Orage European Freeskiing Open 2006
The first ever-inaugural Orage European Freeski Open took place in Laax, a ski resort in central Switzerland. Holding Europe’s best superpipe and Terrain Park, Laax has gotten tons of exposure in snowboard mags and movies all over the world. The resort has also been host for the European Snowboarding open for the last couple of years. So, now it was the skiers’ turn to take over the place, showing Europe that there is more to having fun on snow than snowboarding.
Taking a look at the starting list of the 36 invited and the 12 qualified riders was really like looking through the names of the US Open or Xgames starting list, except for a few absent names. Top-notch riders like TJ Schiller; Simon Dumont, Charles Gagnier and US Open slopestyle winner Corey Vanular graced the list with their presence. It was for sure an interesting competition, I was intimidated by the sheer talent of all the skiers there, and had a hard time focusing while watching TJ stomping another 450 onto the first feature, a 25 ft box on top of what looked like an old tram, like it was his job. Oh, that’s right, it is his job. Following what the announcer referred to as the "train rail", were two medium sized kickers, a 40 ft flat box, a choice of two A-frames and a rollercoaster box, and, to end the course, an insanely steep and slippery wallride, with takeoffs on each side. At the end of the day, Vanular had crashed himself out of the semis, Liam Downey had gotten caught in the banners on the side of the flat box in both of his runs, and the "train rail" had seen a whole bunch of bone crunching wipeouts. Surprisingly enough, TJ Schiller did not win, although he got 2nd. Even more surprising, Simon Dumont took his first ever slopestyle win, linking together a sick cab dspin 7 into his signature cab dspin 10, taking home a prize check of 10 grand. Yours truly got 5th place, right after Swedish up-and-comer Henrik Harlaut, only 14 years of age, and totally kicking some major ass. Watch out for Henrik!
Saturday it was time for the field to enter the infamous Laax superpipe, and it was with a whole bunch of anticipation I dropped in to do my first practice run in what was my first pipe comp ever. Wow, competition sure was tough, the level was huge, and even French legend Candide Thovex showed off with some ridiculously high flairs and alley oop cork 7s. This was our first day with decent weather, it wasn’t even snowing! Although the sun wasn’t out as often as we had liked it to be, it was still better than the slopestyle comp, where the judges had a hard time seeing what was actually going on in the heavy snowfall. The pipe though, had definitely seen better days. While the right wall was slightly oververt, throwing the riders into the bottom of the tranny, the left wall was really weird in some places, shifting from oververt to undervert depending on where the rider took off. A big part of the starting field had a hard time coping with this, which definitely took off some of the height. Biggest whoa of the day was handed out to Finnish skier Iiska Heiskanen, who went at least 20 ft out on his second hit, an alley oop grabbed for the whole flight. He eventually got 2nd place for his run, landing right between gold medalist Candide Thovex and 3rd place skier, Simon Dumont, who had a sick run with back to back 5s, a 9 and a 10, but seemed to be having problems with speed on the last hits.
In conclusion, the event went fine, especially for being in its first year. Hopefully, some small mistakes (like not including "juniors", under 16 years of age in the final results lists) will be fixed for next year’s event. The skiers had a good time, the parties were as usual off the hook, and we got some sun at least. See you next year!
Check out www.Orageski.com for info.
Simon Dumont (US)
TJ Schiller (CAN)
Charley Ager (CAN)
Henrik Harlaut (SWE)
Jacob Wester (SWE)
Candide Thovex (FRA)
Tora Bright (FIN)
Simon Dumont (US)
Jos Wells (NZ)
Jacob Wester (SWE)