Tignes (France). Next weekend the NOKIA Snowboard FIS World Cup will be kicked off for its seventh season. Similar to last year the start shot will be fired in Tignes, France, where the season’s first races will be held from 17 through 19 November.

While Halfpipe and Giant Slalom were scheduled in Tignes already in previous seasons, this year, for the first time, also a Snowboard Cross race will take place there. The amount of snow which is needed to built a spectacular course for such forced the organisers to move the Snowboard Cross up to the glacier for exciting duels of four riders head-to-head can be expected.Last winter’s World Cup champion Pontus Stahlkloo from Sweden is unquestinably the number one contender for a top rank but, apart from a few others especially the Swiss rider Guillaume Nantermod and Aussi Zeke Steggall also need to be considered.Reigning World Cup champion Sandra Farmand from Germany and Italy’s Carmen Ranigler claimed the top seats last season in the womens’ standings but there’s Manuela Riegler from Austria, French rider Marie Laissus and former champion Ursula Fingerlos from Austria waiting for a revenge.

According to last winter the Halfpipe is in the Swedes’ hands with Tomas Johansson, Magnus Sterner and his cousin Fredrik claiming the medals. However, especially the Fins Pasi Voho and Aleksi Litovaara intend to close the gap this season.Sabine Wehr-Hasler from Germany, US rider Tricia Byrnes and Anna Hellman from Sweden finished top three in the womens’ category last year and will need to be considered for top ranks also this winter.

The Tignes event will be conculed with the Giant Slalom, last year dominated by Austria and France. Despite three World Cup wins Overall champion Mathieu Bozzetto from France ended up second place last season when Austria’s Stefan Kaltschütz claimed the title two races prior to the final. Beside those two Nicolas Huet, France, as well as the Austrians Felix Stadler and Dieter Krassnig are other contenders for a win.Reigning World champion Margherita Parini from Italy also claimed the World Cup title last season but especially France’s Karine Ruby, Olympic Gold medallist in 1998, Overall World Cup champion Manuela Riegler and Aasa Windahl from Sweden intend to close the gap.

Tignes will not only mark the start into another World Cup season ¿ the Olympic spirit will be in the riders’ minds since they have to qualify for Nations quota spots before making their way to the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. The quotas per National Olympic Committee (NOC) depend on the rank of the competitors in the FIS points list published in November 2001, based on all countries participating in FIS Snowboard events. The qualification criteria themselves will be determined by the NOCs and their National Ski/Snowboard federation but it already counts this season.