The Chamonix Venue. PHOTO: FREERIDE WORLD TOUR

In any freeride competition, the ultimate goal is to leave some sort of lasting impression on the judges. Whether it’s through massive air, trickery, creativeness, or even just enthusiasm, the goal is to stand out. Odds are, if the judges can’t remember a run off the top of their heads, that athlete probably isn’t ending up on the podium. As unique as any athlete’s run may be in his or her mind, by the time the final competitor has gone, most runs will blur together. It’s this ability to stand out, in some way, shape, or form, that will separate those in the highlight reel from those in the credits.

In the context of the Chamonix venue, that may be no easy task. Unlike the venues in Italy and Canada, this venue in France isn’t as stacked with options. The upper portion has some opportunities for larger airs and some nicely shaped booters, but generally it’s a one-move section, particularly with larger moves that will send athletes nuking out into the lower portion of the venue. The lower half of the venue will be all about trickery, with numerous wind lips and rolls. This is where athletes with park backgrounds will thrive, hoping to separate themselves from the rest of the field, where they may not have been able to in the upper section.

Bottom line, even though the lower sections will favor the park guys and girls, the upper portion is substantial enough that it will outweigh anything that happens down low. Look for guys like Seb Michaud, with his iconic backflip, to thrive, as well as Julian Lopez, who won on this same venue in 2010, and Kiwi darkhorse Charlie Lyons. With a stacked field of 66 riders between the four categories, it’s unlikely that any feature will remain untouched by the end.