Two Swiss snowboarders have clinched a unique double by winning both the men's and women's competition at the annual Xtreme freeriding contest in Verbier.This content was published on March 26, 2002 - 12:40
Alex Coudray and Geraldine Fasnacht became the first homegrown pair in the competition's seven-year history to walk away with the two top prizes.
"It's a fantastic day for Switzerland," Fasnacht told swissinfo after picking up her trophy, "but also for me and Alex because we are good friends so we are definitely going to be having a big party."
The spectacular Verbier contest pits the world's top riders against a suitably demanding slope. One by one, the boarders weave their way down the 3,222 metre high Bec des Rosses, squeezing past or leaping over sharp rocks while simultaneously dealing with fall lines of up to 55 degrees.
What makes the Verbier competition particularly unusual is the proximity of the spectators who are able to follow the entire event, with the help of binoculars, from the nearby peak at the Col des Gentianes.
Five judges are also watching from the finish area, where they award marks based on the difficulty of each rider's descent line as well as his or her style, control and fluidity of movement.
As well as being placed first by the competition jury, Coudray was also chosen as best boarder in the two categories determined by his fellow riders and by the public.
Speaking to swissinfo after stepping off the podium, Coudray said his total prize money of $12,000 would be very useful in the next stage of his boarding career as he looks to take part in the world's other big freeride event in Alaska.
"The money will help me go for a place in Alaska, which is something I've always dreamed of," Coudray explained. "I've spent the last three years just working on improving the level of my riding, so now maybe I'm ready to go to Alaska and take on those big mountains."
To minimise the avalance risks normally associated with off-piste snowboarding, the organisers of the Verbier event constantly monitor conditions on the peak throughout the winter.
Experienced guides test the surface in the days leading up to the event and small explosions are detonated to help remove any excess snow.
As well as being equipped with years of experience, the riders are kitted out with harnesses, helmets, back protection and avalanche survival gear. Two helicopters and specialised doctors are also at the scene to deal with potential injuries.
by Mark Ledsom, Verbier
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