FWQ 4* Nendaz 2014 – not my day

My first 4 star event was scheduled to be Nendaz. I was pretty about getting a starting spot and at the same time anxious to see how the comp would go. It boasted a video replay of the runs which would be cool to see (educational!) I wanted to attend the Montafon Open Faces Comp directly after Nendaz, so drove the long way to Valais Switzerland alone. I arrived in the Lake Geneva area pretty late following a 10 hour drive and heaps of traffic. I opted to take a room in Montreux for the night and continue on to Nendaz the next morning since I didn’t have anywhere to stay anyway. I still didn’t have a personal laptop which made trip arrangements nearly impossible. After breakfast at the hotel, I continued to Nendaz for a chance to face check. The lift tickets ran 70 CHF which didn’t seem reasonable considering it was already after noon. I seriously considered forgetting a face check and winging it for the competition. I decided to take a simple gondola ride up without the ski pass, figuring I could just hike to the face since I wouldn’t be really riding anyway that day. At the top, I ran into a few of the Finnish riders and ended up joining them to check the face. The face had 2 main sections and I was told that we would get a run from both starts to determine who advanced to the finals on the following day. The lookers left looked much more interesting to ride than the right which was just basking in the sun and was a lot flatter. There were just loads of options to choose from but naturally the line that caught my eye didn’t look accessible with a snowboard. I couldn’t tell from the bottom if there was a chance of making the cross at the top into the section which looked like it had great snow. I heard that we would be able to start whenever we wanted to rather than having a fixed order which sounded good to me considering we would have to hike the face twice in one day. The riders meeting was quite informal… what stood out was the fact that the organization said each rider would have to figure out how to complete both runs before 3pm. He said that he didn’t care how many made it by then and it wasn’t his problem. Those were pretty rough words for a comp who invited 113 contestants! That evening I received a message from the organization of the Montafon contest I was registered for saying the riders meeting would be mandatory. I wrote back saying I was in Nendaz and would try to leave straight after my 2nd run but might be late to it. They answered back that I wouldn’t be allowed to start. I had been to nearly all their contests and knew the riders meeting text by heart already; but they said tough luck. Early the next morning we arrived at the finish line where we were told that the snowboard women would start first after all. This meant we had to rush to start hiking immediately! I was still having to duct-tape my boots closed and managed to essentially punch myself in the nose with the roll while pulling (clearly) too tightly on the tape. I started up the mountain with a bloody nose and ended up actually kind of enjoying the hike. We were mainly in the sun hiking so it got sweaty, quickly. Once I arrived at the top I saw some mens skiers already taking their runs. We found out at the summit that their group would drop in before us: that meant 50 men minimally before we could go and certainly no chance of making the riders meeting in Montafon. We had to start on the lookers left venue first, which was soaking the sun up while we waited. I wanted to play my first run safely, remain on my feet and gain some confidence for the 2nd run which would be more exciting from terrain. There was one big windlip I wanted to hit as well as a smaller steeper section below with a few small drops. I looked for a couple of smaller bumps to hit and found one at the top section leading to the windlip. I hit the lip pretty well and was able to shifty stalefish grab as it lofted me into the air. The bottom of the face was approaching quickly and I tried to navigate to the steeper section but the convex slope made it more challenging than it seemed from below. I crossed a tad too far and only found a small rock in the steep portion, but the snow wasn’t particularly great so I didn’t mind keeping it small and clean. I rode straight to the finish line from there, careful to not get hung up in the plethora of tracks which crossed the contest face. It was clean enough with 2 smaller jumps and one nice windlip, so I felt happy with that one. It was already pretty late in the day as I got to the finish line so I raced back to the hike and rushed back up to the summit without delay for my second run. The heat made the 2nd climb grueling but I reached the top quickly. We had to wait again for the male skiing category at the top. Around 3pm, one of the Swedish guys lost a ski at the top section of rocks and had a horrifying crash requiring a helicopter rescue. By the time he was on the way to the hospital, the organization decided to cancel the rest of the competition because of their concern for avalanches. The sun had been baking the face all day and although we didn’t have any slides happen, they shut it down. We had to wait around at the top before being allowed to descend a flatter section back over on the lookers left. It was disappointing to not get a run on the interesting side and I was concerned that having played it safe on the first run would make advancing to the finals pretty unlikely. On top of that, there was no video taken of our runs, so no chance to review it to see what worked well and what didn’t. We waited around for hours for them to announce the finalists… I think it was around 10pm before we knew what the results were. I had a pretty disappointing score for the clean run and ended up only 8th of 10. I left immediately for Montafon Austria but arrived well past 3am dead tired. I converted my tiny car into that nights accommodations and slept surprisingly well. I slept until just after 10am the next morning before crawling out of my car and riding to the contest venue to watch the others who were allowed to compete. It was not my favorite contest weekend by any means; actually it was the most disappointing one by far. It made me appreciate some of the other stops in the circuit that much more, but it was still interesting to see the differences in venue, organization and atmosphere.

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