Words John Spelman; Photos Rip Curl and John Spelman Last weekend saw the postponed 5th annual Rip Curl Freeski event at Les Diableret in Switzerland. A bunch of names turned up including Steele Spence, Laurent Favre, Jacob Wester, Andreas Hatveit and Simon Dumont to battle out for some bucks and the X-Game wildcards which were in the offering. Unfortunately the event was marred by bad weather and the finale contests were cancelled.However, good weather on the first day of the event did allow the qualification runs for halfpipe and slopestyle to take place. A crop of new name rookies and wanna-be rookies kicked in their best to impress the judges. Of note was young Canadian Alexi Godbout who put in a super impressive performance (why wasn’t this guy invited?) coming first in the junior run of both contests. Other rookies making a mark (and emerging names to note on this side of the Atlantic) were Henrik Harlaut (only 14 years), Xavier Bertoni and Roy Kittler.

Alexi Goodbout killing the pipe in the qualification round This first day was followed by a downpour of snow for the next two days literally wiping out the scheduled slopestyle and halfpipe finals. This really sucked for everyone but must have been harder for the qualifying rookies who had made such a show in the qualification round and were keen to go head to head with the big boys.
The Rip Curl staff kept a friendly face despite the obvious disappointment that having already postponed this event from November (no snow) it had now been knocked out by too much snow . They were superb filling in time organizing ice hockey matches, road gaps, screw-around rail sessions, etc. So, bad weather aside, credit should go to the Rip Curl team for putting in a good effort and for the fact that they run a freeski event at all, in a Europe where the calendar for big freeski events is really sparse.
In the absence of contest adrenalin and with lifts closed I expected a low down moody atmosphere at the riders hotel. But far from it. Everyone seemed to be having a lot of fun killing time drinking or screwing around. Maybe it was an early arrival of Christmas or something but the amount of boozing and laughter pouring out of the corridors beat my expectations. Particularly at the local “hot-spot” in town, the local La Porte Disco. When I first saw the sign “Disco” outside this place I thought obviously it was meant to be ironic or a joke, some sort of gay drag place or something. But no, I later discovered it was serious - it really was a meant to be a “Disco-techque”. Steele Spence and his wonderful accompanying girlfriend Justine who had hilariously “boogied” there the night before I arrived gave me a run down of the illustrious interior: floor to ceiling mirrors, “advant garde” red and green laser lights, special reflector mirror effects - “and they were playing a French version of Grease when we arrived”, they told me with great relish. It was against that backdrop the next evening that funny guy Simon Dumont, fresh from an alcoholic afternoon, hit the dance floor, wildly spinning 360s and fakie moves where he out-danced the locals and won: “The Lucky Gold Disco Dancer of the Night” (great title), though he was actually oblivious that he was being judged or that a contest was in play. Surprised and half aware of what was going on, he was presented with the top prize (new cell phone) while the local disco kings and queens looked on from the sides disgruntled. I traveled back on the train to Geneva Airport with Andreas Hatveit and Niklas Karlstrom and we were much amused when quite innocuously Steele Spence and Justine purchased from the vending machine at Les Diableret station for a cost of about one dollar the wonderfully titled: “Iced Tea with Swiss Cannabis” with a picture of hemp leaves on the front and the slogan “For a fantastic natural feeling”(see picture below).Un-revamped 1980s disco-techque by night and cannabis laden ice tea for the morning after - what a combination!