Powder, kickers and spectacular riding; the first day of competition on the Big Mountain Pro concludes in style

February 04, 2009

The first day of competition on the Swatch O’Neill Big Mountain Pro saw the six skiers steal the spotlight from the snowboarders

Boarding the bus in St Anton am Arlberg at 7am under clear blue skies, the 12 riders were treated to two faces in one day on which to hike and ride untouched powder. “We started the day on Wirth – a small face in the St Anton region,” event director Nicolas Hale Woods said. “It was a good warm-up for all of the riders.”

However it was last year’s winner, Jeremy Jones who wowed all watching with his original and adventurous line down the face, setting the standard for all to follow. “There were up to four features for the riders on the 150m vertical face, so it was great start,”

Nicolas Hale Woods said. The second face, Ameisen Spitze, is where the skiers stole the show. A bigger face with challenging natural features, was enhanced with two kickers built by the world class team of David Reinthaler and Nick Francke. “I’ve been shaping in parks and on events for the past few years so getting back into the mountains and shaping in the backcountry again has been great,” said Nick Francke. “Our aim was to build two nice kickers at the end of the run.

The skiers charged it pretty hard. I think the snowboarders didn’t expect it to be so much like a freestyle kicker, but they all seemed to like it,” said David Reinthaler. Among them was Eric Themel, who despite “flipping over the nose of my board twice because I brought the wrong board for the snow conditions,” was still enthusiastic about the two “perfectly shaped kickers,” as well as the two shapers standing by cheering on the riders; “It’s not often you get that kind of support freeriding on a mountain,” he said.

On that second face, snowboarder, Xavier de le Rue stood out for his fast and fluid line… and the two 360s he pulled out over the two kickers. And amongst the skiers it was Thomas Diet who stole the show. “Today really suited me,” Thomas said. “It was a mix of freeride and freestyle with the two big kickers at the end. I took two cliff drops and then took the two kickers.” Thomas didn’t just take the two kickers, he impressed the crowds watching from the other side of the mountain with a back flip over the first and a double back flip over the second… before and after his two cliff drops. “I’m essentially a freerider,” he said. “But I’ve always loved jumping off things since I was young, so this was perfect.” This is Thomas Diet’s third Big Mountain Pro, and the experience he has gained between each one showed today. “I’m only 24 years old,” he said. “When you look at the good freeriders they have so much experience and really understand the mountain.” “When you see people like Jeremy Jones and Xavier de le Rue they can read details on the mountain from almost a few kilometers away. I really try to learn from these guys and ask them a lot of questions.”

The Swatch O’Neill Big Mountain Pro will stay in the St Anton am Arlberg region tomorrow as it looks towards the face of Brandjoch, just outside of Innsbruck for another challenging and no doubt spectacular day of competition. “I know the face tomorrow,” says local Eric Themel. “It’s a special one to ride because you can see Innsbruck the entire time you are riding down. It’s hard to find another place in the world you can go freeriding while you look over a major city.”

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