Words by Fréderic Magnus
Photos by Skisluts.be, Fréderic Magnus, Hilde Mantels & 'Mich Mich'
Edit by Antoine Janssens
Last weekend the 15th edition of the Zinal Freeride contest went down in Zinal, Switzerland, where nearly 150 stoked freeriders and their respective entourages gave the best of themselves during three days of riding, partying and having the time of their lives!
The playground is situated above the little village of 'Zinal' in Switzerland, which is in the very center of the Alps. The Valais/Wallis region is known among European mountain folks as one of the purest and most intense areas to ride, so needless to say, these mountains deserve respect.
Hiking to find some untouched pow.
The contest was organized by a band of stoked riders from the entire valley. They call themselves the 'badamicale', and each year they manage to step up their game with better parties, more riders and smoother organization. The contest is spread out over three days and is open to everyone, from a snowplowing rookie to a rad pro-rider, everyone is welcome. We're one big happy family, and everyone is stoked for everyone.
Fist bumps and pole whacking were pretty much standard at every drop-in, as everyone was super stoked!
Entrance into the event included a three-day ski pass, a sick swag bag with a beanie and a t-shirt, a guided descent outside of the ski-area, a delicious cheese raclette, a BBQ on the slopes and a ton of other cool stuff.
Despite the warm and sunny weather, the snow was surprisingly good.
The first day of the contest was pretty chill, as the riders got to scout the area and everyone was skiing with everyone. In the afternoon we were invited on a guided run down the backside of the ski area where a Red Bull truck and lots of ice cold beers were waiting for us.
After a guided descent we were treated to free beer and music!
The contest consisted of four qualification runs and one final run for the best riders. You had an entire day to complete four runs, which was necessary since there was almost always a line-up at the top. This may sound like a bad thing, but watching other people shred gnarly lines helped get everyone stoked to ride.
French ski bum 'MichMich' throwing a huge spread eagle during one of his runs.
The occasional gnarly crash...
Charging hard off a cliff!
Everyone was sending cliffs and taking huge airs mid-run as if it was nothing ...
One of the checkpoints...
After the qualifiers the riders headed home for a good meal and to prepare themselves for the after party, where several live bands performed on the main stage while DJs mixed funky beats inside. The traditional fire-gap jump was bigger than ever this year, and after the few lucky finalists were announced, the unlucky ones had no excuse not to party!
Weird stuff happening at the after party. Saucer Boy would have been proud.
A lost ski is reunited with his master, thanks again for bringing my baby back!
The next morning it was time for the final showdown. The riders had to hike 30 minutes to a remote face and one by one, they left their mark on the mountain. Of the 10 qualified skiers, the Windlin brothers, Lars and Kevin, took home the gold and silver medals respectively, while the bronze went to ski-guide and proud father Cédric Zambay!
Kevin Windlin (2nd), Lars Windlin (1st), Cédric Zambay (3rd)
Of the three qualified female riders, the top spot went to Florence Magnin, while Camille Gaillard took second and Mathilda Brzezinska rounded out the podium in third.
Camille Gaillard (2nd), Florence Magnin (1st), Mathilda Brzezinska (3rd)
I'd like to thank the entire 'badamicale' crew for creating another unforgettable edition of Zinal Freeride. I'm already looking forward to next year!
The Badamicale family
See you next year!