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This weekend saw Britain's largest UK snowsports event and the first FIS Big Air competition of the season, with the Freeze Festival at Battersea power station, London. Not only did the weekend showcase some of Britain's best skiers and snowboarders in Friday's Battle of Britain competitions, but two of our 2014 Winter Olympic medal hopes made it into the final, narrowly missing out on the podium.
Battle of Britain
The weekend got underway with the Battle of Britain ski competition, followed shortly by the snowboard competition. This is the largest event in the UK and gives us a sneak peak of who to watch out for at the Brits, in Flims Laax, come March.
In the skiing competition James Woods proved to be a class above everyone, just check out the clip below, and it was a real shame that he didn't make it into the afternoon's International Freestyle Ski Big Air, as I'm sure he would have turned a few heads.
James Woods showing how far British freestyle skiing has come in recent years.
The snowboarding competition looked to be a closer contest, even if Jamie Nicholls' sponsor(s) had asked him to sit it out. Last year's winner, Billy Morgan, was up against experienced pro, Dom Harrington, and Brit regulars, Mike Austin, Ian Ashmore and Andy Nudds. Dom Harrington laid down a respectful run to gain second place and youngster, Lewis Courtier Jones, showed himself to be another one-to-watch, but the plaudits were out for last year's winner once again. Billy Morgan's fearless style and huge corked 1080 bought him a second BoB title in two years, and he is fast becoming a Brit favourite.
Billy Morgan again proving that he prefers to be inverted in mid-air, as opposed to on snow, while snowboarding!
International Freestyle Ski Big Air
Though the likes of James Woods and James Machon wouldn't have looked out of place in the International Freestyle Ski Big Air, the overall standards of the day rose pretty quickly once the competition got under way. With the line-up including Kiwi skier Jossi Wells, the eventual winner, and Swedish skiing sensation Jon Olsson, the skiing was incredible to watch, and that's coming from a snowboarder.
Snowboard FIS World Cup Big Air
Saturday was the day everyone was waiting for and the big event of the weekend, the Snowboard FIS World Cup Big Air. This event has brought big names to London over the past few seasons with the likes of Danny Kass, Stefan Gimpl, Seb Toots and Torstein Horgmo in attendance. And this year's riders didn't disappoint, with last year's top three of Marko Grilc, Seppe Smitts and Staale Sandbech joined by Janne Korpi, Jamie Nicholls and Petja Piiroinen — the younger brother of TTR world champion Peetu.
This year's qualifying offered runs that would have made it into last year's final, with many riders having to pull out their big tricks just to make the top 12. Having seen a few big names looking nervous, it was both exciting and a relief to see Brits Jamie Nicholls and Ben Kilner make it into the final. With a fast run-in and what looked like an even faster landing, the final made for some entertaining riding, though Janne Korpi and Seppe Smits were a class above the rest. It soon turned into the battle of the double cork vs the 1260 and with at least half the riders not landing one of their first two tricks the final round of jumps was tense. By this point Ben Kilner was already out of the running and it was looking tight for Nicholls, who'd dropped one of his landings.
With Korpi and Smits both posted scores of 90+ in one of their two first runs (the score is made up of the best of the first two runs and the score of the final run), the race for third place was between Holland's Joris Ouwerkerk, Nicholls, last year's runner up Staale Sandbech and Torgeir Bergrem, who had also posted a score of over 90. With the final round of jumps Bergrem mistimed his landing, dropping him down to 6th, with Sandbech throwing a disappointing, by his standards, score of 70. Jamie Nicholls had looked good to podium with his first score of 80.8, but the judges didn't like his final 1080 and he finished in fourth place, though still his highest finish at the competition.
Janne Korpi's styled out 1260.
With the final run approaching Korpi held a slim lead over Smits, 93 to 92, so it was down to the last trick. The rules stipulate that the two tricks must differ, so it was the battle of the 1260 and 1080 cork combos. Seppe Smits stepped up with a huge 90.2 score, but soon after Janne Korpi landed his 1260 and Christian Stevenson, the competition's MC, declared it as the winning trick, before the judges even finished the scoring. Stevenson was right that his 91.0 score meant he'd picked up the win by 1.8 points!
The Best Of The Rest
The Big Air events may have offered the crowd pleasers, but in between their show stopping antics and once the slopes were closed for the day, there was plenty more entertainment on offer. Friday night's headline act on the main stage was Groove Armada, presenting their latest album, with Saturday night being the other end of the spectrum, with The Streets playing their last ever live show.
For me the highlight was the après ski tent, complete with filled ski racks and live DJs. There seemed to be a serious lack of Jägermeister on offer, so it was down to the French resort favourite, Desperados tequila beer, to lubricate the crowds. As you would expect there was dancing, drinking and silly hats galore and the post Big Air final set from A. Skillz kept the crowds entertained until the evening came to a close.
The shopping village offered people the chance to check out new kit, get a massage and to visit the Big Snow Festival bar, with live DJs, more Despies and a very friendly Yeti. There was also some great food on offer, including the Jumping Bean burrito stand, where the staff danced away to Drum & Bass and Hip Hop day and night, while fuelling the masses with their Mexican fare.
As always the Freeze Festival was a great weekend to get into the winter mood and has me counting down the days until my first trip to the snow, though I'll be sticking to the après ski as opposed to the 60 foot jumps!
All photos © Igluski
Back in the summer I wrote a piece about the festivals that were expected to hit the Alps this winter and with the season in full flow and most of the line-ups have been announced here is a update of what to look forward too.
Little World Festival
This Little World Festival debuted in Meribel last season and after a successful first attempt, festival organisers and performers The Feeling are back for more. The former Meribel après ski band have lined up some big acts and some great venues for the week. From 13th - 18th March Meribel will be the highlight of the Three Valleys.
Last years slope side gig next to the Ronnie.
As expected The Feeling are due to perform as is Sophie Ellis Bextor, who attended last year and also performed with them at the ski show. Freemason, Carl Barat and Ed Harcourt have all been confirmed among the headliners, with Squeeze, Fictionplane and Ben Howard among the other confirmed acts. With a free gig taking place outside the resorts biggest après bar, the Rond Point, on a huge stage and 40 other gigs in resort that week it will be awesome.
Snowbombing & The Altitude Festival
Snowbombing is renowned as the snowsports hedonists' festival and this year it becomes home to the Altitude Festival, a comedy festival that previously called Meribel home. Both festivals will bring some pretty big names into Mayrhofen and the biggest party of the winter season takes place from the 4th - 9th April.
This year Snowbombing has surpassed itself with the names on the line-up, so far The Prodigy, Fatboy Slim, Pendulum and 2manydjs are confirmed. The list goes on and on and on, other big names include Professor Green, Example, Chase and Status, DJ Yoda, Fake Blood, John Digweed, Ms Dynamite and the Cuban Brothers. The Altitude Festival, in its new home, boasts the likes of Marcus Brigstocke, Andrew Maxwell, Rufus Hound, Tony Woods, Craig Campbell, Mark Walker and Terry Alderton. So if a week of soft snow, hard partying and laughs are what you need then get yourself to Mayrhofen on 4th April for a week.
Andrew Maxwell at last year's Altitude Festival
The Big Snow Festival
The Big snow Festival is another newcomer, debuting in the Andorran resort of Arinsal in March 2010. This year they have upped their game in an attempt to complete with the infamous Snowbombing, boasting better snow (well you'd hope so in mid March) and an impressive line up.
With crowd pleasers Kissy Sell Out, Judge Jules, Westwood and Example + dj wire headlining, this year's festival should go off with a bang. Throw in a decent sized ski area, (hopefully) great mid March weather and pretty much duty free prices in resort and you are on to a winner.
The Brits is the British Snowsports Championships, but as you would expect it is just as much a party-filled, music-fuelled festival as it is the country's top snowsports event. Held in the resort of Flims Laax in Switzerland from the 20th - 27th March this is a week of top end riders, music and fun. From the Red Bull downhill to a Pendulum DJ set the Brits always go off with a bang.
This year the likes of Aime Fuller and Jamie Nicholls will be on the slopes showing us why they are two of the most up and coming riders in Europe in the day time followed by some awesome entertainment in the evenings. As mentioned Pendulum will be throwing down a DJ set and the week also includes The Correspondents, an '80s Chalet Party and a not-so-secret movie premier (though the films are still a secret). Add in world class skiing, the glacier and end of march sunshine and it looks like a belting week is going to happen.
Taking a look around the Alps there are a few more events worth attending if you are in town. The European Winter X Games will be taking place in Tignes from the 16th - 18th March, where the world's biggest skiers and snowboarders will be in town — hopefully with Jenny Jones retaining her gold. And you can be sure there will be some serious parties going down throughout the resort celebrating the many competition winners medals. The last week of the season in Ischgl is always worth a mention. The resort is renowned for its opening and closing parties with the likes of Kylie and Katy Perry among recent headliners, well their end of season party doesn't disappoint with The Killers confirmed on the slope side stage on April 30th.
There is so much to going on this year I'm struggling to decide where to go, though I have my favourite, do you?
This year's Relentless Freeze Festival looked like it was ready to step up the UK's premier winter sports festival a notch and Friday's British themed day proved to be a great warm up to a superb weekend.
The main event of the day was the Battle of Britain competition on the huge ski-jump-esque set up. The crowd were treated to a great spectacle with the best of British taking part. Jenny Jones, Gary Greenshields, Jamie Nicholls and Andy Nudds were all throwing it down, and though it is only early in the season the UK riders were really pushing the limit of the jump. Due to warm weather the run in was a little slower than expected, though that didn't stop the guys throwing down some serious tricks.
With Olympian Dom Harington and X-Games winner Jenny Jones not making the final it looked like current Brits champion Jamie Nicholls would be among the favourites. His double-corked 1080 got the crowd going, though due to the hand drag on the landing he only made third place. Scott Penmann had joked with the competitions MC's, Tim Warwood & Christian Stevenson, earlier in the day that his only trick was the double front flip, which he styled out to claim second place. With the lack of speed making the double cork almost impossible Billy Morgan finished the afternoon with a perfectly executed double back flip, gaining both a huge cheer from the crowd and bagging him first place.
Once the snowboarding had taken place there was an hour or so to go until the premier of Jeremy Jones new film Deeper and the Battle of Britain ski competition. With 20,000 people expected over the weekend this was the biggest Freeze Festival yet and with Relentless on board the entertainment had stepped up a gear.
Over by the For Boarder By Boarders stand they had set up a small mini-ramp, and to the backdrop of some beatboxing in the Desperados tent, we were treated to a mini skate demo with Vans snowboarder Chris Chatt showing off his skills on four wheels. There was also a bike demonstration from a couple of guys in the Relentless team including a 1.2m bunny hop and a variety of super-mans, tail whips and back flips all on show.
Battle of Britain Snowboard
Battle of Britain Ski
Friday was an absolutely awesome experience, and though some of the biggest names in freestyle skiing, snowboarding and music were to follow it will take some beating.
Photo's © Paul Anthony Easton
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