Words: Sam Turner
Photos: Audric Gagnon and Felix Rioux
It's a sunny, slushy Saturday in Mont Tremblant, Quebec. The forecast says it's going to be 26 degrees on Monday. Spring is officially taking hold on the east coast, and you can feel that summer isn't far behind. But for one last weekend, Red Bull is sending the season off in style with their Foret Urbaine competition.
We arrived on Friday to get settled in at our hotel and check out the scene before today's comp. As we wandered down toward the iF3 party at Lounge Ryan, we took some time to scope the course as it snakes its way down through the village. We knew it was going to be impressive, but the sight that greeted us was something else altogether. The maze of scaffolding criss-crossed its way over the sidewalk and past balconies towards the massive cannon rail that ends the course. Even half finished it looked intimidating.
The course. Not bad, Red Bull. Not bad. Photo: Audric Gagnon.
After a mellow night, we woke up to bluebird skies and headed down to the course to check in on the progress. A small army of Red Bull staff (everyone from coordinators to WIngs Girls) was shaping the truckloads of snow into form, and as they fought against the increasing April sun, you could see the gnarly perfection they had created. Around 1:30 we convened in the athletes room for a pre-comp meeting where everyone would be briefed on the day ahead. It was cramped; a room packed with all variations of Full Tilts and Virtika. More than one generation of shredding excellence stood or sat or leaned to listen as Philou Poirier laid out the ground rules for the competition.
The Tabarnak Pack's Dom Laprote and Hugo Pelletier. Photo: Felix Rioux
Dom was the only athlete to drop in switch that day. Photo: Felix Rioux
Frank GP greasing the final feature. Photo: Felix Rioux
Outside the athletes room, various media people were setting up their shots for the competition. Mike Dandurand from the Tabarnak Pack joined Felix Rioux, Audric Gagnon and the rest of the iF3 photo crew on their balcony overlooking the course. They had the ideal location for taking in the entire event. Meanwhile, Laurent from TwoBees media worked his way through the crowd to shoot the course from a number of different angles.
If we're being perfectly honest, no one knew quite what to expect. The night before, at the bar, the conversation had centered on how serious the risk factor was on course. “It's like two and a half stories man,” was the going phrase for most of the night. Speculation is speculation though, and it was up to the riders to throw down and put to rest any talking heads that were still trying to be heard over the crowd. Alexis Godbout played guinea pig and went lip on to the down rail to kick off the practice round. After Chris Bolduc speed checked the flat rail and Max Morello powered his way through a rail slide, Dom Laporte greased it as if to signal the real start of this round From there, as each skier dialed in their speed, the tricks started to come. Highlights included Max mistying out of the cannon rail, a handful of two's onto the downrail and Dom's switch hits onto the flat rail. As practice wrapped up it was clear that the course would pose some difficulties; it was tight, quick and left next to no room for error. But watching Marty Boulet stomp 630s out of the cannon, and Seb Eaves grease perfect 450s off of the flat rail showed that if you took the risk, you would be rewarded.
Hugo Pelletier and Seb Chartrand getting ready to drop in. Photo: Felix Rioux.
Dom Laporte, spinning out of the final feature. Photo: Audric Gagnon
Simon Gingras on the cannon. Photo: Audric Gagnon.
The crowd was tuned in to the tricks being thrown on course. Each time someone sacked up enough to spin in or out of a rail they responded in kind and showed love for the skiers' approach to the challenging course. As is maybe to be expected, the biggest cheers came for the close calls. Maude Raymond gapping the entire down rail on her first run, or Chris Bolduc just clearing the landing of the flat was enough to send murmurs running through the crowd, and scattered applause and cheers. Dom did his best to bring everything to a halt when he fell to the right of the flat rail and took part of the wood siding and a wall-mounted lamp with him.
Max Morello on the flat rail, setting for a 450 out. Photo: Felix Rioux.
However good practice was, and however the tricks being thrown previewed the night to come, nothing could prepare us for the session that went down in the later heats. Whereas spins-on were hard to come by in practice, they became a pre-req for qualifying for the later rounds. Nic Chenard claimed the first invert of semis, followed closely by Max Morello, who stomped a clean misty four out of the cannon rail. Simon Gingras made a strong case for his inclusion in finals by stomping four out of the flat rail into six out of the cannon. By the time the dust settled on semis, the final eight skiers singled
Emile Bergeron getting ready to gap off the flat rail. Photo: Felix Rioux.
The format for finals was best of two runs, so each skier had to be on top of their game to land the run they wanted. Max gave it his best, spinning the first two-sev onto onto the flat rail, but he couldn't put the trick to his feet. Dom got switch into the flat rail but couldn't stick the landing either after tapping the wall of the hotel next to the course. After each rider took their runs, the competition's MCs called everyone down to the course where the final results would be announced. The Red Bull Wings Girls kept the crowd entertained while the scores were tallied. The Tabarnak Pack's own Seb Eaves took home third place, and OG Quebec slayer Charles Gagnier finished second. The suspense built until Alexis Godbout was announced as the winner, having thrown a frontside 630 out of the flat rail into switch-on, pretzel 450 out of the cannon. Champagne showers ensued, and the night is sure to leave more than a few memories, with two Tremblant Locals in Seb and Alexis reaching the podium.
Champagne showers on the podium. Left: Charles Gagnier, Middle: Alexis Godbout, Right: Seb Eaves. Photo: Felix Rioux.
In all, the inaugural Red Bull Foret Urbaine competition was a massive success. The Red Bull crew impressed everyone with their setup, and behind the scenes they kept everything running with precision. Newschoolers is proud to have had a hand in making it happen, and we give our huge thanks to Jimmy Adams and everyone at Red Bull for having put on this event. Without a doubt we'll be back next year with an even bigger and better rider list.