words & photos: cko

video courtesy Orage

The qualification rounds of the 2007 Orage European Freeski Open in Laax, Switzerland wrapped up today in preparation for Slopestyle Finals on Friday and Halfpipe on Saturday. Over 100 of Europe's best skiers have traveled to Laax and have spent the last two days fighting for a spot in the finals and their chance to go up against the pre-qualified prostars that have made the journey. 

Wednesday's Slopestyle qualifications were plagued by fog, snow, and other weather wonders, and thus had to be cut down to one run from a planned best-of-two format.  The riders didn't seem to mind though, as they were given more than enough practice throughout the day to get things dialed. The course consists of three rail sets (rainbow box or rail, u-box or rollercoaster box, and a flat box or street style down rail) into a two jump line.  The second deck's rollercoaster box has been replaced for finals with a flat-down, much to the delight of most of the skiers that got a chance to take some runs Thursday afternoon. 

Winning their respective heats were Oscar Harlaut, Kalle Leinonen, Xavier Bertoni, and PK Hunder.  Notable am riders that are  probably familiar to the North American crowd making their way to the finals included Ian Cosco and Joe Schuster.  Full qualification results are below.

Men's Heat 1

Men's Heat 2

Men's Heat 3

Men's Heat 4

Women's Qualification

Thursday's weather for halfpipe qualifications was much like Wednesday:  snowy enough in the morning to keep all but the essential riders in bed until absolutely necessary, with clouds breaking in the afternoon allowing the sun to poke through on occasion. Fortunately conditions were good enough for everyone to get their two runs in Laax's beautiful pipe.  Full halfpipe results will be online soon, but highlights from athletes moving on included: JL Ratchel's killer amplitude, Arnaud Rougier, and Mathieu Bijasson. 

Watch Thursday's Slopestyle Highlights

Download the video (53 MB MPEG)