February 10, 2009 - Xavier de le Rue has won the 2009 Swatch O'Neill Big Mountain Pro after being voted best snowboarder as well as the overall winner of the competition with his signature dynamic and fluid riding.
"I thought coming into this competition that Cody Townsend was going to win the overall competition," said Xavier. "But when we were watching the videos it was so cool that everyone was cheering after my runs. Then I started to think that maybe I could win it."
For taking both prizes, French snowboarder Xavier walks away with $20,000 which he says he will "spend on a nice holiday with my family."
Last year's winner Jeremy Jones who was voted in second place, was happy to see his friend take victory: "It's been an amazing week," said Jeremy. "Xavier's riding is always incredible to watch."
After an intense judging session, the riders are now off to celebrate the end of a successful week of near-perfect riding conditions and incredible snow at “Gosstall” in Saalbach Hinterglem with DJ Gitta Saxx and the Urban Knights from London.
Earlier this morning, the final day of competition was cancelled as the clouds came in earlier than predicted.
"This morning was off because the early morning window closed and the risk of having flat light was too big to hold the contest on that face," said event director Nicolas Hale Woods.
However with four very different competition faces completed in good weather and on amazing snow, this year's Big Mountain Pro has been the best yet for Nicolas and the riders.
"For me it's been the best edition of the Big Mountain Pro for the main reason that we've had very good snow conditions," said Nicolas. “We've been able to make it work with the weather, and we haven't had to drive too much," he said. "We were so welcomed in Austria. And very simply riders are smiling and that is the key."
For Fredrik Evensen it was his first Big Mountain Pro and his first venture into a freeriding competition.
"It's been fun," he said. "I've learnt a lot. It's been a great experience for me."
"The funniest thing has been having to pick a line before I drop in. It's the first time I've ever planned where I'm going. What surprised me the first time dropping in is instead of being four turns as I had thought, it was one. I had to improvise a bit," he said.
"When I do freeestyle riding I don't worry about safety precautions. It's been good to get a reality check," Fredrik said. "My understanding of the mountain has really improved."
"I want to continue freeriding. Freestyle riding is what I do, but I hope it will change. I'm tired of doing the same jump for the last ten years. I want to try something new. I'm not sure I want to do anything too crazy. The tree runs were what I loved. That's my thing."
Watch all the highlights from the 2009 Swatch O'Neill Big Mountain Pro on www.oneilltv.com.
Xavier de le Rue
What: The most original and innovative freeride contest on the planet
When: February 3 - February 10, 2009
Where: The Alps
Start location: St. Anton, Arlberg range, Austria
Finish location: Saalbach-Hinterglemm in Austria
Who: 12 of the best freeriders in the world - 6 skiers and 6 snowboarders
Prizemoney: $ 60.000