Jumps, spectacular runs and all of that with a downhill gradient of 60 percent or more: the Freeride World Tour is one of the most spectacular sporting events in winter sport right now. This weekend the freeriders are stopping off in Kappl.

Powdering: for some, the epitome of peace, seclusion and untouched powder snow, for others, the starting point for staging a very special, spectacular contest. And the latter is what you can see in Kappl this weekend. That’s where the participants start out in what’s known as “Open Faces” in Kappl, a qualifying race for the “Freeride World Tour”.

This is where skiers and snowboarders throw themselves down from the Quellspitze towards the Kappl ski area. The terrain is considered one of the most difficult on the tour. Firstly, it’s exceptionally steep, with a downhill gradient of up to 60 percent. And secondly, it has both wide slopes for especially quick turns, and multiple blockings and cliff sections ideal for spectacular jumps. Which is exactly what you need to win.

And this is how the contest works

Freeriding is a jury sport. It’s not about the time you need for the descent (although this influences the end score, too), but the style. This is judged by the jury – three judges each for skiers and for snowboarders as well as a head judge. Five different criteria are judged in total: the fluidity of the run (the freerider should not come to a clear stop), control (meaning the speed and landings), choice of line, technique and the category air-and-style. This includes the height of the jumps, control in the air, and difficulty of tricks customized to the type of terrain.

It’s particularly challenging because the freeriders aren’t allowed to try out the slope in advance. They have to work out their line either by visiting the opposite slope or by using a telescope from the starting point.

Anyone who miscalculates, misjudges the gradient or rates the cliffs as higher or lower than they actually are – they’ll be in for one or two surprises on the way down.

Open Faces is a series of contests which enable freeriders to qualify for coveted places in the Freeride World Tour. There are a total of four contests in Austria, and whoever has the most points at the end will be able to ride with the absolute cracks next year. The first event is from Friday to Monday in Kappl. Spectators have the best view of the spectacular runs down from the Quellspitze at the Public Area near Piste 8. The juniors start on Friday. Saturday is the adult competition. The start is planned for 10 o’clock.

Author: Helene Stanger