Words & photos by Jeff Schmuck

The sixth annual European Open kicked off today in the picturesque and quaint yet luxurious resort of Laax, Switzerland.

After suffering a knock-out punch at the hands of Mother Nature last winter, who unleashed a flurry of hurricane-like winds and thick fog that forced the cancellation of the better part of the competition, the always enjoyable event got up, dusted itself off and returned for another bout this year...and it's already won the first round.

Laax, Switzerland

As the committed athletes, hard working event staff and industry swingers drew open their curtains this morning at the Riders Palace (one of the coolest ski resort hotels in the world), they were greeted with the polar opposite of the catalyst of last year's debacle, a smoking hot sun and ocean blue skies.

Riders Palace

Although many of the usual slopestyle and halfpipe a-listers aren't present this year due to various filming commitments, the impressive field of riders then made their way up the mountain for men's slopestyle qualifiers, where a superb course consisting of a unique rail section and three finely sculpted and respectable-sized booters awaited them.

Nearly 100 skiers, many of them up and coming Europeans who are going to have plenty of time to shine this week due to the absence of various X Games and Dew Tour podium dwellers, excitedly took to the rails and jumps for a chance at one of the 37 spots in Friday's semi-final round against the contingent of pre-qualified athletes. Today's proceedings were broken down into four heats, with the riders getting two runs each and the best one counting, and the top five in each heat automatically moving onto to semis along with those who were awarded the next 17 highest scores overall.

Taking the top spots in Heat 1 were Jeremy Pancras, who threw down one of the biggest double cork 12's of the day in his run, along with the silent Finnish assassin Antti Ollila, who came to Laax with a ski bag full of confidence in tow following his second place showing at Red Bull Playstreets, and continued to prove that he's one to watch with a stylish switch cork 9 to dub cork 10 to flatspin 9.

Jeremy Pancras

Antti Ollila

Also moving onto semis from the first heat were Pancras' fellow countrymen from France Maxime Forinier, plus Lord Byron Wells, who has been doing a fine job as of late showing that he's much more than just a kick-ass pipe skier, along with another Frenchman, Victor Berard, who laid down a dub 12 to switch 5 to double flatspin 9, all of which were overflowing with style.

Maxime Forinier

Victor Berard

In Heat 2, Roy Kittler will be looking to make another appearance on the podium following his third place performance at last weekend's Austrian Open, along with Germany's Florian Geyer, who stomped a bio 9 and dub cork 10 in his run, and the very impressive Jonas Hunziker, who on top of seemingly skiing the course faster than anyone else put down a killer switch 12 to dub 10 to get a big ol' thumbs up from the judges.

Roy Kittler

Jonas Hunziker

Rounding out the top five spots in the heat were Joss Christensen, who in case you haven't noticed has been on an absolute roll this winter, and David Ortlieb, who carved into each jump like a butter knife and unveiled spins so smooth they would make B-Dog smile.

Joss Christensen

In Heat 3, Fridtjof Fredricsson, better known as Frodo, stomped one of the most technically flawless runs of the day with a switch 9 to dub 10 to right cork 9 on the jumps to take the highest score in the heat, while Thomas Kobel of Switzerland and Swedish playboy Oscar Scherlin nabbed the second and third place spots.

Fridtjof Fredricsson

Oscar Scherlin

Taking fourth and fifth respectively and also doing the host country proud were Switzerland's Cyrill Hunziker, who came out swinging on his first run with a trio of different 9's, and Silvan Jaeger, who busted out some silky regular and switch 5's along with a cork 9 nose.

Cyrill Hunziker

Silvan Jaeger

In the fourth and final heat, which was comprised of all Europeans with the exception of the American boy wonder David Wise, Åre, Sweden's Morten Grape found his name at the top of the leader board after busting out a cork 9 to switch 5 to killer flat 10, while Laurent Demartin trailed just behind him in second with some serious steeze on his switch 9's and flatspin 5's.

Morten Grape

Laurent Demartin

In third was Norway's Oystein Braten, who was the first to drop in the heat and set the bar high right off the bat with a cork 7, 9 and switch 10, while the always lovable Jaime Puigdengoles from Spain put down a switch double cork 9 to switch 9 on his second run after crashing on his first to take fourth. Stay tuned to Newschoolers for a sweet article that Jaime just hooked us up with on his recent trip to Calgary to tame some urban beasts with Rob Heule.

Oystein Braten

Jaime Puigdengoles

And grabbing the final top five spot was Switzerland's style sensei Nicolas Vuignier, who continued to make some serious noise in his young career by getting mad tech on the rails up top along with one of the sickest flatspin 9's of the day on the jumps.

Nicolas Vuignier

Also squeaking into semi-finals by securing the next 17 highest scores overall were James Woods, Maximilliam Smith, Tyler Harding, Frederick Iliano, Kim Boberg, Alexander Hebbe, Sami Ortlieb, Niklas Eriksson, Yannic Lerjen, Andri Ambuhl, Julian Ball, Lauri Kivari, Gaute Silseth, Erik Hughes, Otso Raisanen, Oscar Wester and Jesper Tjader, all of whom will be looking to better their already stellar performances from today during Saturday's slopestyle semi-finals and finals.

Niklas Eriksson & Kim Boberg

Stay tuned to Newschoolers for more daily coverage on the sixth annual European Open in Laax, Switzerland, which continues tomorrow with halfpipe qualifiers and hopefully more sunshine.


Heat 1

1) Jeremy Pancras - 75.67

2) Antii Ollila - 74.00

3) Maxime

Fornier - 73.50

4) Byron Wells - 67.83

5) Victor Berard - 66.50

6) James Woods - 66.00

7) Maximilliam Smith - 62.33

8) Tyler Harding - 64.83

9) Frederick Iliano - 62.67


10) Lucas Evans - 55.17

11) Josh Birch - 53.67

12) Joël Mooser - 53.50


César Fabre - 53.33

14) Gian Ragettli - 51.17

15) Tom Lesuire - 49.00

16) Tom Damiani - 47.83

17) David Bonneville - 45.67

18) Maxence

Gisin - 45.50

19) Adrien

Exertier - 19.00

20) Patrik Cavelti - 5.83

Jonathan Bertoni - DNS

Thomas Zubiria - DNS

Pablo Belmonte - DNS

Aidan Sheahan Aidan - DNS

Heat 2

1) Roy Kittler - 81.67

2) Florian Geyer - 80.17

3) Jonas Hunziker - 78.00

4) Joss Christensen - 74.83

5) David Ortlieb - 74.67

6) Kim Boberg - 74.50

7) Alexander Hebbe - 72.17

8) Sämi Ortlieb Sämi - 72.00

9) Niklas Eriksson - 70.17

10) Yannic Lerjen - 64.83

11) Andri Ambühl - 63.83

12) Julian Ball - 63.67

13) Lauri Kivari - 61.83


14) Antoine Adelisse - 55.33

15) Anton Golubev - 54.83

16) Clark Jaeden Schneider - 54.33

17) Roope Leppänen - 52.67

18) Anttijussi Heikkinen - 49.83

19) Otto Venäläinen - 12.33

20) Lucas Mangold - 11.17

Mike Thalmann - DNS

Rob Heule - DNS

Lyndon Sheehan - DNS

Heat 3

1) Fridtjof Fredricsson - 79.33

2) Thomas Kobel - 75.00

3) Oscar Scherlin - 73.83

4) Cyrill Hunziker - 72.83

5) Silvan Jäger- 72.00

6) Gaute Silseth - 69.50

7) Erik Hughes - 67.17

8) Otso Räisänen - 66.33


9) Kai Mahler - 60.67

10) Matt Margetts - 60.00

11) Kalle Hilden - 55.17

12) Alessandro Jossen - 53.83

13) Mattias Johansson - 53.50

14) Peter

Speight - 50.00

15) Juraj Durovcik - 48.33

16) Paul-Eric Faure - 38.33

17) Johan Berg - 30.00

Noah Bowman - DNS

Manuel Manca - DNS

Tobi Mangold - DNS

Benjamin Kronig - DNS

Till Matti - DNS

Mees Lierop - DNS

Jon Anders Lindstad - DNS

Heat 4

1) Morten Grape - 76.33

2) Laurent Demartin - 75.50

3) Oystein Braten - 70.67

4) Jaime Puigdengoles - 68.33

5) Nicolas Vuignier - 67.83

6) Oscar Wester - 65.00

7) Jesper Tjäder - 62.50


8) Lucas Högland - 60.83

9) David Wise - 60.33

10) James Webb - 54.83

11) Victor Prieux - 53.00

12) Johan Collomb-Clerc - 51.50

13) Jonas Ruthberg - 46.67

14) Alex Chabod - 45.67

15) Antoine Blanchi - 40.50

16) Teo Cattaneo - 39.67

17) Bastien Dupont Vieux - 37.33

18) Bastien Chillotti - 32.33

19) Axel Östlund - 13.83

20) Aleksi Laitinen - 8.17

Harry Pettit - DNS

Manuel Eder - DNS

Sandro Cola - DNS