All photos: David Malacrida/White Festival
The inaugural White Festival went down this weekend in France and nobody really knew what to expect. Going into the event, all anyone had seen were some CGI mockups, which definitely do not prepare you for what you see when you walk through the doors. The single central feature is a monster, made to look all the bigger by its setting, the Halle Olympique in Albertville, which hosted parts of the 1992 Olympic Games. Spidering out from each side of the beast, 4 inruns, which start outside the stadium. Winches are used to catapult riders into the arena to throw down. And with a hip, a wallride, a jump, and a rail section the event was certainly unlike anything I, or the riders, had ever seen before.
'Dropping' in with Sarah Hoefflin.
With anything new, there's bound to be teething problems. When qualifying day rolled around, the riders had only had a day of practice, with some never even having hit one or two of the features before. The obvious difficulty with getting the snow cold and running the winches all day meant this was somewhat inevitable. The guys at the NS office also reported that, while I was sat in the crowd getting the full force of the stoke, the live stream didn't really translate how dope the show was. However, despite the odd hiccup, being there was crazy, I have never been to a ski event with an atmosphere like it.
Not your normal city ski event. Phil Casabon doing it as only he can.
While Friday was pretty quiet, Saturday's finals saw a great turnout, with stoked kids minds being blown left right and center by some of the best skiers and snowboarders on the planet. The noise was unbelievable, with the crowd screaming and stomping their feet on the bleachers. And what made this event unique, aside from it being in a population center rather than tucked away on a mountain somewhere, is that it brought live attention to what I would view as the more contemporary core of 'newschool' skiing. City big airs, after all, also put 'freeskiing' in the wider public eye, but they hardly reflect what you'd see in most parks these days.
The crowd was both huge, and wild!
At White Festival though, you had Antti Ollila tweaking out perfect blunts on steezy rotations and Magnus Graner busting nosebutters on Quarter Pipes. You had Phil Casabon oozing style and finding different lines without even spinning and Henrik going to the moon, tweaking out perfect grabs, on a feature that it should be impossible to do so. In other words, this was a display of the other side of skiing. Think more in the direction of B&E Invitational and Kimbosessions, but for the wider public. Think copious beers in the rider lounge & football/joints out back. And judging by the crowd reaction, what it did most of all was give some young skiers a chance to see their heroes in action and open the eyes of others to something less often seen on a 'mainstream' platform. The number of high fives, selfies, and stoked kids was unreal.
Antti Ollila capping.
Oh, and there was a contest too. On qualifying day, Team Finland (Antti O and Roope Tonteri) topped the leaderboard and Team USA were close behind, with Taylor Seaton killing it. Come semi-finals Magnus Graner put on one of the craziest shows, with an insane alley-oop transfer on to the wall ride 180 out and a nosebutter 7 handplant on the QP. Unfortunately his team-mate crashed on one hit, knocking them out. Finland and the USA killed it again, and were joined in the Finals by Team Europe 2 (Tom Ritsch and Ethan Morgan).
Just before finals, Best Trick went off and the dial got turned to 11. Nico Porteous (sw dub 10) and Jesper (dub backie late 1) both sent dubs to the bottom of the landing on the jump feature. It's really hard to describe how insane a dub looks inside without you being there, but trust me, these were nuts. Henrik did a ridiculous nosebud 5 right at the top of the wallride. Jesper also somehow managed a 5 up on to the wall, front swap, 360 out.
Finals saw Team Finland dominate again. Their consistency and style all throughout send them home deserving winners of this first of hopefully many stadium events. Antti's flat 3 mute on the wallride and backslide back 4 mute on the rainbow were among the bangers of the day and his team-mate Roope threw down just as hard. Tom Ritsch and Ethan Morgan landed themselves in second with huge hits all over the park, with Tom's Bio 9 tweaked safety a standout. Team USA ended up in third, with Taylor Seaton's 540 tap up and over the wallride raising one of the biggest cheers of the whole night. In all, it was one hell of a show. Oh and somewhat ironically, first and second placed Roope Tonteri/Ethan Morgan were the driving force behind a decision to split the prize money earlier in the weekend. C'est la vie.
1st Place: Team Finland: Antti Ollila and Roope Tonteri
2nd Place: Team Europe: Tom Ritsch and Ethan Morgan
3rd Place: Team USA: Taylor Seaton and Brandon Davis
4th Place: Team France: Hugo Laugier and Sacha Moretti
Big shout-out to everyone who made this event happen, I hope it's the first of many.