A weeklong session on one of freeskiing's most innovative features wrapped up Saturday in Livigno, Italy. Foul weather foiled the planned big air competition at the Nine Knights event, but that didn't stop a crew of top freeskiers from putting on a show on the castle feature.
A foot of new snow overnight and variable conditions throughout the day made the big air contest impossible, so organizers opted to change the format to a rail contest on the castle's two stairset features. Germany's Roy Kittler bested the field with a rightside 270 on, switch off the down-flat-down rail, into a switch leftside tails-over 270 on, pretzel 270 out of the down rail. Henrik Harlaut styled his way into second place, and Austria's Fabio Studer rounded out the podium.
"This whole week was insane," said Kittler. "It was the biggest and best castle we've had at Nine Knights so far. It was incredible how many things you could do on one feature. I had so much fun being here and sessioning this with my friends."
Hundreds of onlookers gathered at Mottolino Fun Mountain to watch the conclusion of a weeklong session on "Il Castello," a multi-purpose snow feature consisting of twin 75-foot kickers over a 25-foot quarterpipe and an A-frame halfpipe, supplemented with various rail and transition features.
Over the last week, a group of the world's best big air and halfpipe riders, including X Games gold medalists David Wise, Kevin Rolland, Tanner Hall and Henrik Harlaut, explored their way through this veritable labyrinth of transitions as an international team of invited photographers and videographers captured all the action.
"We all came into this event with goosebumps," said event organizer and German freeskiing legend Nico Zacek. "We knew we were going to build one of the craziest features ever, and we knew there would be a lot of work involved. But it all worked out. There was a ton of energy in the group and we've seen some really great riding."
Undeterred by the less-than-optimal conditions on Saturday, the riders made full use of the castle's plentiful transitions, tracing lines through the feature to include quarterpipe, halfpipe, rail and spine hits all in one run. In the afternoon the sun made a brief appearance, prompting Canadian halfpipe specialist Matt Margetts to rally the other riders for a brief session on the jump.
"We weren't sure if we were going to be able to make anything happen today because there was so much snow," said Margetts. "But with some perseverance, motivation and some phenomenal shapers, we made it happen. We managed to hit the jump, which was so scary because the speed was so inconsistent, and we ended up having a great day."