Joe Troman reports on the second half of Above and Below in Alpe d’Huez. The second half of the week sees more competition and more partying - but you probably could have guessed that. He’s passed this one over in person back in the office and his mountain blues are almost as extreme as his sunburnt red face!
Walking around resort on the Tuesday morning was like a scene from 'Planet Earth'. David Attenborough narrated in my head…
“…and here we have the student skier. Unfamiliar surroundings combined with a “banging night out” have left these specimens dazed and confused. If the previous evening’s revelry wasn’t enough to dehydrate these snowsports enthusiasts, the warm spring sun will only worsen the situation.
The disorientated undergraduates face the marathon walk from apartment to chairlift with the hot sun beating down on their back, carrying various items of ski paraphernalia, not dissimilar to worker ants often found in the African desert.”
Ok so I might have got a little side-tracked there, please excuse my David Attenborough obsession.
Once on a chairlift with the cool fresh mountain air on their faces and a strong coffee/Powerade blue inside them, the party animal’s moods significantly increased.
Heading over to the racing and the scene couldn’t have been much different. Racers prepared for the slalom by sharpening edges and getting those extra few layers of rub on wax onto their skis, in search of any advantage in the warm conditions they were experiencing this week. Blank faces were swapped for steely looks of focus and determination. Similar to the previous day’s GS, the racing was tight and of a high quality. Men and women competed on the two courses with the first runs dictating your start number for the second set of gates. The format was the same as an FIS World Cup event where the top 15 riders after the first timed run race in reverse order.
The calibre of competition at the racing was definitely matched at the freestyle events, with men and women competing in Slopestyle and Big Air.
The park shapers in Alpe d’Huez put together a challenging and progressive Slopestyle course of rails and jumps for the first of the freestyle competitions on Tuesday. Competitors threw down on all sections; complex rail tricks were served up for starters, followed by a hearty main course of some big old booters. Judges on all features of the course judged the skiers and snowboarders on style, difficulty and flow.
The following day saw a reshape of the penultimate kicker of the Slopestyle course. The steroid injection to this already big jump provided the perfect challenge for the athletes in the Big Air competition. Riders on one plank and two, had two runs each to impress the judges. As with all other competitions in the week the standard was exceptional, with the top riders stomping huge tricks - a few cork 900s from the skiers were definite highlights. Interestingly the number of skiers in the park in recent years has overtaken the number of snowboarders, a sign that times are changing perhaps?
Next to the snow park was the challenging boarder and skier cross competition. One of the most entertaining disciplines on the agenda. 4 skiers or boarders hurtle down a course of banked turns and jumps in a straight out race to the bottom, first past the line wins. Set in a knockout format the races featured spills and thrills for spectators all morning.
The final full day of skiing featured our favourite event of the week; The Line-S and Jibworx Progression Session Rail Jam. This informal competition saw the best riders compete on a course of rails and jibs, more of that in my next blog though…Full results for all of the competitions can be found on the BUCS website.