re-sized couloir

One of the most radical snowboard and ski contests is about to happen

The Nissan O’Neill Xtreme Freerider contest in Verbier, Switzerland from 19-22nd March is one of the most extreme contests in the world.

As skier Kaj Zackrisson of Sweden, who was the winner of the 2008 Nissan O’Neill Xtreme – Verbier and ranked 6th in the Freeride World Tour rankings, says: “The FWT is an awesome gathering of riders who love and breathe the passion of riding; I am happy to be part of it.”

Since its start in 1996 the “Xtreme” at Verbier has been considered the most prestigious event in the freeride world. To accomplish the difficult lines, these top athletes have to have mental focus, physical ability, stay smart and have the very highest level of skiing or snowboarding. There is a US$100 000 prize for the winner.

For the “grande finale” of the Freeride World Tour the elite of freeride will tackle the mythical North Face of the Bec des Rosses, a dauntingly steep and frighteningly jagged 500m rock-face. In some places the Bec des Rosses has sheer slopes of 55* – picture this… whilst standing in an upright position you could lean on the face with your elbow!

With steep and narrow couloirs, high rock cliffs, steep pitches and changing snow and terrain, the riders have to be particularly skilled and in top physical condition. They require thorough mountain experience and top placements in the previous contests. It is the perfect challenge for these skilled competitors.

Riders arrive in Verbier at the beginning of the week to study the imposing slope, and choose a line with the help of binoculars. On the day of the competition, they hike for over an hour to the summit. One by one they descend the face in an attempt to qualify for the finals.

Around 5000 spectators will join the riders at one of the most beautiful natural arenas of the Alps, the Col des Gentianes in Verbier which is just in front of the Bec des Rosses, and is the perfect place to catch the action.

Right at this moment the team are racing in Tignes and you can get a feel for the contest by watching the official youtube site of FreerideWorldTourTV .

Last year the snow was a little thin, but as you all know, this year has been sensational and there is currently 2m of snow at Verbier with more expected. The conditions couldn’t be more perfect for this very extreme competition.

To amuse and entertain you, here are some of the best crashes from the competition when it was in Squaw Valley at the end of February, early March. The video comes from the same source with thanks.

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