Zermatt shows off its freeriding credentials
Freeriders are raving about the fact that Zermatt has the highest and most beautiful slopes in the Alps. Ideal for jumping down, against an outstanding mountain panorama. For the freeriding community February is Zermatt’s showcase month. That’s when the world’s two best freeriding teams are set to compete over a period of one week.
When it comes to freeriding, Samuel Anthamatten is Zermatt’s go-to guy. As a pro athlete his expertise as head guide is invaluable for the Swatch Skiers Cup. Freeriding is all about skiing in open natural terrain; it’s also known as “backcountry” or “off-piste”. And anyone venturing off-piste has to be expert in deep powder skiing, know all about avalanches and, above all, be aware of where in the Zermatt region crevasses can become a deadly hazard. It takes plenty of preparations to make freeriding look as easy as it does. Freeriders spend a lot of time with binoculars, observing and studying the slopes they want to ski down. They memorise the gullies and slopes so they can track the ideal line, out in the terrain. But, in Zermatt, it’s local expert Samuel Anthamatten who determines where they can ski, and whether conditions allow the contests to take place – for the safety of the freeriders themselves.
Amercias vs. Europa
Teams from America and Europe will be competing against each other at the Swatch Skiers Cup (10 to 15 February 2013). The top riders from the big mountain and slope style scene are a close-knit community. Cool and confident they stand on the slopes, and once they’re off, their jumps and figures all look so easy and effortless. America’s captain and defending champion is the charismatic Cody Townsend. Europe’s captain and opponent, together with his team, is Sweden’s Kaj Zackerisson.
These 16 elite athletes are bound to have a magnetic effect on Zermatt. The races are to be broadcast on several TV channels, with many journalists from the print and online media arriving just for the occasion. Spectators are most welcome at Schwarzsee and Furgg. The exceptional talents on show include South Tyrol’s young talent Markus Eder, Richard Permin (F) and Sverre Liliequist (Swe), with Josh Daiek and Rory Bushfield (both from the US) on America’s team. The Restaurant Käsestube at Furgg and the Restaurant Schwarzsee provide ideal vantage points for those superlative action-packed shots of the freeriding stars. Other contests are expected to be held in the area of the Äschhorn or the Alphubel, with a helicopter shuttle. Spectators also have the opportunity to watch the stars train at the Gravity Park.
All the athletes, Americans and Europeans alike, will be staying for a week (10 - 15 February 2013) at the Hotel Backstage. Autographs: On Wednesday, 13.2. and Friday 15.2., at 5 pm in the bar Vernissage of the hotel Backstage.
Samuel Anthamatten (27) is making his expert knowledge as pro freerider and Zermatt terrain specialist available for the Swatch Skiers Cup. As head guide in charge, the qualified mountain guide and skiing instructor will determine which slopes are to be used. “The whole staging of the Swatch Skiers Cup is quite unique for Zermatt,” says Samuel Anthamatten. As he explains, Zermatt has the right landscape, including every altitude level from sub-alpine to high-alpine. And that’s not all: “We have everything – the mountains, the hotels, the night life and the good food,” he adds. After all, freeriders have been known to enjoy the odd night out too.
“This event puts Zermatt right at the focal point of the global freerider community, making a name for itself among an important guest target group with thrilling images,” says Marketing Manager Marc Scheurer from Zermatt Tourism. Samuel Anthamatten couldn’t agree more: “It’s not about pulling in the crowds; it’s about showing that Zermatt is simply perfectly calibrated for this sporting discipline.”
Zermatt also offers attractive slopes for freeriders who are not (yet) among the star attractions. 38 km of yellow slopes are available across a variety of skiing areas – the Rothorn, Stockhorn/Hohtälli/Triftji, Sandiger Boden and Schwarzsee. These areas are accessible by ski lift and marked as avalanche-safe. They are packed with hillocks and gullies, some of them at angles that require strong nerves. But if there’s any doubt, the golden rule is always: book a mountain guide.