Words & Video by Evan Williams

Photos by Evan Williams & Sami Ortlieb

On March 21, Ian Compton and myself left Boston for Geneva. Our final destination was Crans-Montana, Switzerland, the home of the 2011 Survival of the Fittest. It was Ian’s first time heading across the pond. We were pretty excited.

Ian was excited.

Upon arriving at the airport, we found out our connecting flight to Montreal had been canceled due to some bad weather that had been lingering in the east coast. Not a good start. Ian had fortunately gotten his way onto an earlier flight and I was placed on standby, thinking I was going to be stuck in Boston until the next day.

We waited around for about four hours through numerous flight delays, until I successfully got on the same flight as Ian and we were finally on our way.

It so happened it was also Ian’s 22nd birthday, and to our surprise we got free beer on the airplane. Ian was pretty amped to say the least.

Free beer!

With little to no sleep on the airplane, Ian and I landed in the beautiful city of Geneva, Switzerland. I had spent four months living in Geneva earlier this year so it was pretty awesome being back to the place I once called home. A quick two-hour drive took us to the town of Crans-Montana where our driver “MJ” dropped us off.

Just out the front door of our hotel. The town was awesome.

We didn’t waste any time. Ian and I ditched our bags in our hotel room and headed up for some afternoon skiing. It was definitely a unique experience, probably the most tired I have ever been skiing. We got up to the jump site to find the diggers busy pushing snow and cutting the jump into a thing of beauty. We took it pretty easy, lapping the rail line and socializing with the crew. Exhausted, we headed down after about four runs for a much needed nap.

Day two of our six-day skiing extravaganza came around and we got to work. The rail line was sessioned hard. Ian got loads of tricks as well as Swiss natives Laurent DeMartin and Sami Ortlieb.

Augustin Solioz the head shaper making some final touches to the jump. Photo: Fabian Weber

Stoked on a highly productive day, we descended through the windy road-like trail down to town to await the arrival of buddies Max Hill and Paddy Graham. Within that time things took a turn for the worst. My external hard drive fell off a night table and stopped working. Literally a filmer’s nightmare. After a bit of panicking and being bummed on losing the footage from the day we hit the bars as a little welcome celebration for Max and Paddy.

Max Hill and Paddy Graham.

We did some watch shopping.

Max beginning the après-ski activities.

The next few days were awesome. We filmed both days a good bit and finally got to hit the jump for the first time on Friday, the day before the contest began. I switched modes from cameraman to skier and sessioned the jump all morning. People threw down. I then stopped hitting the jump after lunch and grabbed the camera to document the guys hitting the jump in the afternoon.

Lolo, Ian, Max and myself enjoying the sunny warm weather.

During the training day, Survival of the Fittest 2011 winner to-be Jonas Hunziker learned a right side double cork 10. Everyone was pumped. Other notables included Simon Ericson’s switch double 9s, and Max Hill’s “270 shifty back to 180” hits that pretty much defied physics. Everyone was excited on hitting the jump for the first time and day four was in the bag.

Andreas Oloffson and Simon Ericson review some footage post-session.

Florent Beauverd, the main man behind the event. Photo: Fabian Weber

Our fifth day came around which was the Snowboard comp. The night before, all the skiers partied hard in “Bar Amadeus.”

We woke up the next morning and had the idea to shoot “A Day in the Life: MAX HILL.” Everyone was pumped on the idea. Paddy and Ian wore “Max Hill-esque clothing” which together made them slightly resemble a rock band. The day was awesome. We filmed more on the rail line and got to hit the kicker again after the snowboard comp had finished.

A Day in the Life: MAX HILL from Evan Williams on Vimeo.

The last day was the skiing side of the competition. The event is unique in the fact that it is based on Darwin’s Theory, taking literally the meaning of “Survival of the Fittest.” Each round the “weakest” riders get eliminated. The first round all 16 skiers are matched up against each other. Each skier gets two runs, and the weakest four are eliminated. The rounds that follow it were the same concept, other than instead of two runs there was only one and instead of four people getting eliminated only two. My favorite rule of SOTF was that a rider couldn’t do a trick more than once, forcing more of a variety of tricks. The runs were judged 50% on technicality and 50% on style.

Halvard Thon, the flying Norwegian. Photo: Fabian Weber

At the start gate there was much talk about what tricks to do in the first round. The higher bib numbers had the privilege of watching those before them in order to see what tricks are being thrown. Much like all of us had anticipated, everyone took it easy the first round, laying down tricks with style. After everyone took both runs, scores were tallied and the four weakest riders were eliminated.

We all went straight to the VIP lounge when we got eliminated to eat, drink, and observe the competition unfold.

The rounds that followed went smoothly. Rider by rider was eliminated until it came down to the final three: Laurent Favre, Jonas Hunziker, and Halvard Thon. The finals were setup a lot like the first round. Each finalist was given two runs to lay down their best trick. In this case, they could repeat a trick previously done.

A view of how the competition worked. Semi-finals in progress.

Riders Eliminated in Round 1

Ian Compton

Harry Pettit

Sami Ortlieb

Max Hill

Riders Eliminated in Round 2

Andri Ambuehl

Kai Mahler

Riders Eliminated in Round 3

Evan Williams

Simon Ericson

Riders Eliminated in Round 4

Laurent DeMartin

Paddy Graham

Riders Eliminated in Round 5

Cyril Hunziker

Alex Neurohr

Final Round

Jonas Hunziker

Halvard Thon

Laurent Favre

Lolo opted for the hip feature of the jump and did a lofty switch 540. Laurent and Ian Compton were the only two to hit the jump in this unique fashion, and as a result Laurent ended up in third.

Halvard Thon had been killing it the whole competition, he threw a switch cork 10 blunt landing him in second place.

Jonas Hunziker ended things with a bang by throwing a double cork 10 nose mute that got him to the top of the podium and winning part of the $10,000 USD prize purse.

Halvard Thon (2nd), Jonas Hunziker (1st), Laurent Favre (3rd)

The vibes of the competition were amazing. It wasn’t like your typical big air event. Everyone was having fun as if we were just sessioning together on a normal day.

Jonas Hunziker was stoked! Photo: Fabian Weber

The following morning Ian and I woke up bright and early. We said our good-byes and our Switzerland trek came to an end. We hopped on a train back to Geneva from Crans and flew home from there. The whole trip felt like a blur.

Enjoying our last evening in Crans-Montana.

I’d like to personally thank the event organizers Nicolas Vuignier and Florent Beauverd for putting on such an awesome event. Stoked for next year!

Heres the video recap of our week...

New Intel - The Swizzy Trip from Evan Williams on Vimeo.

And here’s the official edit of the event, shot and edited by Fabian Weber…

Survival of the Fittest 2011 | Freeski Contest from CREWSTACEZ.COM on Vimeo.