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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
The Metro Ski & Snowboard Show is finally here and marks the beginning of the winter season. It's the first major event of the winter, with the Freeze Festival taking place next week and usually coincides with the Iglu team getting up to full strength for the season, with the last of our new starters arriving this week.
This year the ski show has moved location from the Kensington Olympia to Earls Court. Now, though the venues are not dissimilar in size, the purists out there may be a little disappointed to hear it has moved, especially the usual crowd from Meribel, La Tania and Val d'Isere who will usually decamp in the Hand & Flower pub on ski show Saturday. But it's not all bad news, for starters Earls Court in approximately a million times easier to get to from anywhere in London.
On arrival, the ski show is set out in its usual way, with the resort village greeting you at the entrance and the vast choice of shopping set toward the back. I have to point out that the shopping area this year is the largest I've seen, with Snow + Rock and Ellis Brigham taking centre stage as usual — it took me a lot longer to find Profeet than expected, if you are looking for them, they are hidden next to an escalator.
The ski village is filled with the usual suspects, with the Three Valleys taking over the France section and the Three Valley bar as vibrant as always (see above), even for mid-afternoon on a Wednesday. The evening also finished back at the bar, as the team from Val Thorens' Folie Deuce provided the afternoon's après party.
The Canadian village area was also busy — though that was probably down to the huskies on show and last year's record snowfall!
As mentioned the shopping area is vast, if you are looking for a bargain there is some of last season's kit on offer at discounted rates and also plenty of smaller, less known brands showing off their kit, who are well worth a visit — I especially liked the White Dot Freeride skis.
The entertainment on offer, as with previous years, is quite varied. There is a fantastic ski fashion show, put on by Land Rover, which goes on throughout the day and is definitely worth a look if you are after this year's must have kit. The freestyle exhibition was pretty good, with teenage skiers and snowboarders doing tricks that I'm now to old to remember the names of and the K2 Ollie Pop is bound to build up over the week.
The only disappointment was the Petanque piste, the actual layout was great, as was the game. The only problem was Pascal, the ESF instructor. Now, I was expecting an arrogant, but charming Frenchman, who would be a little too competitive. Though Pascal looked the part, he was a lot more Surrey than Savoie, which left me with an air of disappointment — sorry Pascal.
Overall the ski show is just the same old ski show, but, in a new location, with better bars and easier access. I'm sure it will be as busy as ever and if you are hoping to check out this season's kit, meet a few of the brands and want to check out some new resorts before booking your holiday, it is worth a visit — especially the Tartiflette stand.
It's that time of year already, the winter is approaching and with Bestival only days away it's time to take a look as what our favourite freezing festivals will be offering this coming winter. Last winter the Relentless Freeze Festival kicked things off with some great riding and music, and Snowbombing finished things off with a bang.
The year looks the same, as the Relentless Freeze Festival is already gearing up for another fantastic pre-season bash and it won't be long until the likes of the Meribel's Little World Festival, the Altitude Festival and Snowbombing announce their plans. But to start the winter 2012 salivating, here's what the first big event of the winter has on offer.
The Relentless Freeze Festival
London's big winter Festival will be with us again this October and has announced a fantastic line-up of snowsports and music. This year's event has been cut down to two days from three, though this means we'll have Sunday to recover from all the excitement, the insane riding, the awesome music and of course, the Jaëgermeister Lorry.
Last year's event included an awesome line-up of local and international snowboarders and skiers, the Jeremy Jones Deeper premiere and Mark Ronson on stage. Jamie Nicholls and James Woods waved the flag for the Brits in front of a huge home crowd and world class athletes such as Seppe Smits, Seb Toutant and Jon Olsson all on show.
This year's event looks to continue in the same fashion. The FIS have announced that the huge 32m high Big Air jump will be a World Cup event, which should mean the likes of Seb Toutant, Janne Korpi and Jamie Nicholls will be wowing us with their huge double-cork variations and Xbox-esque tricks. There will also be the EU vs The World competition, which is a real crowd pleaser with two snowboarders and skiers from each continent going up against each other in an one-on-one competition with three disciplines to win: Best trick, Trick selector and the always popular Crow judge.
Last year we were treated to Mark Ronson, Roni Size and Pendulum and this year doesn't disappoint either. Friday night see's Dub Pistols, Beadryman, Azari & III and Zane Lowe, followed by the headline act, Groove Armada present Red Light. Saturday also have a cracking line-up on the stage with Spector, Rizzles Kicks, Summer Camp, The Joy Formidable and Everything Everything warming the Freeze Festival crowds, before The Streets close out the weekend.
Hopefully is will be as amazing as last October's event and there may even be some more treat announced closer to the time, such as last year's Deeper premiere.
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