The most innovative freeride contest on the planet, the O’Neill Swatch Big Mountain Pro, is heading into new terrain in 2009. From February 3-10, 12 of the best freeriders in the world – 6 skiers and 6 snowboarders - will be tackling some of the trickiest terrain in the Alps in a bid to win a share of the $60,000 prize money.
Adopting Europe’s vast alpine ranges as a play-ground for exploration and adventure, 12 of the world’s best freeriders will reach some of the most challenging and varied backcountry terrain that the mountains have to offer. The mobile format of the event ensures that the riders are free to roam the Alps with no fixed destination in a quest to find the best snow and mountain faces for the varying conditions.
However, the element of adventure is pushed to the next level this year with the riders poised to hike to more remote backcountry, and camp the nights in mountain huts. This ensures that in addition to the big mountain days on steep rock faces, there will be a more varied mix of freeriding to enjoy.
Freerider Mitch Toelderer is just one of the talented snowboarders eager to start hiking: “I love the more exploratory side to The Big Mountain Pro this year," he says. “Hiking and staying in huts creates a completely different experience within the mountains. It’s more authentic - especially for this competition. It gives you much more time to get connected with the snow and the face and get a feeling for it. It’s so much quieter and more relaxed to hike – it’s what we would do at home with friends."
The other confirmed snowboarders are Jeremy Jones, Xavier de la Rue and Stefan Gimpl, with the two other riders yet to be confirmed.
The six skiers taking part in The Big Mountain Pro 2009 are Cody Townsend, Loris Falquet, Thomas Diet, Richard Permin, Jeremie Heitz and Arnaud Rougier.
The success and popularity of the rider-judged format of the competition sees its continuation for the third year running. Wherever the final face may be, the riders will head to Saalbach-Hinterglemm back in Austria for the unique judging session where they all judge each other’s runs. An overall winner will be crowned, as well as a winner for skiing and one for snowboarding, with a total prize money of $60,000 on offer.
The Swatch O’Neill Big Mountain Pro 2009 will kick off on February 3rd St. Anton in the Arlberg range in the Austrian Alps. Where it will head from there is anyone’s guess – the only certain element is that it will follow the best snow conditions, and will end with a spectacular party in Saalbach-Hinterglemm on February 10th.