Sean Pettit won the 2011 Red Bull Linecatcher backcountry freestyle competition Monday in Vars, France. The 18-year-old Canadian led the field in scoring through all three runs in variable conditions on the Eyssina face.
"I feel tired and really excited at the very same time," Pettit said, waiting for results after his third run. "I just tried to subside all the pressure and have a good time, and that's exactly what I did."
Markus Eder of Italy was second after advancing from the qualifying round Sunday, and American Tim Durtschi claimed the third spot on the podium. "Every run I stepped it up a little bit. To make it to the podium and get third, I couldn't be happier right now," Durtschi said.
Pettit was the clear leader after the first run, which saw most competitors ski conservatively as they assessed the conditions and felt out the venue. A double cliff drop was the favored starting point for the field, and Pettit followed this with several straight airs, a cork 720 off a kicker in the middle of the course, and a 360 near the bottom. Durtschi finished the round in second place, throwing a switch 540 at the top of the course and skiing smoothly.
"A lot of it is rotten snow," said JP Auclair, the last skier down in bib 16. "Some of it is kind of like cardboard punchy stuff, and a couple pockets had great powder."
The airs got bigger and the crashes more spectacular in the second run, as skiers looked to reshuffle the standings. "The combination of freestyle and freeriding, [it's] super hard to learn everything in one run, that's why a lot of people crash," said France's Richard Permin. "If you don't try, you don't crash."
Pettit had his only fall of the day on the second run, while Chris Benchetler had to change his first air because of exposed rocks. Sage Cattabriga-Alosa drew gasps from the crowd when he under-rotated a backflip near the bottom of the course, and Germany's Bene Mayr lost both skis on the landing of a cork 720. Australian Chris Booth had two double ejections, and felt his shoulder pop out on the second. But he was back in the helicopter and ready to hike for his third run. "All those guys are real professionals. They know how to control themselves in the start. Everyone's very happy and relaxed and that really helped me," Booth said.
Eder delivered a clean second run, landing a flat 720 at the top, a cork 360 in the middle, and straying to skier's right of the venue for a drop with a switch landing. The top three heading into the third run were Pettit, Eder, and Durtschi.
Mayr skied first, and landed a backflip off the same kicker he had attempted in the second run, followed by Canada's Rory Bushfield and Benchetler, who both fell. Cattabriga-Alosa skied next, taking a line to skier's right of the man-made kickers with multiple small airs, two 360s, and a backflip. "I just followed my strengths and had a great time," Cattabriga-Alosa said. "It was an amazing event, and I'm happy with my run." Cattabriga-Alosa, who placed fourth and won Best Natural Air, announced at the awards ceremony that he was donating his 500 Euro prize to Alpine Initiatives.
Pettit was the seventh skier down, repeating many of the features of his first run but adding a backflip at the bottom of the course. "The third run, I just wanted to step up my first run a little bit, so that's what I did," he said.
Durtschi followed two skiers later, and for the first time he hit the kicker in the center of the course that produced the biggest airs of the day, landing a backflip. He added a 360 and a switch landing on a small air to finish his run. "The first two runs I took it a little easy [and] hit some of the smaller jumps down the line, but on my third run I went for the big guy," he said. American Wiley Miller was next, throwing two 360s and a backflip, and winning Best Trick for the event for a nose butter 720.
Eder added a new trick to his final run, a switch 540 off a kicker in the center of the venue. "It was the best feeling I ever had," he said. "I was almost crying."
Permin and Auclair finished up the third round, and after a short wait, the crowd gathered to hear the results and watch the champagne celebration. "I feel great," Pettit said after collecting his trophy. "It's good to be with all these guys shredding, and it turned out really well."