The best freeskiers in the world have traveled from all over the globe to Livigno, Italy because of the crazy snow sculpture that has been taking shape on the ski field of Mottolino Fun Mountain. Marker Völkl team rider Nico Zacek, host of event, sent out invites and all the riders gladly accepted the honor to hit the legendary castle of the Suzuki Nine Knights. After lack of snow at Germany’s Nebelhorn cancelled the event last year, everyone is beyond stoked to be back for the fourth installment of the event.
The legendary Schneestern crew together with the cat drivers from the Mottolino snowpark have broken boundaries while shaping the multi-feature structure out of 75,000 cubic meters of snow; also known as “Il Castillo”. The main part of the castle is the huge jump in the middle with an 18 meter gap and 27 meters from take-off to knuckle with an almost endless landing. The jump is flanked by two gigantic hips on either side, which look like they will send the riders into orbit.
With a run-in under arches, two 6-meter quarterpipes are in the center of the structure, with a gap possibility over a balcony. After the quarters, the riders have the chance to ski through the structure and hit a flat-down-flat rail or a down-rail stair set. The behemoth structure has countless options, gaps and transitions for the riders to explore.
The list of the riders come to conquer the castle is almost more impressive than the castle itself. The king of afterbang, Tom Wallisch has come to Italy to compete at the event for the first time after winning the Dew Cup, a Gold at X Games Aspen and Silver at Euro X this season. Current AFP World Tour overall leader Gus Kenworthy has also turned up, fresh from winning the Jon Olsson Invitational and landing the first ever switch triple 1440. In addition to that multiple X games medalist Jossi Wells, Australian Russ Henshaw and local challenger and Smith Optics team rider Raffaele Cusini have come to session the feature along with numerous others.
Monday was the first chance for the riders to check out the Castle and get used to all the different features. It was a sunny day, however a strong, gusty and cold wind was affecting the conditions, which meant that riders kept things a little bit more mellow and safe. The invited filmers and photographers still captured some pretty crazy and creative lines through the features. Most of the Knights hit the jump, with Lolo Favre standing out with some super styled out 360s and 540s.
The riders also spent a lot of time sessioning the quarterpipes, with Nico Zacek and Ben Valentin sending the impressive gap over the snow balcony. Some riders even gapped from the quarter to the landing of the hip! When the wind picked up even more everyone moved on to session the Power Balance stair-set where Völkl youngster Øystein Braaten stood out with some crazy trickery. However, the biggest cheer of the day probably came when Tom Wallisch did a switch frontflip on the quarterpipe.
Following the first session, all the riders and media were invited to a five course Italian dinner thanks to the tourist board and the Major of the city of Livigno. Everyone also had a chance to check out all the prizes for the event, including the banging Dotz rims and custom Suzuki Nine Knights iPads.
With the weather looking to calm down at the end of the week everyone was discussing what is going to go down during the different sessions. Undoubtedly we are going to see some incredible progression, so stay tuned for more updates during the week including the highly anticipated football match between the athletes and media.