The fourth annual Nine Queens women's "progression session" concluded Sunday in Livigno, Italy. A freeski-only event in previous years, this time around snowboarders joined in on the week-long photo and video shoot and big air contest, held on a massive castle-themed feature. The event was relocated to Livigno, which is the site of the similarly-themed Nine Knights men's event, due to a low snow year at the Austrian resort of Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis, where Nine Queens is usually held. The Nine Knights feature was modified slightly to accommodate both men and women.
Swedish skier Emma Dahlstrm prepares to drop in during the big air competition as British snowboarder Jenny Jones looks on. "It's nice to give the stage to both sports," said event organizer Nico Zacek, of the decision to add snowboarders to the mix in this contest. "In our hearts it's the same anyway, so why would we separate it?"
In the Big Air contest on Saturday, Switzerland's Elena Knz topped the snowboard field with a frontside 720 melon and a huge backside 540 mute. Meanwhile on the ski side, 18-year-old Lisa Zimmermann of Germany defended her 2013 Nine Queens title with a clean 900 tail grab and her first-ever switch 1080.
What it takes
A crew of twelve terrain park builders from six countries worked for over two weeks to create a one-of-a-kind event setup for the Queens. The design featured two kickers divided by a halfpipe, as well as enough rails and creative transitions to keep the ladies busy for four days of photo and video shooting. "The feature this year is definitely the most insane thing I've ever seen built on snow," said skier Emma Dahlstrm, who placed second in the big air competition.
Isabel Derungs of Switzerland floats a lofty backside rodeo 540 above the crowd during the Nine Queens big air contest. Derungs tied for third place with three-time X Games gold and Olympic bronze medalist Jenny Jones of Great Britain.
Slovakia's Claudia Medlova, winner of the peer-awarded "best style" award, pokes out a backside 540 mute for the judges. "It's been fun riding with all the girls," said Medlova. "A lot of them are on a high level, and we can all learn from each other."
During the shoot days, Rebecca "Possum" Torr of New Zealand spent much of her time "surfing" on the slushy walls of the halfpipe that ran through the middle of the castle feature. "It's a really awesome environment and the feature is next-level amazing," she said. "We're really lucky to be here."
During the video shoot, big air contest winner Lisa Zimmermann showed that she's got more than just jump tricks in her bag with clean style on the rail features. "All the features on the castle are cool," said Zimmermann. "I especially liked the GoPro axe and all the other rail features."
Axe Her Anything
American snowboarder Spencer O'Brien slides the medieval axe feature as the sun disappears behinds the mountains above Livigno, Italy. "It's such a unique thing for us to have an all-women's event including skiers and snowboarders," said fellow snowboarder Possum Torr. "I wish it could happen more often."
On the final evening of the event, a Red Bull helicopter circled overhead for several hours to get the shot as the ladies hurried to get their final tricks on the feature before the session ended. Olympic Ski Slopestyle bronze medalist Kim Lamarre, of Canada, floats a 360 Japan grab during a sunset helicopter shoot on the jump. Lamarre was one of several Olympians who participated in this year's event.
Minute of Loudness
At the awards ceremony on Sunday evening, skier Emma Dahlstrm and snowboarder Isabel Derungs were voted "Rulers of the Week," while four invited photographers showed off their best shots in the Nine Queens photo contest. Then the Queens honored the memory of fallen freeskiing comrade Sarah Burke with a cacophonous "minute of loudness."