Long live the queen

Kaya Turski made history Friday by becoming the first female freeskier to land a switch 1080 during the finals of the Nine Queens big air competition in Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis, Austria.

Unfortunately, at an event that hosted a week of unprecedented progression for women's freesking, being the first was not enough to win. That honor went to Maria Bagge, a 24-year-old from Sweden who became the second woman to land a switch 1080, holding her mute grab a bit longer than Turski did. Keri Herman and Emma Dahlstrom tied for third place.

"It was really fun up there. All the girls were killing it," said Bagge, who won an online video competition to qualify for the event. "After the first switch 9 I did in qualification, I thought maybe it was possible to try a switch 10. And then I saw Kaya do a switch 10 and she landed it and that inspired me a lot."

The competition started with a one-hour jam session, from which seven of the 14 skiers advanced to the finals. Sarah Burke didn't make the cut, although she stomped cork 9s and attempted cork 10s during a heli photo shoot earlier in the week. In the finals, skiers set the bar high with switch 7s, forward 9s, and switch 9s before the switch 10 attempts began.

"There was nothing smaller than a 720 today. It was insane," said Ashley Battersby, who finished sixth after stomping a switch 9 for the first time and nearly landing a switch 10. "I think it's huge for us because we've been fighting for equality for a very long time."

Nico Zacek, who organizes Nine Queens and the event that inspired it, Nine Knights, said each skier landed new tricks during the week. "Overall, it's been exactly what I was hoping would happen. We gave the girls a beautiful location, and we gave them a week to progress the sport," said Zacek. "They got treated like the guys do, and they knew: 'That's our chance. If we want to have that again, we have to use it.' And they did."

The women had a bluebird week to session a 19-meter kicker in the center of a chateau constructed from snow by a crew from Schneestern. "I was a bit intimidated when I first saw it because the consequences are pretty gnarly if you don't clear the gap," said Herman.

The chateau also had a tunnel through it, leading from a box and quarterpipe to another rail and box for stylish photo ops. Photos and film were shot all week, including a pair of heli sessions at sunrise and sunset.

The rider list included host Virginie Fairve, Anna Segal, Kim Lamarre, Maude Raymond, 16-year-old Emilia Wint, and 9-year-old Kelly Sildaru. "It doesn't matter what age you are, from nine to 30, everyone is pushing it and everyone is learning from each other," said Battersby. "It's such a good environment."

Bagge said she was happy to be part of an event that brought together the best female freeskiers: "That's not so usual for me, to ski with other girls. When we are the same level, it's more easy to push each other and progress more."

Final Results: 2011 Nine Queens