FWQ 1* Open Faces Hochkönig 2014

Friday, January 31st I went to Maria Alm to check out the snow and find a line according to the conditions. It was pretty miserable weather overall with loads of clouds and warm air melting the little leftover snow. The visibility, however, wasn’t actually half bad all things considered. The lifts to access the upper part of the mountain were closed due to high winds, so there would be no face check today after all. The snow was really strange; it felt like different layers on the trail… some slushy-ish artificial snow on the slope mixed in with some really sticky warm natural snow… made riding feel awkward at best. I decided to head home and get a good night’s rest and check it out on contest day. It was the same face as it was last year, so I have a pretty good general idea of what to expect. The real question was whether or not it was even going to take place with this wind.
The game plan was to compete at Hochkönig then drive straight down to Artesina if they postponed to Sunday. The latest news from the organization however, was that Saturday was a go. Should I stay or should I go… both contests could end up postponed, both would be fun to do. Artesina would have been extra special as I had never been. But, it would mean an 8 hour drive… each way! And on the Italian highway which costs an arm and a leg. I chose Hochkönig simply for the ease of not having the 16 hours of driving in 2 days. Early next morning I drove over to Maria Alm in pretty intense fog in the dips in the road and intense bluebird bright sky once it climbed out of Saalfelden. Regardless of the snow, the sight will be top notch! The wind delayed the start of everything but the riders meeting was held in the gondola station before we were able to head up. We had some time to take a few runs and a hearty face check before it was time to hike to the start. From the top of a chairlift there is a ridge to traverse towards the face which drops down some rocks and continues along the backside of the contest face. It’s necessary to hike up over rocks to reach the start which is only a very narrow long ridge. It makes everything challenging to orchestrate the flow of start numbers as only a few could be on the ridge at a time. I had only a short moment to see the face from the top for a minute before finalizing my line. I chose a similar start to last year which no one else had done as there wasn’t really enough snow to feel good about not hitting rocks. It started off with a small drop into a steep section where I wanted to steer to 2 further rocks to drop. I watched a few riders take their runs and one thing was very clear: the snow was really sticky and fairly deep creating lots of surprise front flips and feisty skis. When it was my turn to drop in I was feeling good about what I wanted to do and wanted to just go for it. I dropped the first rock into the face and landed ok but got the nose stuck in a sticky track from another rider it nearly stopped my momentum. It was so stuck in there that I had to ride out switch to try to keep moving. I turned back to regular and steered towards the next drops. The third was shorter than I thought as I didn’t have much speed off the lip through the heavy snow. I was able to ride faster in the bottom section however felt like I hit a carpet anytime I found an untracked patch. That slowed me down too much to do anything cool off the small wind lip at the bottom so only a tiny little bump at the finish line was left… I think I tried to do a method but I honestly don’t remember if I actually tried it, did it or just thought about it 😀 Gotta love the contest blackouts thanks to adrenaline and anxiety and lactic acid… a fatal concoction! At any rate I was happy with my run. I found it the way I pictured it with the slight exception of the nose getting stuck and not being able to go bigger off the wind lip; but for the conditions I felt happy with it and pleased with myself that I followed my line through again. The run was worth 2nd place in the contest and finally some seeding points for the FWQ series. It was a good turnout and lots of new and old friends to share some laughs with. Cant wait for the next stop Engadinsnow, the first week of February. I haven’t been to this contest before but wanting to for a few years now. I got the final starting spot and will be competing with some really strong girls: I better get some practice in!

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