The final week of the 2021/22 FIS Freeski World Cup season is upon us, as a huge field of the world’s very best slopestyle skiers have descended on Switzerland’s Corvatsch Resort in Silvaplana to battle it out one last time this winter.
The Silvaplana competition has been one of the highlight stops on the World Cup for a decade now, and were it not for the pandemic-shortened 2019/20 season this would be the 10th iteration of what is one of freeskiiing’s favourite competitions. With big, well-designed features, a stunning backdrop, strong organization and good weather conditions forecast throughout this week, it’s no mystery why the stoke is high for this season’s iteration of what has become an iconic ender for the FIS Freeski World Cup season.
SILDARU LOOKING TO ADD FIRST GLOBE TO HER CROWDED TROPHY CASE
While the women’s Freeski overall crystal globe race has already been decided with triple-threat superstar Eileen Gu already locking down the big trophy, the battles for both women’s and men’s slopestyle globes and the men’s overall title are still very much up in the air, with multiple skiers still in the hunt on all three fronts. And, with nearly every skier still within reach of one of those globes set to drop in this week in Switzerland, the season finale is shaping up to be must-watch action, indeed.
On the women’s slopestyle rankings it’s currently Kelly Sildaru (EST) holding onto top spot with 200 points, with all of those coming on the strength of her wins at the season opener in Stubai (AUT) and at Mammoth Mountain (USA) in January.
Through her four-year World Cup career Sildaru has never really completed a full-pull of competition action, and while this season is no different (she’s only entered two of the four slopestyles completed so far in 2021/22), with her perfect record in the events she has entered, the 20-year-old has an excellent shot at winning one of the few awards not already in her collection.
If Sildaru is able to finish third place or higher this week in Silvaplana, then she’s in the clear - no one else can beat her, and even in the event of a tie her two victories will be the tiebreaker to give her the globe. However, all six of the women who are capable of catching here are here at Corvatsch this week, plus a whole host of others who aren’t in the crystal globe hunt but are capable of pulling off a season-ending win.
Second place on the slopestyle leaderboard behind Sildaru right now is Switzerland’s own Sarah Hoefflin with 160 points. Hoefflin has runner-up results from both the Stubai and Bakuriani slopestyle World Cups in her pocket this season, and the 31-year-old also claimed second place in Silvaplana last season. While it’s been over two years since her last World Cup win, Hoefflin has shown an ability to rise to the occasion throughout her career, and could very well do so again here this week.
Third place on the women’s slopestyle rankings sees a tie between Megan Oldham of Canada and the USA’s Marin Hamill, both of whom have 136 points. While Hamill will not be competing this week, Oldham will be here and looking for her second straight win after her victory in Bakuriani (GEO) a few weeks ago.
After Oldham and Hamill we get into real long shot territory, with likes of Alia Delia Eichinger (GER) and Tess Ledeux (FRA) still within striking distance. While Eichinger has never competed in Silvaplana, Ledeux has been a monster in the Corvatsch set-up over the past three seasons.
After coming in as a favourite but being unable to show her best at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games in February, last season’s double crystal globe winner Ledeux will be looking to reassert herself as arguably the world’s best women’s slopestyle skier in a big way this weekend. Ledeux has won two of the previous three Silvaplana competitions while taking second place in the other, making her a strong favourite once again this week.
Way down the World Cup rankings but quite clearly one to watch is Mathilde Gremaud (SUI), the Beijing 2022 slopestyle gold medallist. Gremaud hasn’t had a much of a World Cup season to speak of, with only one start thus far, but with her gold in China and a runner-up finish at the 2022 X Games behind Ledeux, she’s done more than enough in 2021/22 to maintain her status amongst the world’s elite.
With the likes of Kirsty Muir (GBR), Johanne Killi (NOR), Silvia Bertagna (ITA) and many others on hand in in Silvaplan the list of strong contenders goes long on the women’s side of things for the final World Cup of the season.
RUUD REACHING FOR FREESKI OVERALL, RAGETTLI CHASING FIFTH CAREER GLOBE
Over on the men’s startlist it’s tough to know exactly where to start, with 60 skiers ready to drop in and in a head-spinning number of them capable of landing in the top-3 once the scores are all tallied on Saturday afternoon.
Probably the easiest place to begin, however, is with Norway’s Birk Ruud, the Beijing 2022 Olympic big air gold medallist, leader of the men’s Freeski overall World Cup standings, and second place on the slopestyle rankings.
Ruud is fresh off taking the win in a weather-shortened Tignes slopestyle World Cup two weekends ago, where his top-qualifying score stood up as the winner after finals were cancelled due to wind.
Ruud missed last season’s Silvaplana competition due to personal reasons, and the season before that he finished just off the podium in fourth place here, so expect the 21-year-old to come out swinging this time around as he looks to lock down the overall globe and maybe, just maybe, snag the slopestyle trophy while he’s at it.
The last part of that equation won’t be an easy one to achieve, however, with the most successful freeskier in World Cup history sitting 50 points above him on the rankings, as Switzerland’s own Andri Ragettli looks to lock down what would be the eighth globe of his career.
Ragettli got right back to his old form in January when he returned to competition after March 2021 knee surgery, winning the Font Romeu slopestyle in his first event back. With a win also in Bakuriani a few weeks ago and a fourth place in Tignes - as well as two previous wins and four total podiums here in Silvaplana - it would be tough to bet against the 23-year-old walking away with 2021/22 slopestyle globe this weekend.
The only other skier who could catch Ragettli on the men’s slopestyle rankings is Canada’s Max Moffat, who sits in third with 175 points - making him a longshot at best. However, Moffat has been skiing exceptionally all season, with second-place finishes in both Stubai and Tignes, and should be a factor once again here in Silvaplana.
Behind Ruud and Ragettli on the mean’s Freeski overall rankings there are a couple more contenders for the globe, with Moffat, Alex Hall of the USA and Austria’s Matej Svancer all still mathematically in the running for the big trophy. At 42 points behind Ruud, Hall’s got the best chance of the three, but with the way Ruud and Ragettli are skiing this season it’s going to take some bad luck for them and some good luck for Hall if the the Beijing 2022 slopestyle gold medallist is to walk away with a crystal globe this season.
Outside of the globe race there’s anywhere from 10-15 others on hand who could conceivably grab the win - or at least a piece of the podium - this weekend in Silvaplana. From Jesper Tjader (SWE) to Mac Forehand (USA), Christian Nummedal (NOR) to Edouard Therriault (CAN), Kim Gubser (SUI) to Thib Magnin (ESP), close your eyes, stick your finger on the start list, and chances are you’ll find someone to be stoked on.
WHERE TO WATCH LIVE (livestream info still to come)
Eurosport 2, ORF Sport+, sportschau.de, TV Sport 2 Norway, Peacock