Words and photos: Tomek Gola (fikcja.pl)
Zieleniec: a little village in the Sudety Mountains in the southwestern
part of Poland. Look it up on the map—if by chance you find it, you
should take the next step and come here for our national freeskiing
holiday, the North Face Polish Freeskiing Open.
It always takes place on the last weekend of February. There have been four editions of the PFO so far, and each one has been more nuts!
This year, a few days before the event, everything still looks faint. As an earlier article on the Polish Snowrevolution stated, this winter is
not very abundant for us here in Poland. Leski and Kostek have to
literally scrape the remaining 20cm-thin layer of snow from the slopes
to build the snowpark. They are working the whole week 16 hours a day,
until 3am sometimes. And just the day before the event starts, there are still doubts
whether there will be enough material to shape the kicker - the main
part of the PFO.
But as a popular Polish phrase says, "Polak potrafi"—"Polish man can!"—the two park builders Leski and Kostek, with help of a few other guys, manage
to bring up an impressive snowpark with a nice line of rails and a functioning kicking construction.
Day 1, 23 Feb. 2007 And so here it comes:
the first day of PFO, about a hundred riders, thick fog and anxiety if
the park will fulfill the riders' expectations, which are high taking
into account the prestige the PFO has gained throughout the years. The table is only 12 meters long, but the steepness of the
kicker and the angle of the landing are shaped in such a way that with
the proper speed one gets a long hang-time and can really show some
First one to try is eMDe - Marek Doniec.
After one "cucumber" (as we call a straight warm-up jump in Poland) he starts to unfold. Cork 7, switch cork 7, switch 9. "The kicker is just perfect!" Marc exclaims. And so the training begins.
KIA, one of the main sponsors of the event, tows in their car under the
kicker, with no idea what that may really mean to them. Some of the
riders are not very accustomed with such a steep kicker, the table is
also too long for them. So standing close to the kicker you can hear the
KIA representative shouting, "Come on! It's not a jib session!" Some of
the riders are really close to sliding on the roof of brand new KIA.
Well, that would be probably the funkiest box they'd ever hit in
Meanwhile other riders are hitting the real rails and boxes.
Łukasz "Elvis" Lewandowski
And a few, together with the rescue guys, are chilling and watching the kids play.
At exactly 11:30 the qualifications for the Big Air takes off. The best 12 riders are going to compete in the next day's finals.
Martin Horak with a cork 7 what-a-tail.
There are some really cool old-school tricks there also. This one for
example: the double nose table dig to faceplant on the landing.
Fortunately, the rider survives and becomes the hero of the trick.
After the Big Air qualis, all the riders head for lunch. Tasty
grilled meat, veggie soup, a little rest. The organizers have thought of everything.
At 2:30 the rail qualifier begins.
And so the riders are giving everything they got.
The fog doesn't give up either.
4:30: The qualifiers are finished, and all the riders, exhausted, go to have a two-hour break...
...before the special event taking place in the evening...
SONY XPLOD XTREME RAILS
Sponsored by Sony, the Xtreme rails session held under the night sky attracts
a lot of spectators. The whole railpark, lit by tons of lamps, looks like
a ufo, and the colorful riders — like aliens.
Local rider - Paweł "Sosu" Grucka from Hogzilla Team
The tricks are fat: switch disaster 270 in, 270 out by Fabien Kronig,
switch in on a street rail, 270 out by Josef Kalensky, etc...
And the winner is...
Josef Kalensky from the Czech Republic! Fabien Kronig from Switzerland takes
second and Ondra Benes, also from the Czech Rep, places third. Yep, no Polish guys on the podium, but these three were seriously ripping it!
You can imagine what's up after the Sony Xplod. All the riders go to
change their stinky socks and meet for an evening of partying. Tomorrow is
the big day, but hey, are we freeskiers or what?
Day 2, FINALS, 24 Feb. 2007It's the Big
Air finals, bringing some fat tricks on the so-called "cacao kicker" (named after the color of the snow
used to construct it).
Marek Doniec, sw 7 bio?
The semifinals of the Big Air are conducted in head-to-head mode. Even though to some
riders it seems weird, most who are in the finals find it
really cool and demanding. Judging in this manner is also demanding,
especially when the riders are throwing such good tricks. Kostek Strzelski,
Piotrek Gnalicki and Szczepan Karpiel try to make up their minds who
should be in the grand final. They have a really tough decision between
Marek Doniec's sw 1080 and:
Fabien Kronig with a1080 mute!
"1080 is much more difficult than switch 1080!" argues Szczepan. Marek Doniec agrees to this, but he has one more run. And...
..he nails a massive sw bio 1080! And thus there is no more debate as to who is the best flier on this year's PFO.
After the Big Air finals, a short break.
One of the main conductors of the show, Marta Kowalska, uses these free minutes and gives interviews for national TV.
Ok, it's 2:00pm (the events organized by Leski are known to tick like a Swiss clock) — it's time! For the...
The tricks in the rail finals are of the top shelf. The guys go crazy riding the lines. They hit it really hard...
...like Chester, who's on his twin-tip skis for the second day in his
life—and he made it to the finals! But don't assume that the level
of rail comp is so low: Chester is one of the best rollerblade riders
in Poland. We were shocked to see him doing a massive 360 of a medium
kicker in the first hour he put borrowed twin-tips on! Rails came so
easy for him, that after few hours he was doing disaster on a kink!
As the riders went on, we slowly started to see the winners.
Michał Rajzer for the guys...
...and Weronika Chyc for the girls score second! I have to
mention here that Weronika hit rails last winter for the first time.
And, man, this girl is pushing it hard! She rides more stylish than
most of the guys!
Jiri Volak (CZ) for the guys.
Dominique Gisin take the first place!
That's all for the competition! All the riders are totally ex... haust... ed... Hmm... really?
the whole week he had to deal with preparing the event, now that
everything is over Kostek goes crazy on his skis... I understand him,
...the Czech guys just can't stop flying!
And the next event? Imagine a freestyle snowball fight: International
riders vs. Poland. Is that ADHC or the incredible air in Zieleniec?
The riders calm down for a moment for the prize-giving.
Karolina Niklińska hyped up for her win in Big Air. Karolina Riemen is second.
I should probably state the results of the Polish Freeskiing Open, but
it's actually not the major issue. The PFO is not just about competition—it's about skiing together, practicing,
learning, teaching, destroying, creating, spending money, earning cash.
Just whatever makes you smile! And as you see, although the
weather didn't give us blue skies and the winter didn't help with much snow, at the end
of the day it didn't really matter.
Most of us don't remember what happened after the competition. Some say there was an afterparty...
All I have to say is, you better come and see for yourself next year!
Please see the official website of Polish Freeskiing Open for the results, video, pictures and comments, etc.
- the results
- videos of tricks