Freeride Challenge Punta Nera 2014, the Cortina report
The report by Paolo Tassi of the 5th edition of the Freeride Challenge Punta Nera 2014, three days of freeride, ski mountaineering and bouldering at Cortina.
When we embarked on this adventure 5 years ago, we didn't have the slightest idea what we were doing. We knew how to take people skiing and a freeride comp, we thought, couldn't be too different: everyone up, then all down, one at a time, through the fresh powder snow. A simple recipe for those used to taking customers off the beaten track.
The world was a different place back then: only one father joined us, the youngster who invented facebook was still a playful kid, slopestyle hadn't become Olympic and I was still to become a father (the waters broke when the last competitor reached the finish...). And freeriding in Italy was considered socially dangerous, something to be treated with the utmost care despite the FWT having become a serious reality. In truth, some local ski resorts had attempted to invest in what on the other side of the Alps had become a hallmark of quality, while the idea of masses of freeriders was still nothing but pure utopia.
Five years down the line the world has changed and skiing has changed direction! These are the words of Armin Holzer, a talented skier from Sesto and winner of the first two editions, who helped me understand just how much we have played a part in this change during the official presentation of the Junior contest.
There were 100 "bocia", 100 youngsters, all aspiring freeriders armed with avalanche beacon, shovel and probe, ready to perform their dance of jumps, twists and turns down a slope that looked more like a plowed field than a groomed slope. But this didn't matter, on the contrary, the more uneven the slope was, the more they could prove their worth and play with the sudden changes in speed and balance.
After this they were greeted by the Nutella party to regain some energy before the Combined event: the "Scoiattolino" climbing competition in the heart of Cortina that acted as a prelude to the adult "Marco Da Pozzo" trophy. For this year, unlike the last edition, we decided to extend the Combined competition to the youngest athletes as we felt an event like this simply can't exclude the future. The future is here already and Cortina is no place for old folk.
We have always lived from mountaineering and ski mountaineering skiing, so moving on to bouldering and freeriding should be no problem at all! The adult's qualification and final took place in piazza Angelo Dibona (the symbol of the Ampezzo mountain guides) and between these two heats the youngsters battled it out on the problems set by Luca Zardini & Co. What delight!
If you think about it, the step for young skiers (wearing ski helmets) leaping through the snow to falling onto mattresses is a very small one indeed. After this it was time for the grand final for the adults, a superb show that only bouldering can provide.
In truth this 3-day mountain sports event started with the ski mountaineering competition at Rifugio Faloria. Also called skialp, in this case it was freeridering with climbing skins. Talented ski mountaineers took part, as did many with gear that was anything but ideal for ascending the slopes... a sign of the times that are changing!
This ironman weekend finished where it had all begun: with freeriders! è difficile essere freerider di massa. Finché sciavamo di nascosto o apparivamo in qualche rivista in maniera sporadica eravamo come dei moscerini su un parabrezza. Ora, che appariamo in stormo, non possiamo più essere ignorati, anzi...siamo tanti ed è solo l'inizio di una nuova era dello sci, finché neve vuole! La Punta Nera ci ha regalato grandi emozioni, i ragazzi che son scesi da Punta Nera ci han fatto sognare anche se uno... Tommaso... mi ha regalato un incubo per fortuna a lieto fine.
As I said at the beginning: it is difficult to be part of the mass freerider movement. As long as we skied in secret, or sporadically appeared in some magazine, we were like flies on a windshield. Now though, that we seem like a huge herd, we can no longer be ignored. On the contrary... there are loads of us and this is the start of a new skiing era, as long as snow keeps falling! Punta Nera provided us with great excitement, those who skied off its slopes made us dream, even if one in particular, Tommaso... provided me with a nightmare that thankfully had a happy ending.
For us organisers all this was a great challenge; a challenge full of unknowns and unexpected question marks, just like climbing a mountain. But this time, more than 400 people turned up for the event. Who would have thought that five years ago?
For the results check out freeridepuntanera.com
Thanks to the sponsors: Carrera, Great Escape, Blizzard, S.C.A.R.P.A., Fischer, Land Rover, Birra Dolomiti
And to all those who helped us!
by Paolo Tassi