle as hard as possible. But after the weather gods dumped 40 centimeters of new snow on Mottolino, the clouds finally parted allowing for the definite highlight of the week: Big Thursday!
Colby James West. Photo by Klaus Polzer
Big Thursday started with a sunrise shoot, with everyone up on the hill by 6:30am hitting the main jump feature with the octo-copter hovering above and ecstatic photographers clicking away.
Fabio Studer. Photo by Klaus Polzer
Following a short nap and some food an epic heli shoot where all the riders threw down took place, with up to five of them hitting the feature at one time. A sunset session then followed with some unreal cloud formations providing the perfect backdrop for unsurpassable photos and video footage.
Photo by Klaus Polzer
As it started getting darker numerous lights all around “Il Castello” were turned on, making the whole construction look even more spectacular. The riders then proceeded to jump well into complete darkness as the lights continued to change colors, much to the delight of the photographers looking for different ambiances. Yes, Thursday was a very long and productive day for everyone involved and they were happy to have a more relaxed day on Friday while some additional invited riders had a chance to practice on the jump.
Roy Kittler. Photo by Klaus Polzer
Countless spectators turned up to the Big Air competition on Saturday, keen to see all the talented riders display their impressive trickery. Flat light and sticky snow made things a little difficult, but everyone threw down regardless, with Kai Mahler taking 1st place, Gus Kenworthy in 2nd and Jonas Hunziker in 3rd. Kai impressed the judges, narrowly edging out Gus Kenworthy with a massive double cork 1080 tweaked mute grab and a superb double cork 1260 double japan grab to shifty.
Russ Henshaw dropping in during the big air competition. Photo by Florian Breitenberger
After the Big Air contest the competitors and media contingent headed down to the valley for dinner, where the week’s photographer and riders awards presentation took place followed by the highly anticipated after party. At the award show the four invited photographers presented their best images from the week, with every photographer judging each other’s work. The photos were seriously sublime and the vocal audience made sure the work got the deserved applause. Louis Garnier won the awards for “Best Action” and “Best Creative Angle”, Tim Lloyd won the award for “Best Black & White” while Alessandro Belluscio won the “Best Lifestyle” award. A special mention should be made of Nate Abbott, who placed second in three of the categories.
Tom Wallisch. Photo by Klaus Polzer
Following the photography presentation a highlight reel of the week was shown and it was time for the riders to do some judging of their own. Tom Wallisch, who had been charging every feature all week, won a custom Suzuki Nine Knights iPad for “Best Overall Big Air”. An all expenses paid trip to the Oktoberfest in Munich thanks to Power Balance went to Laurent 'Lolo' Favre, who took home the “Best Style” award for his crazy flatspin 540 screamin semen. The award for “Best Rail Rider” went to Gus Kenworthy, who won a pair of Dotz rims for his incredible ninja jibbery, and “Wanna be a Knight” video qualifier Roy Kittler won the “Most Valuable Player” award for going hard all week and stomping some sick bio 1260 blunt grabs. After the awards everyone headed into town for the after party powered by Sweet Protection and downdays.eu, a fittingly awesome ending to a crazy week at the first Italian edition of the Suzuki Nine Knights at Mottolino in Livigno.
Check out the wrap-up edit above which showcases all of the amazing action that went down this week, and congrats to all of the athletes and photographers...we'll see you next year! For more information on Nine Knights, check out http://www.nineknights.com.