Smoothy’s score of 91.25 put him well ahead of second place-getter, Jeremie Heitz of Switzerland on 82.00 and signalled a return to form for the Kiwi rider who finished second on overall Tour rankings in 2014.
Smoothy, who learnt his trade at Wanaka’s Treble Cone ski field, says, “I just felt very comfortable here, it was very spring like which just felt like competing at home in NZ… so I just channelled into that positivity.
“I knew I had picked a big line and after watching the first ten men I really felt confident I could win, more so than ever before. And it went how I planned, apart from the finish but I am just so happy. I feel I am back in the hunt for the title and all the momentum is building.”
Go Pro View of Sam's Run
The competition in Vallnord-Arcalis was held under blue skies but in tricky snow conditions, firm underfoot and with limited coverage. Smoothy was one of the only competitors to opt for the skier’s right of the face. Keeping his run fast and fluid, he made maximum use of varied terrain and challenging features with breath-taking action all along the face. With bib number 2, Jeremie Heitz (SUI) set the standards for the day right off the bat with a score of 82.00. He laid out a fast, fluid run starting with a very technical jump into the steep couloir, impressing the judges right away. Only Smoothy's spectacular line could beat that and left him with the second place. Reine Barkered (SWE) finished third with a score of 81.25.
New Zealand’s Charlie Lyons (Christchurch) finished in 14th place after opting for a safe but solid run.
“I took the easier option today which resulted in a lower rank but the standard was very high”, explains Lyons. “The goal is to qualify for Alaska and sitting 11th in the overall ranking is a good stepping stone to do that.”
The Freeride World Tour is considered the world’s premier big mountain freeskiing and snowboarding tour. The 2015 tour features five venues with Vallnord-Arcalis originally scheduled as the third stop of the Tour. However, event organisers were forced to reschedule stop two - Austria’s Fieberbrunn Kitzbüheler Alpen - when one of the male ski competitors triggered an avalanche and competition was brought to an abrupt halt.
Organisers plan to re-stage the Fieberbrunn Kitzbüheler-Alpen event in Andorra, if weather and snow conditions allow, and have until Thursday February 19th to do so. After the first three events, the field starts to narrow down to only the riders with the best results. The top seven female skiers and 16 male skiers will qualify to compete at stop four in Haines, Alaska ahead of the finals in Verbier, Switzerland.
Sam Smoothy currently sits in fifth place on overall rankings, Charlie Lyons 11th. Olympic halfpipe skier Janina Kuzma is also competing on the 2015 tour and finished 10th in Andorra, just missing the cut to compete in Alaska. She will now return to the USA where she has been competing on the International Ski Federation (FIS) World Cup circuit in the halfpipe. Janina is currently ranked number one in the world for women’s freeski halfpipe.