Avoriaz Winter Kick Off

Soccer thuggery hits snowboarding--French style.

By Ed Leigh

Think of a French rider, times him by two, divide that by your favourite color, and I bet the outcome is Nico Droz. Am I right, or am I right? Damn I’m good. Droz has the kind of international reputation for smooth riding that Ron Jeremy would kill for (admittedly, however, Ron is good with his tongue). Last year a broken knee meant that the summer would be spent on the couch as opposed to a skateboard for Droz. With time on his hands, he managed to come up with a fresh competition that took advantage of his hook-ups at his home resort of Avoriaz on the Swiss-French border.

Nico’s soccer passion is what shaped the format for Winter Kick Off held in mid December. Twelve teams went head-to-head in a knockout-style competition. Each match entailed two teams of three riders jamming for about 30 minutes before the judges decided which one moved on to the next round.

The pitch was a 110-meter-long, four-meter-deep halfpipe. Early-season snowfall had kept the walls in good shape--it wasn’t a Superpipe--but the playing field had a few new twists on the classic pipe setup. Starting halfway down, each lip boasted a perfectly set fifteen-meter section of coping. There was a box after that, and at the bottom on both walls was a flat-to-down kink rail.

Nico’s invite list of teams was a smorgasbord of different styles and strengths, providing one of the most diverse rider lineups in comp history. Young up-and-comers like Freddie Kalbermatten and Eero Niemela were cutting the pipe with the likes of Ross Powers and Romain De Marchi. David Vincent showed up for the comp runs and threw down some impossibly tweaked melons and Japans to prove that even pushing his mid thirties hasn’t stiffened his elf-like qualities.

With half an hour for each match, the teams threw down everything they could to rack up points and progress to the next round. The scoring system encouraged the teams to ride creatively together, but some didn’t seem to understand this concept. The seemingly limitless talents of the Anon team was scuppered when they were taken out in the second round because they weren’t communicating with each other. Also, a late tackle on Kalbermatten put him on the injury table for the rest of the weekend, although not before he nailed some full-length backside lipslides on the coping.

The Burton team had their act dialed from the beginning. At one point it was like watching a family day out--the kids (De Marchi and Andrew) dropped in and chased each other down the pipe with a barrage of inverted sevens, McTwists, and doubles airs over handplants; in the meantime, Daddy Powers brought up the rear with huge backside airs, Cab sevens, and long, stalled rockslides. The only teams getting close were Gnu and Nixon, which is how the three-team final round panned out.

The Gnu boys were down one man after a last-minute withdrawal, but they didn’t let it affect them. In fact, it was the team members’ easy, relaxed riding that made them such standouts. Hampus Mosesson floated through pretty much every trick in the book a good couple feet higher than everyone else. He’s sort of a cross between Grace Kelly and Chewbacca--especially since his dance partner most nights was a bottle of vodka, and he could be witnessed screaming the words, “It’s gettin’ hot in here,” in his best Swedish slur. Mathieu Crepel was getting frontside nines, and this helped earn Gnu second place behind the mighty Burton family. The Nixon gents, Iker Fernandez, Morgan Le Faucheur, and Kim Christiansen rode with a combination of tech and altitude, but it was never enough to elevate them above third place.

The moment the comp finished, it started dumping, and in true Avoriaz “snowskate capital of the world” fashion, a session kicked off on the rails and quarterpipe. Droz busted outt some death-strength chili rum, and Hampus went to find his dancing partner. For a soccer match, there was very little spitting or swearing, just a good early-season vibe and some powder to finish.


1. Burton: Ross Powers, Trevor Andrew, Romain De Marchi

2. Gnu: Mathieu Crepel, Markku Koski, Hampus Mosesson

3. Nixon: Morgan Le Faucheur, Iker Fernandez, Kim Christiansen, Kim Christiansen)