My alarm went into action at 4:30 a.m. My roommate, Drew Tabke, stirred. In a haze, we collected our gear and walked downstairs to a breakfast of meats and cheeses. And orange juice. “Europeans love their orange juice,” said a waiter. At 5:15, we hauled our ski gear through the streets of Zermatt to catch a train that would take us to a bus that would take us two hours to a landing zone for a helicopter that would take us to what Samuel Anthamatten called one of the more remote zones in Switzerland. Welcome to Big Mountain Day at the 2013 Swatch Skiers Cup.
We were in a battle against time. Weather was scheduled to arrive at 12:30 p.m. Guides and event organizers wanted to get out there before the late morning sun cooked the snow, or dark clouds moved in. Sverre Liliequist dominated the morning with an impressive run. Timy Dutton’s almost double back flip sent him to the hospital to get stitches after his ski smacked him in the face, slicing his right check. And although it wasn’t caught on film, Charley Ager launched a massive 180 off a natural feature, stomping the landing and skiing two turns switch down the mountain face.
From the judges chairs, we watched through binoculars, slamming our boots together to keep our feet warm in the cold temps. All the while, helicopters buzzed the air, capturing all of the action on a Cineflex camera. I couldn’t help but notice the impressive adaptability of the competitors. Sluff and minor avalanches altered the face, yet everyone kept their composure and chose lines that were fun and safe. Unfortunately, the sun caught up to us at 1:30 p.m. and conditions became dangerous. Anthamatten, the head guide of the event, and head judge Julien Rengnier, made the decision to call it after five rounds during the skiers’ second runs. Team Europe took the lead 11-5
For the next hour and a half, helicopters shuttled the skiers and event staff back to the bus. While waiting for their ride, Paddy Graham and K.C. Deane built a small back flip jump, which Kaj Zackrisson and Markus Eder, among others, sessioned. Eder tossed flawless switch front flips and back flips as his fellow competitors cheered him on.
That night, we dispersed into the Zermatt après scene. We caught a cover band with a female lead singer that would give Gwen Stefani a run for her money. Team Europe celebrated their lead. Team Americas, meanwhile, was already scheming a plan to make up ground in the backcountry slopestyle day. Tomorrow is a weather day and if the snow keeps piling up as it is right now, you can bet it’ll be a Swiss pow day. If there’s one thing Europeans love, it’s fresh snow. If there’s two things, it’s fresh snow and orange juice.