By Tim Mutrie
The qualifying round for the combined Freeskiing and Freeride World Tour event in Revelstoke, B.C., is going off today, with the main events slated for Friday and Sunday. (A live feed will carry the action, starting Friday). While the two world tours (Freeskiing World Tour and Freeride World Tour) have combined for an event before (last winter at Kirkwood), this weekend marks the first combo contest since the two FWTs announced plans to begin merging operations.
Julien Lopez, the La Plagne, France-based freeskier known for large cliffs and backflips, was in a Revelstoke hotel room this morning, and he said there is a different feel in the air. He skied the resort yesterday, soaked in the pool last night, and was getting ready to hit the slopes today with fellow countrymen and competitor Guerlain Chicherit. Powder.com chatted Lopez up about the competition, goals, snow conditions here, there and in France, and his continuing webisode series, POWdcast—the first installment of season two just dropped. (See video up top).
How’s the snow up there? "Almost the same as France; early December we ddin't have any snow at all, then we got a huge storm, two or three meters at once, like boom. I got here two days ago, and yesterday was my first day of skiing. … It’s not that bad on top, but different compared to last year, and it's kind of spring skiing at the bottom.”
"All the features are really big, way much bigger than it was last year—because there’s not as much snow. But it was snowing a bit yesterday and the wind blew some snow on the North Bowl”—the venue for Day 1, Friday—”so I think it's not that bad. Could be better, but I think it's gonna be cool.”
"It's my foruth time here and I can see the resort growing up, they're moving forward, and I'm pretty sure this resort is gonna be one of the sickest in maybe five or six years—especially when they've got powder. You can't ski from top to bottom, it's such a long run. You have to stop three or four times, and when they open up the whole thing, man.”
What’s your plan for today—watching qualifiers or freeskiing? "Today we're gonna go skiing. Guerlain just arrived in my room, so we're gonna go have a couple of runs together. He doesn't know the resort, so I'm going to show him around, look at the venue and have fun.”
What’s the scene? "I would say there's a lot of people. It's different, we will see, there are so many young guys coming up who are into tricks, and then there's the old school guys into dropping big cliffs. Last night, I was at the pool and all the kids were doing double backflips off the diving board. The sport is moving really fast. And now the Freeride and Freesking World Tour are together for the first time. Well, last year at Kirkwood, but it was not really the same. This one, it's like together, and they've promoted it like that.”
"When you go to registration they have a huge poster saying it's the first combined one, so that's cool. They're really working as the same, and I think it's good for the sport. … Having one title and one tour will be much better for everyone."
How many days on skis do you have this season? "Not that much. I haven't been skiing on the glacier, all the stuff we normally do in November; I was training at the gym. I started skiing when we had the huge snowmfall, around the 10th of December, and since then I'd say I have 10 days; not even 10 days.”
"We had some really tough conditions [in France]. First we didn't have any snow, and that sucks. And then we had a little bit of powder and it was f***ing dangerous. Sharks everywhere. And then we had the huge snowfall. It was good, but then it start to be really, really dangerous—everything was sliding down. Then the past few days before I came here, I was skiing the 1st of January in 60 cm of snow.”
Goals for this weekend and season? "I had a really good season in 2009, I won the tour, and that was my best season so far. Then I was doing both tours, and I was really close to getting close to the podium on both tours, but then I f*ed up, so it was a tough year. And last year was my worst season ever—my set up, boots, bindings were off. I was not taking pleasure. And this season, I went to Argentina this summer and got third place at the Powder Disorder. That pumped me up. I've got all my settings done, and I'm in a good mood. Last year, I lost the feeling—I was not enjoying all the competitions, and when you're not having fun, you can't go on the podium.”
"This year, I'm like, f***, I want so much to be in the starting gate and to drop in and ski like I know I can do. All the Frenchies are back here, and it's kind of like being on holiday all together. So my goal for this one is to be top five."
Who else will be in the top five? "Ah, man, I don't know. I haven't seen so many guys skiing now. But there is Drew Tabke. And Guerlain, he likes that tree stuff, and of course me. I have someone else in mind, but I don't know his name. He's a young gun and I saw him skiing. I met him last night, too. You know when you see someone skiing down the hill and you're like, ‘That guy, he ski well.’ Well I know him, but I don't remember his name."
Is the backflip still in your arsenal? “Oh yeah, I hope so. You know what I was thinking I have to do a backflip in every run now. That's my trademark, so yeah, if I find a spot, for sure I'll do it."
What’s the story with the webisode series, POWdcast? "We've done one season already, and we'll do it all year long. The plan is to do the season of competition—you have to stay focused on what you're doing. Basically all year long, so five or six episodes, will be about the competitions—how you’re feeling inspecting your line, how do you prepare yourself mentally and physically. And then we'll go into more powder stuff.”
How is North Bowl skiing? "Not powdery. It's pretty tracked out. It's not the best competition conditions that we've had. But there are some spots … It's really tough, because in that kind of competition you need powder. So it's gonna be tough. But we'll see. There's many different options. You can drop huge cliffs—that's basically my plan— or you can drop of number of them. But after 10 guys in the same venue, if there's not a lot of snow to begin with, you can imagine how much is left."