The third edition of the Swatch Skiers Cup kicked off Sunday, Feb. 10 in Zermatt, Switzerland, with day one of the two-day contest. Sunday's big-mountain contest was held on a heli-accessed face above Zermatt, with Team Europe earning the highest scores of the day and taking an 11 to 5 lead over Team Americas. The backcountry slopestyle portion of the contest is slated for later this week.
The first two editions of the competition were held at Valle Nevado, Chile, with Team Europe winning the inaugural edition, and Team Americas leveling the score with a victory at the second edition last September.
Swatch Pro team riders Kaj Zackrisson and Sverre Liliequist designed and founded the unique event. "Sverre and I are definitely competitive, but our favorite part of skiing is getting together with friends from around the world and having a good time," said Zackrisson. "This competition brings riders from lots of different backgrounds into a single event, and the positive environment pushes everyone's level."
The Swatch Skiers Cup format is similar to the prestigious Ryder Cup golf tournament, with Team Americas going against Team Europe in a match-play battle. Judges don't award scores for each one-on-one match, they just decide a winner, and that rider's team notches a point. The champion is decided after two days of competition -- a big-mountain day and a backcountry slopestyle day.
Zermatt local Samuel Anthamatten will act as head guide throughout the event. Anthamatten is a decorated climber, Freeride World Tour competitor and mountain guide, and he will be in charge of safety, weather and conditions tracking, and venue selection.
Julien Regnier is the event's jump shaper, tasked with designing and perfecting the features that make up the backcountry slopestyle venue. "The venue we have for backcountry slopestyle is ideal -- really good terrain for a variety of jumps and the incredible backdrop of Zermatt," Regnier said. Regnier, along with Powder Magazine editor Mike Rogge and Vancouver Island, BC, resident Ben Murphy, make up the judging panel.
Cody Townsend is Team America's captain, hand-selecting the other seven members of his team, which includes Americans and Canadians Rory Bushfield, KC Deane, Josh Daiek, Charley Ager, Logan Imlach, Tim Dutton, and Greg Lindsey. Kaj Zackrisson captains Team Europe, which includes Sverre Liliequist, Richard Permin, Fabio Studer, Markus Eder, Nicolas Vuignier, Paddy Graham, and Sam Favret.
After the big-mountain day, Townsend said, "Today's venue reminded me of skiing spines in Alaska. It's a little less steep here which is ideal for a big mountain comp as it gives the riders more features and chances to express themselves in their run."