Do or do not. There is no try.
Now freeride Jedi get together in Russia, to take part in Freeride World Qualifier 2*, or Alpika Freeski Alpindustria Fest. For the first time in many years, skiers and snowboarders returned to the slopes of Krasnaya Polyana, which at one time took the stages of Freeride World Tour — Russian Adventure Sochi.
It was even before Olympics-2014 and the renovation of the Alpika-Service resort, which was opened to the public in January, 2018. Today Alpika Gazprom Mountain Resort is one of the most interesting ski areas for experienced riders, mainly with red and black slopes, without training sites.
Freeride World Qualifier 2* took place in the Salymovsky Circus, which remembers the riding of first legendary Freeride World Tour participants — including Xavier de la Rue, Sverre Liliequist, Seb Michaud, Kai Zakrisson and others. Nowadays the new Jedi of freeriding are in their place, and many heroes of yesteryear moved into judges category.
In 2020 organizing team chose a very interesting site on the Eastern slope, with 25-45 degrees inclining and an elevation of almost 500 meters (2,228 — 1,730 m). As for the snow, before the starts Krasnaya Polyana was overwhelmed with it — as the very rebel base on Hoth planet from «Return of the Jedi» movie. «Nobody needs this planet except us», — said Luke Skywalker about Hoth, which cannot be said about the competitors. On these February days in Polyana everyone needed freeride!
But the safety requirements were fully observed: avalanche-hazardous areas were closed, and not a single rider went to the start without a probe, helmet, beeper, shovel and Recco sensor on clothes.
Contest was attended by more than a hundred athletes: 52 male snowboarders, 33 male skiers, 16 women snowboarders and 9 women skiers — a very representative cast, which included both winners of past starts and international steps (Alexey Vodolazkin, Nastya Anufrikova, Igor Ilinykh), — as well as young Padawans, just trying prentice hand at freeride.
«I think the most impressive thing about this event is the will of Russian people to take part in the contest», — Benjamin Calmel, Head Judge and FWT representative said. — «A lot of riders want to ski and snowboard not only because they like to show their skills, but to feel wow-effect of the competition. Quality of event in Krasnaya Polyana was very good, because people, who did it, are involved in mountain business for long time».
And the wow effect happen to be! «Kidding apart — these few days with FWQ bib on gave me as much as I have not received in years of snowboarding», — comments Yuri Pashkov, an experienced rider and vice-champion of Cable World Wakeboard Championships. — «I want to thank everyone for the incredible holiday, that once again came to Russia!»
As a result, the first place among skiers was given to Yevgeny Alymov, who rode steadily and at good speed. Direct jumps without falls, a confident line (the completion of which was not prevented by treacherous bushes) — the judges gave Zhenya 84.3 points. But the leader among snowboarders — Igor Ilinykh — scored 90 points for clear trajectory, jump with a rotation of 360 degrees and an perfect overall impression.
«I have been participating in freeride competitions since 2011», — says Igor. — «To be precise, I rode at all FWQ starts which took place in Russia. And I won again! I will continue to move on — I really hope that I can get to the next starts in Jasná (Slovakia), at a 4* level Freeride World Qualifier. And try to score more points. At the finals in Polyana there was perfect snow conditions, most of the slope was open and I managed to do everything I planned.»
Nastya Anufrikova — perhaps, the best competitor woman skier in Russia, becomes first among women skiers, she successfully rides at international events as well. And Nadia Kruglova, the snowboarder winner, was also scored 90 points (a confident and flawlessly mundane front flip helped). The snow gods smiled to her the fullest smile — at the finals she started as first participant, and got all non-skied powder to herself.
And what do the organizers say?
«This year all agreed, that we found the optimal slope within walking distance from ski lifts and in a full view of the entire resort. This allowed to held the starts as we expected», — comments Alexei Mitrofanov, the organizer, on whose account were two stages of Freeride World Tour in Russia in 2010 and 2011.»
«I would like to note, that over time riders become more and more conscious. They listen to the organizer’s advices and follow the message, that we want to convey to the guests and resort management — our main goal is to organize qualified off-piste skiing, that means safe skiing. During the competition, we do not pursue the ambition of “choosing the best”, we want to share certain right knowledge and skills with our opinion leaders — snowboarders and skiers.»
«Our side events are also the part of this message — lectures on avalanche safety, riders' presentations — something without freeride culture cannot form. For example, this year in Krasnaya Polyana UIAGM mountain guide Jimmy Oden presented his book “Free Skiing — How to Adapt to the Mountain”, which has been translated to Russian.»
«This year I really liked the general organization — we worked as a single team (numbering about 50 people!). Cooperation with the “Alpindustria” company and Sergey Zon-Zam personally not only benefited the event, but actually raised it to a new high level».
«And Alpika Gazprom Mountain Resort take us at a top notch! We appreciate it very much — because sometimes resorts administration treat freeride as something incomprehensible and superfluous. The fact that Alpika supports us, realizing that organized off-piste skiing is the thing of the future, is very valuable. It was very nice to work together.»
And now to finish off — just as snow does not end in February, great news about future FWT starts in Russia under way. The organizers are extremely serious about holding competition of 3* FWQ in 2021. Moreover, Nicholas Hale-Woods, the permanent leader of Freeride World Tour, is positive about returning to Russia with one of big freeride events. And that’s great.
May the force be with us!
Freeride World Qualifier 2*, Alpika Freeski Alpindustria Fest
Russia, Krasnaya Polyana, February 15-16, 2020
1. Alymov Evgeny, 84.3
2. Tetenkov Mark, 77.3
3. Prozorovskiy Maksim, 74
1. Anufrikova Anastasia, 80
2. Chornyak Anna, 71.6
3. Makagonova Natalia, 64.3
1. Ilinykh Igor, 90
2. Ionov Maxim, 85
3. Serdyukov Igor, 81
1. Kruglova Nadezhda, 90
2. Shevchenko Tatiana, 74.3
3. Shilova Sofya, 72