Freeride World Tour heads to Norway

The fourth stop of the 2012 Freeride World Tour took place Sunday in Røldal, Norway. France's Margot Rozies and Austria's Flo Orley won the snowboard division, while Christine Hargin of Sweden and Norway's own Dennis Risvol took the top spots for the skiers.

Aurélien Ducroz and Sam Smoothy took second and third in the men's ski division, while Emilien Badoux and Christian Schnabel completed the men's snowboard podium. Austria's Lorraine Huber and Eva Walkner placed second and third in ski women, and Americans Shannan Yates and Maria DeBari got second and third among the snowboard women.

At times it looked like the event may have to be called off entirely. Riders arrived on Thursday to a torrential downpour, which was followed by two days of snow and extremely high winds. Organizers had to change the venue multiple times on extremely short notice after guides reported dangerously icy conditions on the initially selected competition faces. "Thanks to a great team, we were able to stay flexible enough to change venues three times in less than 17 hours," said Nicolas Hale-Woods, head of the FWT.

The guides finally found soft snow on the last possible venue option, but as rising temperatures warmed the wind-loaded slopes, a slab avalanche naturally released partway down the venue as the athletes were visually inspecting from across the valley. The decision was made to helicopter the competitors to the top instead of hiking as originally planned, and riding was restricted to the looker's right half of the face to avoid other avalanche-prone areas.

Despite the last-minute changes, impressive riding was seen across the board. Men's ski winner and previous Røldal champ Risvol landed two perfect backflips during his run. "I won on this same venue last April, but I was still quite nervous as the mountain looks completely different in its winter condition," he said.

Snowboard winner Orley was happy to be back on the top spot on the podium. "People wonder if I can still charge now that I'm a dad," Orley said. "I know I can -- but this ranking proves it."

Tour rankings after Røldal are tighter than ever, but the leaders have held strong. Sam Smoothy tops the rankings among ski men and Angel Collinson for ski women and Maria DeBari for snowboard women held onto their top spots. In snowboard men, France's Jonathan Charlet took over the top spot from Ralph Backstom, who is currently filming in Alaska with Teton Gravity Research. FWT riders now head for the final two stops in Fieberbrunn, Austria, and Verbier, Switzerland, where the tour champions will be decided.

[The author of this story, Drew Tabke, took fifth place in the men's ski division of this contest.]