Jeremy Jones

Extreme skiing – extreme lines – extreme freeride competitions

The history of snowboarding in 2 minutes flat from glenn6666 with thanks.

From that short history emerged the big mountain freeriders. We talked about Jeremy Jones a few days ago, but each country has their stars and none more so than France.  Yannick Amevet is one of them. Born in 1976 and resident of Les Deux Alpes, he is today one of France’s best big mountain freeriders.

As with Jeremey Jones, Amevet has learnt the art of prudence although he has certainly had his fair share of wild days. However, one grows up and if you’re lucky you learn a little wisdom along the way. The following is an interesting video from him explaining how he approaches a big mountain descent (MethodTV)

He has been known to compare freestyle riding with a very good video game – except that freestyle is better. “A video game?” said the interviewer, “Ouais, pendant le repérage, la montagne te paraît facile, tu trace ta ligne….”

What Amevet is saying that when you stand back and plot your line it all seems fairly plain sailing, but when you get to the top, you can’t see over the edge, everything you do from there is from memory and razor fast reactions. “It’s super hot, people do not realize the final goal of the game is to take the line you have defined and if you take it, you win the game…”

Xavier de la Rue, another Frenchman and currently Freeride World Tour’s champion for 3 years running, also compares the sport to video games – it’s the addiction and the thrill of the chase.

It is possible to say that the extreme sport of freeriding began way back in the 1930’s and 40’s in the couloirs and gullies that swooped and dropped down from Mont Blanc. Legendary ski champion Emile Allais and his merry band of mountain adventurers were challenging the mountains and creating the first ever hair-raising descents. But it wasn’t until the late 60’s early 70’s when freeriding began to really attract global attention and when the expression Ski Extreme was first coined by the French.

The Americans weren’t far behind and Montana’s Bill Briggs and California’s Steve McKinney were the first of a whole new generation of young riders that began testing themselves on the steep slopes of the Rockies, the Wasatch and the Sierra Nevada.

In 1991 the now near-mythical World Extreme Ski Championships (WESC) was contested on the steep slopes of Alaska’s Wasatch Mountains. The start list for the contest reads like a Who’s Who of modern freeriding: Doug Coombs won the inaugural men’s title while Kim Reichhelm was tops in the women.

At the same time the Europeans – mainly the French and the Swedes – were honing their big-mountain techniques on the toughest inclines they could find around Mont Blanc and the Savoie Region. The whole game changed when they realised that the Americans were holding big mountain contests and in 1999 French teenager Guerlain Chicherit unleashed a corker of a run in flat-light and ugly Alaskan conditions to capture his first WESC.

Few people realized the enormous impact his Valdez victory would have on the freeriding movement. For the new World Champion wasn’t alone. Back home in France were dozens of young chargers just like him. Fast, smooth – and incredibly efficient on skis. Bold beyond belief. Yet completely sure of their stuff – even in big exposure.

Many ski historian believe this was the true beginning of the freeride revolution…

All this time freeriding had been restricted to skiing, but it was only a matter of time before snowboarding took to the big mountains too. Snowboards are ideal for attacking gnarly terrain and steep drops as they are more stable and easier to manage in difficult conditions. It wasn’t long before the snowboard became the tool of choice for many big mountain adventurers.

At the beginning the snowboarders had their very own Alsaska event but the two disciplines combined  thanks to a Swiss/Briton called Nicolas Hale-Woods. The Verbier Extreme originally began in 1996 as a snowboard competition, but in 2004 ten of the world’s top ski-freeriders were invited to participate. The event never looked back.

The event has now become the annual world ski and snowboard circuit overseen by Hale-Woods – the Freeride World Tour. It travels from Russia to America and back to the Alps for the final events. The very cream of the world’s riders – skiers and snowboarders, men and women – all vie for an invitation to this prestigious event. “Who could have imagined we would have come this far so soon,” says Hale-Woods. “It’s a great event. But more importantly, the riders who participate are truly fantastic people…”

The next Freeride competition is on 15th January, 2011  – the La Clusaz Radikal Mountain followed by Chamonix on the 22nd.

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