<
>

Team Europe wins Skier's Cup

Event founder Kaj Zackrisson during the big-mountain day of the Swatch Skier's Cup. Courtesy of Swatch Skier's Cup

Under bluebird skies and a few inches of new snow, Team Europe claimed the inaugural Swatch Skier's Cup over Team Americas on Saturday. The event, held in Valle Nevado, Chile, spanned two days of competition.

With $20,000 and a huge trophy up for grabs, round one kicked off earlier this week in the big mountain backcountry of Valle Nevado on heli-accessed terrain with a head-to-head format for points. The competition followed the Freeride World Tour's policy of visual inspection only, and thin snow cover on two potential big mountain faces caused the competitors to opt for the third venue they looked at, which was, according to Team Europe captain Kaj Zackrisson, "quite an extreme big mountain course."

The Europeans, led by Zackrisson, handily took the day with six points to the Americas' two points (garnered by Chile's Chopo Diaz and Canada's Oakley White-Allen). "With the snow cover and the rocks, it was a hard day to take big risks," said White-Allen. "Both days were a challenge for everybody, but it was still really fun."

Day two on the hill took place Saturday in the same head-to-head, two athlete format, but with two rounds of eight heats. The backcountry slopestyle course was built above a cliffy, exposed area with a series of jumps. Two mandatory hits led into diverging lines where athletes could hit the manmade features of cliffs scattered around.

Although huge tricks were laid down on the lower hits from massive backflips to switch 900s, it wasn't enough for Team Americas. Europe took the day and overall competition title with some clean runs. According to event masterminds Zackrisson and Sverre Lillequist, the event will be an annual happening, and they'll be back at Valle Nevado next year to defend their title.

Organizers and athletes were pleased with the way things played out, and are already looking forward to the next one. "It's overwhelming to see this finally happen. Sverre and I have been planning this for six years and here we are with 16 of some of the best skiers in the world. We want this to be the event that everyone is talking about and trying to get on the team for all winter," said Zackrisson.

Said Allen-White: "This was the coolest comp I have ever done -- I'd do it again in a heartbeat.