Nissan ONeill Xtreme Verbier

Sun 16 March 08

Last stop in the Freeride World Tour hit verbier

Nissan ONeill Xtreme Verbier

Nissan ONeill Xtreme Verbier ©

Freeride World Tour logo

Tension was high for this last and final contest of the Freeride World Tour, also considered the most prestigious contest of them all. A 100 000 USD prize pot was at stake as well. To accomplish the difficult lines, these top athletes have to have mental focus, physical ability, stay smart and have the very highest level skiing or snowboarding.

Swede Kaj Zackrisson was so happy and moved after his solid winning run. The strong skier, who won the Xtreme 2006, is famous for his fast riding. He perfectly landed three massive cliff drops in a slightly original choice of line. “For me this is the most important contest. Even during the autumn when I train I think of it. I put a lot of pressure on myself and was really nervous this morning. But once out of the starting gate it was all good. I chose a difficult line and stomped it. It was just such joy,” said the ever smiling Swede who has won two out of five contests of the World Tour this year. “It is really good for our sport with the start of the World Tour. It is seriously organised but still in the great spirit of freeriding. We are all here to ski and have fun but now the kids know what to aim at. To qualify to the world tour and then you can become a pro rider. It is the perfect entrance.”

Kaj Zackrisson’s fellow countryman Henrik Windstedt has had an amazing start of his international freeride career with two wins and one second place at the five contests of the Freeride World Tour. With this impressive score the 24 year old Swede is the Freeride World Champion2008 in the skiers’ category, although he fell during his spectacular run today. “It is just insane to become World Champion! It is a great concept with the tour. There is interesting prize money and a bigger interest from the public and media,” said the talented Swede who has previously been racing successfully in alpine, moguls and big air.

Throughout the season the skiers have had an amazing level and the fight for the top has been tight. The two French skiers Seb Michaud and Aurélien Ducroz have been dominating the podium with three podium places each, including one win for the veteran Seb Michaud, finishing as vice World Champion and Aurélien Ducroz being the third best rider in the world. The top three have been closely followed by the two American former freestylers Drew Tabke and Cody Townsend.

Today, the snowboarders started after the skiers, which made their riding more difficult with the skied out snow. The Swiss snowboarder Cyril Neri chose a different line where there were less tracks and it paid off. All smiles for Cyril, who took his first victory of the Freeride World Tour today. “I won the Xtreme ten years ago [and 2006], and now I am back! I opted for good snow, clean jumps and fast riding. It was a good exercise to change face today. As for the other contests of the World Tour this year we had to change the originally planned contest face due to difficult conditions. It demands a lot of us riders, we progress when we have to be flexible and adapt. It pushes the level even higher.”

French snowboarder Xavier de le Rue has impressed all season with his extremely fast and powerful riding. With one win and two second places he is the Freeride World Champion2008 in the snowboard category, tightly followed by Swiss rider Alex Coudray and Austrain Flo Orley. Xavier de le Rue has an impressive background as a four times boarder cross World Champion, winner of the Xtreme and the Swatch O’Neill Big Mountain Pro 2007, and is already looking forward to next season. “During the whole tour we were quite unlucky with the conditions, it has been difficult for the organisers but it was still a success. It can just get better for next year and I am really motivated to push my abilities even further.”

The female riders were first on the mountain today and impressed the spectator crowd with fast, solid riding. Alaskan skier Elyse Saugstad won today and has dominated the World Tour since she qualified in Mammoth in January. “I started entering freeride contests last year to get an experience for this year. For the world tour I had to fight my way in by qualifying in Mammoth. It has been tough competition so it feels amazing! I am very happy to be part of the tour. It has really helped us athletes to be/get recognised. It is a small group of athletes travelling around the world and we get to know each other really well,” said the ex junior alpine Olympic Champion.

Swiss local rider Ruth Leisibach is one of the most aggressive female riders on the planet which she proved today by winning the Xtreme for the fifth time and the World Champion title. After a back injury at the beginning of the season she has had an amazing recovery.
“I am really stoked for the World Champion title but the most important for me is to enjoy. We have ridden beautiful mountains during the tour. The competitions are interesting and a real kick of adrenaline. It is where you give it all and push the limits for the female freeriding.”

The very first edition of the Freeride World Tour has since mid January consisted of five contests around the world; in Mammoth USA, Sochi, Russia, mobile in the Alps, in Tignes, France and finally today in Verbier, Switzerland. During the events the riders have been judged based on three criteria: choice of line, control and fluidity, which can be summed up to one criteria: General Impression.

Head organiser of the Freeride World Tour and the 13 editions of the Xtreme in Verbier, Nicolas Hale-Woods, is thrilled to have successfully completed the first edition of the Tour: “It has been a great challenge to organise the first ever Freeride World Tour with the best skiers and snowboarders in the world, in some of the most well known resorts. The feedback from the riders is great. They are happy to see the progression of their sport both from a sportive point of view and with the growing public interest internationally as well as media wise. Some of the biggest challenges have certainly been to organise events at numerous locations around the planet, and the difficult snow and weather conditions this winter. The winter is very short, we organised seven events from mid January to mid March and travelled from one venue to the other. But meeting other cultures is also very motivating. We really look forward to organising next year’s tour and go to new exciting destinations around the world.”

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Verbier, Switzerland

Snowboard Guide rating 10 out of 10 “Extremely good resort with some of the best extreme terrain in Switzerland and the world for that matter. ”

Nissan O'Neill Xtreme Verbier 08

14-23 March 08

Since its start in 1996 the