Sammy Luebke, the guy from Lake Tahoe California, is forging his way towards legendry in the ranks of the Swatch Freeride World Tour. In 2016 he was crowned Freeride World Tour Champion so you know lots of press, champagne, parties, parades, awards, endorsements, late night television interviews, visits to the White House just the usual things champions have to deal with. I may have embellished some of that a bit but the dude got to this point from charging the gnarliest lines he could find as he fought the urge to succumb to his jet lag. The Tour's schedule is tough, the terrain is tougher and this year Sammy is taking you straight to the front lines of his 2017 campaign to defend his World Tour title. First stop Chamonix, France.
Day 1: The snow-pocalypse in Tahoe finally settled down enough for me to get my bags loaded up to head off to the airport. It was hard to leave the 20+ ft of snow we just got in the last 20 days. Most snow in the month of January in last 45 years. Even harder to leave was my wife and two daughters who I love more than any amount of powder. Where am I heading? Destination: Chamonix Mont Blanc. This is the first of five stops on the Freeride World Tour, which spans various locations in France, Andorra, Austria, Alaska, all the way back to Switzerland. The weather managed to be crazy enough for me to miss my first of 3 flight connections. Started off thirty hours of travel to Europe pretty well…wish me luck and hopefully no more snags along the way to Europe.
Day 2: Made it to Geneva in the evening. Caught my shuttle to Chamonix. Finally got in at 10:30 pm and ended my travels after a day and a half of catching flights and shuttle buses. Once I arrived to my hotel I slapped some high fives with friends from the tour, and checked into my room to pass out.
Day 3: Slept through my alarm the next day. The jet lag hit me super tough, so I took advantage of a day to rest my body from travel. Later that night was our first riders meeting. The organizers explained that the snow conditions were too low and sketchy to hold an event and we would have to hold out to see if snow conditions improved. Weather hold.
Day: 4. Finally made it up to the resort for some riding. The conditions were some of the worst I've seen here. The faces we previously competed on were mostly rock, and the snow that was lying around was either crusty ice/or pockets of stale old powder that had been mostly wind effected. Later that night we had another riders meeting where all the athletes picked their dropping order by drawing a number from a hat. I ended picking the second spot. I usually enjoy dropping early because there are fewer tracks and more lines available with good snow. After that the tour staff told the riders we would not be competing the next 2 days and that they would keep using the weather window until conditions improved, or until they found a venue in the area that was suitable to compete on. Weather hold again. With all that being said the crew (Wolfpack) went out for a few rounds of bowling, accompanied by a couple brews.
Day 5: Knowing we wouldn’t compete today, the tour organizers gave riders the option to go on a large climb to inspect a face they were considering running event on. It's a 1400-meter climb to the viewing ridge with the possibility that the face might not work out. I went with my gut and decided to stay close the resort and take some groomer laps and stay ready to compete. After a fun day up at the resort we headed back to the hotel where we found out that the climb to the inspection ridge had been called off after people had climbed 3/4 of the way there. They said the logistics were too crazy, and opted out of using the potential venue they had in mind. Glad I didn't waste my energy on that one! With all this information being on the table we knew the only thing we could do was wait and hope for some significant snowfall or we may have to push the contest to Andorra.
Day: 6. Today is supposed to be the first official contest day in our weather window. Since we know it's not going down the tour set up a day of on-hill workshops for us that included mountain-hub, avalanche training, and a Recco search course. Workshops took up most of the day but we were left with enough time for a few more epic groomer laps. After the hill we all headed back to the hotel to get ready for our opening ceremony. The Freeride World Tour calls us up on stage, and announces our start order. Then we all do an autograph signing to stoke out the fans/kids who are all in town to watch us the event.
Our official Freeride World Tour dinner was tonight, it consisted of a large assortment of finger foods like bite size cheeseburgers, and chicken satay. Also free beer and wine was probably biggest draw to the dinner/party. Drinks aren't super cheap in Chamonix so everybody took advantage of this shindig and packs as many beverages as they can into their belly before they kick us out and send us off to the after party. The after party is always at the same place "La Terrace" but this year was sick because the power kept going off and on through out the night. Down stairs there is a live band, and the upstairs was a DJ so as the night went on you could hear both floors of the party cheering and chanting as the lights would go off! Then they would switch it back on and everybody would resume partying like the power going out was all part of the party/fun! 2:00am the bars closed and we all turned in for a "rick" and some needed rest!
Due to weather conditions there was no opportunity to run the event during the assigned waiting period so the first stop will be moved to Vallnord-Arcalis, Andorra.
Sammy Luebke Wins first stop of Swatch Freeride World Tour in Vallnord-Arcalis, Andorra.