Nendaz Freeride Behind the Scenes

If you follow the FWT, you’ve surely heard about the Nendaz Freeride. This year, for the twelfth edition, the event welcomes athletes from around the world and a good mix of spectators and fans. Unfortunately, last year’s final was cancelled after the start of an impressive avalanche on the Mont-Gond. For this edition, the conditions for the final are looking amazing, and you can watch it on Wednesday, on the spot in Nendaz or online. Since we’re curious about how the whole thing works, we got in touch with Cyril Lanfranchi, president of the organizing committee, who gave us some insight into what it takes to make an event like this happen.

Hi Cyril! Can you tell us how all of this got started?
Hi! Well, I founded this event 12 year ago with a couple of friends. At the very beginning I was competing at some non-professional freeride competitions and it was so much fun. Here in Nendaz we are lucky to have an awesome resort with good faces everywhere. The spot is perfect to create a high level competition. Because of those factors, we decided to create the Nendaz Freeride, as a bet with buddies… haha. It all started like this. It was a small and non-professional event at the beginning and year after year it became bigger and bigger, and more serious.

So.. is it a full-time job?
Haha, absolutely not. Funny that you say that cause you’re not the first one who ask me that. It would be great though! I work in a private bank at 80%. I am responsible for marketing and communication. Nendaz Freeride takes at least 20% of my time during the year. It’s a completely volunteer job, with some benefits in exchange for my time.

How does the preparation for such an event work?
The preparation takes at least 3 months, starting in December. I have twelve leaders for each sector. Things like security, communications, live TV, post-prod, judging etc. This is a lot of work. All of these people are mobilized early in the winter.

Sounds a lot of work! So what makes the face especially challenging?
Most of the faces we have are all north / north west facing. Therefore, they are perfectly protected and in excellent condition during the season. Also, they have a lot of rocky features to play around with, offering a great spectacle. It’s more freestyle, more risks, more rotations in every way. The athletes can send their best tricks. This is what makes the event spectacular.

What precautions do you take regarding security and avalanche risk?
The security is our priority number one. We take care to keep it optimal throughout the competition. For the Junior competition, to avoid absolutely every risk, we speak about risk -10. Also, during the season, we have some guides on the site. Their job is to secure the spot and follow the evolution of the snowpack during the winter. The D-Day morning, or a couple of days before, depending on the weather conditions, we mine the face and make sure that everything is safe.

What brings the competitors to the competition?
I would say that the Nendaz Freeride is a springboard for the young athletes. We have Léo Slemett who won this competition three times and then became world champion and still is. Same for Loïc Collomb Patton and Estelle Balet. They both won the Nendaz Freeride and became world champion afterwards. It’s the place to be for a lot of pro-riders and great people. The level is pretty high and it’s a pleasure that it’s like that!

What is your best memory since you started this adventure?
The most remarkable memory for me was last year. We had pretty bad weather conditions, the temperature was pretty warm during the week, and it rained at high altitude. It was hard to manage, with faces which were ready to fall into an avalanche at any moment. To secure the face for the final, we decided to push back the mining as late as possible. Finally, we mined at 7:30 in the morning when all the spectators and athletes were already there. The face fell into an avalanche. Maybe you’ve seen some images on the net. It was really impressive and probably the most remarkable moment for me since the beginning.

Avalanche at Mont-Gond, at Nendaz Freeride 2017

Wow, that’s heavy!
Want to add a final word before we wrap this up?

I would like to add that the Nendaz Freeride is not just a simple freeride competition anymore, but it became a complete festival around the event. There are a lot of different activities proposed, like the 2* and 4* competitions, a Belgian championship, Nendaz Freeride for Kids between 6 and 10 years old. There are even activities for groms, with games around identifying animal’s footprints in the snow, etc… We’re happy to propose a complete event like that!

Sounds like an event where anyone can get involved! Thank you so much for your time Cyril. We’re looking forward to see the show on Wednesday!
Thanks to you and enjoy!