After the came Haines, Alaska, another new destination for the Freeride World Tour. Months of preparation and planning went into this one stop. The complexity of logistics (and associated costs) have been a massive headache, especially for Nicolas Zen whose experience and efficiency have been decisive. By far the single most complicated event that we ever had to put together!
Haines is actually a quite remote destination.
You have a choice of a 5-hour car ride (weather permitting), small airplane (weather permitting) or ferry (weather permitting) to reach this picturesque little town which hosts a most welcoming and supportive community. So getting there is the first, relatively easy hurdle. But what an amazing region of the world. Stunning landscapes and untouched nature everywhere you look! I was lucky enough to board on a panoramic plane flight to get a glimpse from above. Magical! Some of the pictures below from Nico Siron (www.dmprod.net), our trusted replay operator on the FWT.
From that point on, everything was set for the adventure to begin! Once the competition venue was identified by the mountain guides and the race director, half of the live production team was heli-lifted on a ridge opposite to the chosen mountain. Several tons of equipment followed, as well as a doctor, mattresses, sleeping bags and food supplies for several days – because once up on the mountain, you never know when you’ll be able to make it back to the valley!
The idea was to put up the entire production setup and remain on standby till weather and snow conditions would be optimal for the competition. Here are some pictures of the “base camp” which has been up and running for a total of 11 days. Very basic living conditions, but very rewarding for the staff sleeping up on the mountain with some beautiful northern lights diplay above their heads. Once again credit goes to FWT, Nicolas Siron and David Carlier for some of these pictures:
Weather has been the most challenging aspect of this event. The Alaskan coast is know (with reason) for its harsh weather, and this reputation was admirably confirmed during our stay. With barely more than 24/36 hours visibility on the weather forecast and overall poor reliability of the predictions, we had a total of 3 “false starts” before actually being able to hold the competition. But the wait, and the whole gamble of holding an event in such an inhospitable terrain proved well worth it when conditions finally aligned – one day after the official end of the waiting period. And one of the greatest competition ever held happened under our eyes. Here are the highlights:
As soon as the contest was over the helis brought us back to the valley and we hopped on taxis to make the 5-hour journey back to the nearest airport in Whitehorse, Canada. Because of the contest date delay we had to push our flights back to Europe by 24h/48h. Consequently a large amount of editing happened in airport halls and planes as we hurried back to Europe. Indeed just 4 days later we had to be up and ready in Switzerland for the FWT grand finale, the Verbier Xtreme, which also happened to be the highly anticipated 20th edition of this mythical event on the mighty Bec des Rosses.
Needless to say the pressure was on! The fatigue was extreme on this last event, but good spirits and a shared determination to deliver a top-notch event prevailed despite the jetlag and lack of sleep.
On this last event we also put to use some cool technology tested during the season, thanks to the support of the Red Bull Media House who joined forces with FWT to co-produce this final stop of the season. After some extended testing on previous stops, live Gopro transmissions were implemented on forerunners in Verbier, something I’m looking forward to use more widely in the future. We also had this next-level tool called Virtual Eye which basically GPS-tracks a rider down the mountain, measuring speed, vertical drop and provides a very precise trajectory visualization on a 3D modelization of the venue.
Re-watch the live on redbull.tv here:
I cannot end this entry without thanking again the entire FWT team and in particular the production team under my responsability. Success in such an environnement is only made possible by the hard work and dedication of a great team. Despite the continuous challenges thrown at us the vibe has always been positive, and the willingness to deliver great pictures and great stories has prevailed under any circumstances. Congratulations everyone!