LAAX, March 21, 2019. A great event took place last weekend with the KIDS LAAX OPEN 2019 in LAAX. Hundreds of children’s faces as well as and organizer’s and partner’s aces were beaming with joy and excitement. Everybody was a winner. Thanks to freestyle.
The freestyle competition for young riders aged 5 to 17 included 40 categories in total – five age groups, in each of freeskiing and snowboard, halfpipe and slopestyle, boys and girls. The superpipe and the slopestyle were just as well prepared for the nearly 400 starts in this event as they were for the LAAX OPEN, the snowboard World Cup event which took place in January.
Open to all
234 riders from 18 different countries and one thing in common – freestyle in the snow. Some of them got their first taste of competition at the KIDS LAAX OPEN, while others successfully defended the titles they won last year. Some just wanted to go down, others were looking to soar to new heights. This event combines completely different intentions, which is also part of the key idea behind freestyle in LAAX that everybody can take part. Everybody gets a round of applause. From uninhibited little rascals to cool posers and brave teenagers, from excited spectators to impressed judges and pre-schoolers watching on carefully, everybody had a great time in the snow.
‘Only in LAAX’
After a lot of fresh snow during the day and the night before the event, the LAAX Event Crew were up on Crap Sogn Gion very early at 5 a.m. on the first day of the competition to get everything set up just right for the 200 kids. And how the time flew to the training at 9 a.m. – but at the start of the superpipe and slopestyle course. Everything was ready in time. ‘Only in LAAX is this possible,’ said Dave Hürzeler of Swiss Snowboard/Swiss Ski.
The young freestylers were also thrilled. Feelings of wonder and gratitude were found among those who made their way to Crap Sogn Gion in LAAX for the very first time, marvelling at the freestyle features and listening to the excitement from the terrace at Caffè NoName. ‘This is the minipipe. Further to the left is the superpipe where today’s competition will take place.’ With lots of ‘Wows’ to be heard, the young riders made their way to the start and got in line for their début training run in the older age group.
‘The course is amazing!’
The slopestyle course created especially for the KIDS LAAX OPEN by the LAAX snowpark shapers is a top-class playground where riders get things going with a box or rail and then choose between a small or larger kicker. Two staggered pyramids then follow, which riders can either trick or go around from different sides. The penultimate element is a classic C-box, with the sixth and final feature a spine featuring a rail on top as the final slide.
Snowboarders and freeskiers got a number of things out of their bag of tricks, showing for example «left 2on 2out» and «switch left lip to switch» on the downrails and some eyecatchers on the kickers: back flips and front flips.
Markus Betschart, head judge, who operates internationally on tour but frequently works on kids’ competitions, was impressed by the slopestyle creation: ‘The course is amazing! The kids have to think about the line they are going to take. Creativity and an individual approach are key here.’ Who knows what adult park riders or pros will emerge here over the coming days?
There is a good mood around GALAAXY among young and old alike. In the riders’ meeting, shortly before the start of the competition, the kids are told that the judges will be looking at ‘amplitude’ and ‘technical runs’ as they make their way along the world’s largest permanent halfpipe. Whether they take this in amidst the tension and excitement is doubtful. Because it’s already ‘dropin’ in’ time.
Some of the riders perform backside airs and conjure up 540s over the coping. Others, with their 1-metre body frame, traverse their way along the pipe, from white wall to white wall, 200 metres in length, and at the end directly in front of the judges’ area at the foot of the pipe, they make a double turn and then see the bright blue sky again. And there are many other styles and approaches in between. However, the children and teenagers do it all together, cheering one another on, encouraging one another, which is just how it should be.
U9 in discussion: pipe or park?
Things are constantly buzzing back at the start of the pipe. The words whirling from the mouths of the U9 girls’ foursome, whose eyes are concealed behind thick goggles, are as bright and cheerful as their outfits. When asked how many turns she had taken along the almost never-ending pipe, Lili replies: ‘All of them’. What a question! Lénnie and Lani think the superpipe is ‘super’ and want to learn to ride like their role model, 13-year-old Siria, who is dressed all in black and has just started her run with a high air manoeuvre. Ella, on the other hand, prefers Slopestyle ‘because it has so many different things to play in it’. A boy of around the same size with a gold-coloured helmet pushes himself in and says that he likes Banked best. That was a week before, again with mini-shredders at the start.
A large portion of the 234 starters were made up of groups from the Freestyle Academy LAAX, whose leader, Ivan Capaul, co-created the event which was known as the ‘Mini Shred Contest’ until 2017. Ivan also manages the LAAX School and says that the KIDS LAAX OPEN is his ‘favourite event’. He and Reto Poltera, who is responsible for sports and leisure in the management of the Weisse Arena Gruppe, describe the extraordinary mood at the KIDS LAAX OPEN with a single word – ‘wicked’. When the two people who embody freestyle in LAAX see the faces of the many happy kids from the stage at the end of the snow day, they know that what’s happening here is good. They feel a contentment and assurance from the bottom of their heart that snowboarding and freestyle have a great future.
20 years back – when the minipipe was the superpipe
Riders who won the Snowboard Master World Cups and World Series in LAAX at the end of the 90s, at a time when the minipipe was still the superpipe, presented the prizes at the award ceremony at the rocksresort. Along with a rider whose roots are firmly on Crap Sogn Gion and who set out to conquer the world ten years ago with her style on the Big Air and Slopestyle World Cup circuit. This once again shows the openness, movement, development and connection to what really counts. Fun in the snow. With freestyle.
A heartfelt thanks to the longtime partners, who help to shape freestyle since years, and who provide great prizes for the KIDS LAAX OPEN podium riders: Burton Snowboards, TSG Protection Gear und K2 Skis. Thanks as well to Swiss Snowboard and Swiss Ski for the integration into the kids series and for administrative processing.
All results are online available on the event website: laax.com/kidslaaxopen
The event clip can be watched here: https://youtu.be/cWt4d5Q5N6A
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