The Swatch Skiers Cup got off to an incredible start over the weekend with the big mountain portion of the competition, held on a spectacular, remote mountain near Valle Nevado, Chile. The competitors boarded helicopters at dawn this morning in Farellones and ascended to the venue – a 4000m peak with a highly featured south face covered in high quality, dry Andean powder.
Photo by Jeremy Bernard
Photo by Dom Daher
After a short inspection, the head-to-head battles got underway in the suspenseful match-play format that makes the Swatch Skiers Cup unique. After the 16 competitors each took their two runs, the score between Team Europe and Team America was tied, 8 - 8.
Team Europe. Photo by Pierre Morel
Team Americas. Photo by David Carlier
After the first heat, Team Europe held a solid 5 - 3 lead. Europe looked especially strong throughout the event, with impressive performances from Markus Eder, captain Sverre Liliequist, and a jaw-dropping run from Sam Smoothy. "I was pretty knackered after the first run so I decided to go for something with less turns and more air," said Smoothy. "It was pretty simple, but something that I could just charge."
Richard Permin. Photo by Jeremy Bernard
Markus Eder. Photo by Dom Daher
Sverre Liliequist. Photo by Dom Daher
Sam Smoothy. Photo by Dom Daher
Team Americas suffered another setback as Chris Benchetler, sustaining a shoulder injury during run one, was forced to sit out the second run. But as the second heat progressed, Team Americas rallied behind the leadership and rock-solid skiing of their captain, Cody Townsend, and staged an impressive comeback. Chopo Diaz ended up skiing twice in round two, replacing Benchetler. "Chopo was the Team Americas MVP by far, stepping up when Chris couldn't ski his second run," said Townsend. "Doing two runs in one heat, at this altitude, with this long, difficult run is amazing!"
KC Deane. Photo by David Carlier
Cody Townsend. Photo by Dom Daher
Chopo Diaz. Photo by Dom Daher
Chopo Diaz. Photo by Pierre Morel
The teams traded points back and forth until the very end, and when the final competitor crossed the finish line it was all tied up at 8 - 8. "This tight race after the big mountain day is perfect, it's exciting to see the close battles run after run," said Team Europe Captain Sverre Liliequist. "Plus it gives our team a ton of motivation for the backcountry slopestyle day."
The action is only half over. The backcountry slopestyle day remains, and the winning team there will be the one to hoist the Swatch Skiers Cup trophy. The date for this final day of competition will be announced on http://www.swatchskierscup.com in the coming days. The neck and neck competition between these two elite teams looks to continue to the very last run, so stay tuned for more coverage of the Swatch Skiers Cup so you don't miss a single moment of this incredible event.
Swatch Skiers Cup Big Mountain Highlights