Words by Jeff Schmuck
Photos by Jeremy Bernard & Maxim Balakhovskiy
After nearly a week's worth of next level wining, dining and pampering here at the Swatch Skiers Cup in Santiago, Chile, it was finally time to get down to business yesterday with the backcountry slopestyle competition.
Valle Nevado, Chile
The contest, which was the second portion of the inaugural event (following Monday's big mountain frenzy), took place on a rocky, mini-golf filled slope beneath the picturesque and treeless resort of Valle Nevado, which is situated 70 steep and treacherous switchbacks away from Chile's vibrant capital city. Yesterday's spectacle was set to decide which of the two highly stacked teams (Team Americas, lead by Mark Abma, and Team Europe, lead by Kaj Zackrisson) would win the Skiers Cup, as the 16 competitors were split into two rounds of eight head-to-head heats, where the winner of each heat would receive one point for their team, and the team with the most points at the end of the day (which were combined with the points earned in the big mountain competition) would take home the Cup, $20,000 and a year's worth of bragging rights.
The Skiers Cup
Kaj Zackrisson, Richard Permin and Sverre Liliequist of Team Europe.
Josh Bibby, Dylan Hood and James Heim of Team Americas.
The course itself included elements of both park and backcountry, with a park hip up top followed by a tabletop jump into a powder landing. From there, three step down options awaited the competitors, followed be a series of wind lips and cliff bands, one of which housed a massive take-off ramp.
After being bested 6-2 by Team Europe in the big mountain portion of the event, Team Americas came out swinging in the first round, winning half of the heats. Highlights included Dylan Hood and Oakley-White Allen's creative use of the course, the consistency of Josh Bibby and Rory Bushfield (the latter of whom prevailed over both of Team Europe's secret weapons, Nicolas Vuignier in the first round and Markus Eder in the second) and James Heim dropping cliffs on one ski after losing his on the first jump.
As the second round began, Team Europe stepped things up a notch, with gigantic backflips from Seb Michaud and Sverre Liliequist (who's huge, laid out and stomped backflip over a double stager to flat was easily the sickest moment of the day), Henrik Windstedt dissecting every feature that stood in his path (highlighted by a picture-perfect cork 7 up top) and Markus Eder and Richard Permin going for broke with some massive switch cork 9's (and although Permin crashed on his, it was by far the biggest air of the day).
Roughly half way through the second set of heats, despite more impressive showings from Rory Bushfield (who was laying down flawless cork 7's, 3's and backflips all over the damn place), Matt Margetts (who dropped a cork 5 on the hip and a super smooth flat spin 3 over some rocks) and Dylan Hood (who put down a 180 to switch 180 on a double cliff drop), it became evident that Team Americas was going to be unable to close the gap that Team Europe created on Monday and furthered throughout the course of the day (the teams eventually tied with eight points each), which allowed Team Europe to be declared the 14-10 victor in the first annual Swatch Skiers Cup.
However this contest was refreshingly different from most, as in the minds of the competitors, it wasn't as much about winning or losing as it was about being able to have a great time with good friends in an exotic place...no matter what country you're from.
Big thanks to Swatch and the event organizing team (which is made up of veterans from the Freeride World Tour) for putting on such a unique, hospitable and camaraderie-filled event. We already can't wait for next year.
Dylan Hood - 1 vs Sverre Liliequist - 0
James Heim - 0 vs Kaj Zackrisson - 1
Josh Bibby - 1 vs Seb Michaud - 0
Rory Bushield - 1 vs Nicolas Vuignier - 0
Oakley White-Allen - 1 vs Chris Booth - 0
Dana Flahr - 0 vs Henrik Windstedt - 1
Chopo Diaz - 0 vs Richard Permin - 1
Matt Margetts - 0 vs Markus Eder - 1
Josh Bibby - 1 vs Chris Booth - 0
Chopo Diaz - 0 vs Henrik Windstedt - 1
James Heim - 0 vs Seb Michaud - 1
Dana Flahr - 0 vs Kaj Zackrisson - 1
Rory Bushfield - 1 vs Markus Eder - 0
Oakley White-Allen - 0 vs Sverre Liliequist - 1
Matt Margetts - 1 vs Nicolas Vuignier - 0
Dylan Hood - 1 vs Richard Permin - 0
Slopestyle Total - Team Americas - 8 / Team Europe - 8
Grand Total - Team Americas - 10 / Team Europe - 14
Also, congratulations to usernames alexmorton & Poseidon, who were the only two to correctly guess the winners of each heat in the first round. You've won yourselves a limited edition Swatch Skiers Cup watch!