After a long waiting period for the best possible weather and snow, the stars finally aligned, making for an even better show, witnessed by six thousand cheering spectators and four thousand viewers on the live webcast. At the end of the day winners of both the 19th edition of the legendary "Xtreme" and the 2014 Freeride World Tour Champions were crowned with New Zealand's own Sam Smoothy taking out second place in the overall tour rankings for the men's ski category.
Able to prepare themselves with a visual inspection only, the competitors' mission was to conquer a very steep face with a gradient of up to 60 degrees at the top of the course. The fresh snow was at times affected by the wind, making the conditions all the more variable and tricky.
The 15 competitors in the men's ski category wrapped up the 2014 grande finale with an incredible show. One of the favourites on the Bec des Rosses, the solid Swede Reine Barkered, repeated his win from 2012. The former World Champion (2012) showcased his signature style with fast technical riding and perfectly-landed huge airs, skiing the intimidating face with confidence and composure to earn the day's highest score of 93.25 points.
All eyes were on rookie Loïc Collomb-Patton of La Clusaz, France, who has led the rankings since the first competition in Courmayeur, Italy. On his first ever run on the Bec des Rosses he proved why he was worthy of the 2014 title, finishing off big mountain charging with an impressive 360 (full rotation) off a big cliff, putting him in third place of the day and in a very good position to win the overall Freeride World Tour title on his first year on the tour.
Kiwi Sam Smoothy came into the finals competition with his eyes on the prize but his body feeling the effects of a serious crash only days prior to the competition. Sam had been cleared of having a fractured back and had undergone intensive massage, acupuncture and physiotherapy before eventually being declared fit to compete.
"It was a really tough mental place to be in, feeling like the world title was so close but moving further away from me,"
"I improved a little over the four days before the comp and on the morning was excited to see what I could do to win. Unfortunately all the healing and then the hour an half walk up the Bec de Rosses sapped all my energy and power.
"I still felt good mentally in the start gate and was going to go for a podium line, the same as eventual winner Reine Barkered. But after a few turns I could feel my body just simply wasn't working and my left hip was unstable so I pulled out of my first big air. I tried to link some smaller ones together but was really struggling, feeling like I was running on empty.
"I sent my bottom air big but landed square in someone's bomb hole and backslapped badly, knocking my points way down.
Running it out I could barely stay standing and collapsed once over the finish line. It was more relief to have made it down safe than happy to have skied. I knew I had not done enough and was super happy for the overall winner Loic."
Sam finished the day's final placed 11th but it was enough to hold on to second place on the overall tour rankings.
The 2014 Freeride World Tour has been anything but plain sailing for the New Zealander who almost missed the first tour stop due to an emergency operation to remove his appendix. Despite not claiming the coveted tour title he was nonetheless proud to claim second place.
"In all I'm really proud I tried to go for the win but it just simply wasn't on in my condition. I am so happy with my season battling through the appendix removal, a hyper extended elbow and destroyed back.
"To take second against the best is more than I could have hoped for and I'm really proud of what I've accomplished and can't wait to come back healthy and try again for the title next year."
Results competition Xtreme Verbier 2014:
1. Elodie Mouthon (FRA), 72.25
2. Anouck Mouthon (FRA), 65.00
3. Estelle Balet (SUI), 49.50
1. Pia Nic-Gundersen (NOR), 83.50
2. Nadine Wallner (AUT), 74.75
3. Jacky Paaso (USA), 71.25
1. Ralph Backstrom (USA), 77.75
2. Jonathan Charlet (FRA), 71.75
3. Sascha Hamm (UK), 53.75
1. Reine Barkered (SWE), 93.25
2. Ian Borgeson (USA), 90.25
3. Loic Collom-Patton (FRA), 86.25
Overall results Freeride World Tour 2014
1. Shannan Yates (USA)
2. Estelle Balet (SUI),
3. Elodie Mouthon (FRA)
1. Nadine Wallner (AUT)
2. Lorraine Huber (AUT)
3. Pia Nic Gundersen (NOR)
1. Emilien Badoux (SUI)
2. Jamie Rizzuto (CAN)
3. Sascha Hamm (UK)