Last week we found ourselves in Chamonix checking out the Brevent face, which will now be a location for one of the four main legs of the Freeride World Tour. We managed to grab 5 minutes with the current World Champion, Aurelian Ducroz. This guy is a superhero by anyone's standards, he has a world title under his belt, is widely regarded as one of the best freeriders ever by his peers, he is also currently looking to enter a solo racing competition across the Atlantic, is building his house (literally with his bare hands), and all the while finding time to have a relatively normal family life. And the most annoying thing is, he's also a really cool guy - don't you just hate people who are good at everything!
A whole new season approaching Aurelian, but things are a little different this year, you’re the man to beat now. How does that make you feel?
-I feel pretty good right now, in fact I wold say I feel like there is less pressure than before. Last year I was really going for the title, I was chasing it, it was my main focus for the season. This year I just have to hold on to what I already have.
So no stress?
-Well, I don’t know about that. It is a different stress. This year we have the stage in Chamonix, I think that may be quite stressful, it’s my home town in my home country and I am coming into the event as the current world champion. I think there will be a lot of expectation on me, there will be pressure, but I think it will be good.
Any new competitors that you are worried about this year?
-Well you know there is Togrim Vole coming through this year, I think he may be one to watch, but to be honest I don’t know a lot about the new guys coming through. Of course there are already some amazing riders in the Tour. Henrik Windstedt is for me still one of the best. Seb Michaud, of course, he has been doing this a long time, and is as dangerous as ever, he finished second last year. Then of course there is Kaj (Zackrisson), who on a good day can beat anyone. Then there is the young guy, Reine (Barkered), he was really impressive last year. But to be honest this contest could be won by any of about ten riders. The thing with freeride is that there are so many factors that affect the competition. You could be having the best season of your life, having just finished one of the best runs of your life and then you snag a little rock, fall, lose your points, and suddenly you find yourself at the bottom of the Tour. In some ways this is really good for the spectators. I mean take this year for example. When we arrived at the last stage in Verbier, there were five people who could theoretically win the whole tour. It was pretty exciting.
For the sake of clarification, some people find this whole Freeride World Tour v's Freeski World Championships is very confusing. You've competed in both, could you highlight some of the differences, and perhaps explain why riders seem to think that the Freeride World Tour is the one to win.
-Yeah of course. Before the Freeride World Tour, the world Championships were pretty cool, they had events across the globe, and it was a respected title. Recently though it has pretty much all of the stages in America. As a result it tends to attract only American riders, as other nationalities simply can’t afford to get to the competition. As well as this it cannot really be called a global competition if it only happens on one continent. Also for this competition they are charging the riders, which means for them, the more riders they have the better, as a result sometimes you would turn up to an event with 100 competitors. For the first guy this is OK, but by the time you get to the last rider, he is skiing on moguls – it is as if it is no longer a freeride contest. I think nowadays, most riders would agree that this Freeride World Tour is the World Tour.
As well as this of course, the Freeride World Tour seems to choose some pretty technical faces, which brings me to the Bec des Rosses. Is it really that scary?
Ha ha, so how do you go about choosing and skiing a line on that face, or any face for that matter?
-Choosing a line just depends on what you like to ski, or how you feel at that moment, sticking to your line is a different matter. When you look at a mountain from the bottom you can see the whole line, but when you get to the top (and this is especially true on the Bec) you see maybe 1 metre in front of you and then you see the finish line about a mile below...everything else is blind. In fact until you are actually on the line it is as though you are standing on a vertical cliff. For me remembering the beginning part of your line is very important, you have to know you are starting in the right place. After that you have to try and remember different natural features that will help guide you on the way down, like a particular rock, or couloir or whatever. You really have to learn your route, it takes more preparation than a lot of people probably realise.
So that begs the obvious question, have you ever got lost?
-Yeah. I got lost on the Bec a couple of years ago. Luckily for me I ended up in a spot where I could see where I was going, it wasn’t so bad. But there are probably places there, where if you get lost you are going to have to just stop and wait to be rescued, or climb back up or whatever. It is not something you want to be doing too often.
Well Aurelian, we’ll leave it there for the minute, and good luck for next years event, we’re really looking forward to it.
-Thanks very much, I hope it will be good.
Point of view from Aurelian's winning run at the Sochi 2009 leg of the FWT. Ever wondered what it's like to ski a 50 degree face and drop a 30 footer into a couloir that would make Paris Hilton feel fat...here's your chance!
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