Eddie Bauer skier Drew Tabke is on deck to compete in the Xtreme Verbier, Freeride World Tour finals starting potentially this Sunday, depending on the weather and slope conditions during the nine-day competition window. His status as defending world champ earned him a well-deserved wild card into the grand finals of freeride, and he checked in today after inspecting the burly and mythical Bec des Rosses venue. This is his on-location report after staring down the face.—LYA Editor
Words and Inspection Photos by Drew Tabke
Inspecting the Burly Bec
Preparing for the Freeride World Tour finals in Verbier…
Center stage on the Freeride World Tour right now is Verbier, Switzerland. I’m here to compete in the final event of the 2014 season, which is slated for later this week (weather-dependent, as always). The Xtreme Verbier is held on the Bec des Rosses, the most demanding freeride venue in the sport. In any freeride competition, visual inspection and line selection are key, but nowhere on tour is it more crucial than on “the Bec.”
Official inspection day was today, Friday. The morning starts with espresso, croissants, and sunrise in town. Then we take two gondolas and the 150-person- capacity “Jumbo” cable car from Verbier village to the Col des Gentianes. This is the classic spectating point for the Bec with an unobstructed, head-on view of the face. Another tram arrives at this same point from neighboring resort Nendaz, creating the ultimate set-up for the event village.
After inspecting the face from the head-on angle, it’s time to do a full lap: Up the final tram to the summit of Mont Fort (10,922’), climb the east ridge of the Bec des Rosses to its summit, descend (not riding the competition face) down the west gully, and ski under the bottom of the face looking back up. During this whole time, we take photos for later studying, observe the snow conditions everywhere we go (to predict as closely as possible what it will be like in the actual face), and scope our potential lines with binoculars from the different vantage points.
After seeing the mountain from all the different perspectives, the range of what lines, what style of riding, and which airs are possible has been narrowed down. But inspection is a process that doesn’t end until you reach the finish line. From now until comp day, conditions on the mountain will continue to change, with significant snowfall forecasted during the next three days. Depending on your bib number, electing a line that will still be in good shape when your turn comes is key as well. All of these factors have to be processed and turned into a (hopefully) amazing run once competition day finally comes.
Now we wait. Though Verbier has had less-than-average snowfall this winter and coverage is thin, the coming storm is supposed to be a big one, with two small weather systems following closely on its heels. Verbier boasts a nine-day weather window, so there is ample time to wait. And obsess over these inspection photos some more…
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