FWQ 3* Engadinsnow: In all Fairness

My final competition this season, a.k.a. the 2nd one, was at the FWQ 3* Engadinsnow competition in St. Moritz/Silvaplana Switzerland. Back in 2013, where the snow was piled up higher than I could reach, I had one of my most satisfying runs in a competition thanks to the fantastic conditions and playful terrain on the Forcla face. However this year seemed like the exact opposite.
I picked Italian skier Stefan Glira up in Innsbruck on the trip to Engadin. We arrived at the bottom of the gondola in beautiful sunshine and spring temperatures early afternoon. The actual contest face had not be confirmed but there were 3 options. The “word on the street” was that it would likely be the Alpetta face but the final decision would be made at the Riders Meeting in the evening. The Alpetta was a short, playful, rocky face above a hut, below the resorts midstation. We took some runs to warm up and check it out. There were a lot of other riders around and it was great to meet back up, often after a year or more. Italian skier Valeria Apostolo joined us soon after and we rode several laps together taking pictures of the face and trying to see what it looked like from above by riding the chairlift which ran along the zoning. By the end of the day some fog and clouds rolled in and put a chill into the air. Taking the final chair of the day back up to the middle station, we saw Valerie Verdeur a Belgian snowboarder, who said that she heard it would be the Forcla face. We spent some time waiting for the fog to waft in and out of the potential new face to get an idea of what it had to offer. It never really opened up totally, but the fog kind of strip-teased parts of the venue here and there… but it was enough to get a general idea before we took a long run down to the parking lot. We left to check into the Maloja Palace/Hostel… (yeah… a kind of hostel style dorm room accommodations in a palace). We left for the Riders Meeting at 7 and got our starting bibs. I would be the first of the snowboard women, but we were the last category which I hoped would mean softer conditions as the heat would have time to penetrate the insanely stubborn ice crust. After the meeting, we left to have some dinner before returning to the palace ( hahaha!) to look over the pictures and try to imprint a line to memory and heading to bed.
Monday morning came quickly and we packed up, checked out and went up to the midstation to face check before the next riders meeting at 10. The sun was out in full force and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The event organization decided to postpone for one more day hoping for even softer conditions. We had the rest of the day to take some runs and enjoy the amazing and vast freeride paradise that is Corvatsch. Lisa Caserotti (Italian snowboarder) and I spent the rest of the day riding and having lunch. We ended up talking about bio-technology and a project she was working on. Snowboarding and science… epic awesomeness! It was another fantastic day on the mountain. Back at the parking lot at the end of the day, we tried to figure out what we were going to do about accommodations since we had only booked for the one night. There was a small group of riders camping out at the free parking lot down the hill from the gondola. It was lovingly called the trailer park and had a variety of countries represented. Everyone was hanging out in the warm sunshine cooking, chatting, skateboarding, slacklining…. it was so much fun! Valeria and Lisa were going to sleep in their cars, and Stefan lent me his sleeping bag so I could camp in the extra spot in my buddy Philip Volker’s van. It was a really cold night: there was a decent layer of ice on the inside windows and roof of the van by the morning. I was really glad Stefan’s sleeping bag was a good one! Although we had a whopping 9 hours to sleep before the contest, I couldn’t drift off. I was perfectly comfortable and quite relaxed… but very awake. It was quite the adventure getting out of the warmish sleeping bag in the icy cold the next morning… but I kind of love the rustical and crazy experiences when you really feel alive… despite not having slept a minute the whole night, I really WOKE UP getting out of the sleeping bag! We headed up to the midstation again with nothing but blue bird and a breathtaking view. Visibility couldn’t get any better but overnight the snow somehow got even harder. I had some breakfast in the sunshine before moving to watch the start of the competition and try to figure out what line I would take. The competition was to start at 10:30 rather than waiting for softer conditions, as the afternoon on Monday showed some signs of increasing avalanche risk with the extreme softening of the surface. I was pretty relaxed watching the start even though the conditions were extremely difficult due to the frozen tracks and hard surface. I attribute that to not having slept and having a late start number. I started to get myself ready for my run after watching the first 20 mens. The gondola to the summit went in 20 minute intervals so I didn’t want to risk being late. I tried to warm up to the conditions next to the trail leading to the short hike to the starting line. At the top, there were only 3 starters before me left. I quickly tightened my boots and mounted the camera. With 2 riders left before me, it hit me. The nervousness and sleeplessness made me shaky and my legs felt like jelly. It was a different kind of nervous feeling for me and I decided to just take it slowly and concentrate on staying low and on my feet. As the snow at the top looked like it might be ok, I dropped in and tried to ride up a small ridge leading to a tiny drop I had been able to see well from the start. I hit a rock on the way to the top of the small ridge which slowed me down. I tried to hop off the top to avoid getting stuck and continued on my route looking for other possible little drops to at least make up for what was surely going to be the least technical line in our category. Shortly after the first section, the snow conditions felt a lot bumpier where former tracks chopped up the surface before the crust formed. I slowed down even more and essentially crawled down the rest of the face. My helmet was bouncing around so much I had to hold it still while riding. I finished the run off feeling like I really overdid it with the cautiousness and should have tried to get more focused and gather more strength at the top somehow. I should have just gone for the original line I had wanted, even if I had taken it so slowly. I felt a bit defeated with myself, like I wimped out big time. An advantage of being first means getting to watch the others runs. Although I could only see the lower section from the finish line, I was still impressed by what I saw. Knowing firsthand how the conditions were, I was amazed to see the level that they performed at. They were all pretty fast AND went for some really impressive drops. Some of the jumps would have intimidated the heck out of me in perfect conditions, let alone on this tricky snowpack.
To my surprise (and surely to the absolute shock to the rest of the competitors) I was awarded 2nd place. I honestly feel extremely divided about that result. On the one hand, I’m thankful for the points and some cash, but on the other I am disappointed for the other riders having been penalized so heavily for (in my opinion only cosmetic) mistakes such as a butt check on the landing of a 2-3 meter drop.
In all fairness, I am grateful for the result but think that every single other rider had a stronger and much more exciting run, thus would have been more deserving. Although it might not mean as much to them, I can honestly say that I thought they were great and inspiring and better. Respect guys… seriously!
After the contest, a lot of us returned to the “trailer park” for some more sunshine enjoyment while waiting for the official prize giving at 8:30pm. Swiss, Italians, Germans, Belgians, Icelander, Dutch, Americans, Austrians, Swedish… I feel like I’m forgetting some… riders from many different nations all laughing and talking and hanging out in a magnificent setting. I would have loved to camped out there for the next two weeks!
This is the real addicting aspect of competing in freeriding for me. Don’t get me wrong, the excitement/panic/adrenaline tickle of standing at the top and not recognizing much from this new perspective is insanely exhilarating. But sharing the days and nights in the company of a nutty group of interesting characters is where the love is. All I can say to the people of the world hell bent on trying to divide people and instill fear and hate: you are missing out. Diversity is where it’s at. The enrichment each and every different perspective and heritage and beliefs really adds the flavoring to daily experiences and life in my opinion. The passion for a hobby unites us and the differences keep it interesting and exciting to spend time together and to grow.
A big thanks to the Engadinsnow organization who really puts effort into making the rider’s experience a great one. They provided us with free lift tickets and some food vouchers which really helps offset the costs of our hobby. I had such a good time seeing familiar faces and making some new friends. Although this was only my second competition of the season, it’s unfortunately also the last as the poor winter conditions forced the cancellation of many events. In the end, it was a fantastic event to end a “season” on. I hope I will have enough points to try one more time next year at Engadinsnow!

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Patricia Roberson says:

    A great joy to watch your competition and compilations of the events. It made me smile the whole time. Thank you. Oh, and congratulations on your 2nd place achievement. Your greatest fan,,,love, Mom

    Liked by 1 person

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