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WATCHING THE FWT - Alf Alderson, Les Arcs
Tuesday February 6, 2018 - Email this article to a friend

Our correspondent Alf Alderson is, apparently, a Les Arcs 'ambassador'. Here's what's going down at the Ambassador's Residence this week.

Show me the man, woman, child or dog who doesn't take pleasure in watching people throw themselves of cliffs (whilst avoiding death and injury I should add) and I will show you a bore.

So, since Les Arcs has no resident bores (I exclude myself from this pronouncement) it was no surprise to find the slopes beneath the Aiguille Rouge awash with folks the other day come to watch one of the qualifying events of the Freeride World Tour (FWT).

Mother Nature smiled upon the competitors and organisers.

Some 20cm-plus of fresh powder had fallen the day before, and now the sun shone in a clear blue sky.

The competitors assemble c/o Nicolas SecerovThe competitors assemble c/o Nicolas Secerov

I , along with scores of others, alighted from the Varet bubble to stand in sub-zero temperatures and watch young men and women hurl themselves off 3226-metre Aiguille Rouge on skis and boards in an attempt to negotiate the crags, cliffs and snowfields beneath them with style and grace.

What can you say about people who ski effortlessly down 50-degree couloirs and leap 20-metre cliffs with nonchalance, perhaps throwing in a somersault along the way?

"Oooh!", "Ahhh!" and "F**k me!" to judge by the utterings from the assembled masses.

It really was one of those events you had to be at in order to fully appreciate the proceedings, and fortunately this video does just that:

As a Les Arcs 'ambassador' I also had the privilege of being able to access the 'starting gate' off the summit of Aiguille Rouge; well, in theory, anyway.

Said start point for the event involved a traverse along a knife-edge ridge which had been secured with a climbing rope, onto which competitors, media and various hangers-on (the latter two groups frequently being one and the same) were required to attach themselves before negotiating said walk of death.

Since I had neglected to come to the event kitted out in climbing harness and such regalia I was unable to access the start point safely.

I had to be content with watching the initial descents of the competitors from the access platform to the cable car - what an amateur, who doesn't go to a ski competition ready to climb K2?

Seriously though, an event like this just shows how far skiing has developed in recent years.

The start c/o Nicolas SecerovThe start c/o Nicolas Secerov

This was 'merely' a qualifying event in for the FWT.

The riding on display was of a level that would have barely been imaginable twenty years ago - the men's event, incidentally, was won by Jonas Monnin of Switzerland and the women's by Charlene Plaisence of France.

It's a combination of equipment (e.g. fat skis) and technology (e.g. ABS packs) that have helped to made skiing steep, cliffed terrain such as this relatively commonplace in recent years.

But more than this it's attitude.

The competitors here, representing most of the major skiing nations, seem to operate under the principle that nothing, within reason, is impossible.

Whilst most of us can only imagine what it's like to launch off a 20-metre cliff whilst not 100 per cent sure of what the landing will be like (competitors are not allowed practice runs on the terrain before the event) what we can be sure of is that events like the Freeride World Tour are continually pushing the limits of what is possible on skis.

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the mountains.

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