From April 9-14, the world's most talented freeski athletes will hit Livigno, Italy, for the fourth edition of Suzuki Nine Knights.
After last year’s event on Germany’s Nebelhorn was cancelled because of a lack of snow, riders of the calibre of Tom Wallisch, Gus Kenworthy, Jossi Wells, Russ Henshaw, Raffaele Cusini, Paddy Graham and Bene Mayr, have been eagerly awaiting the fourth instalment of the competition.
Marker Völkl team rider Nico Zacek, the host of the event, sent out the invites and the riders were quick to RSVP ahead of the meeting at 'Il Castillo'. The Schneestern crew, together with the cat drivers from the Mottolino snowpark, have pushed the boundaries while shaping a multi-feature structure out of 75,000 cubic metres of snow.
The main part of the castle is the huge jump in the middle with an 18-metre gap and 27 metres from take-off to knuckle with an almost endless landing. The jump is flanked by two gigantic hips on either side, which look like they will send the riders into orbit. With a run-in under arches, two six-metre quarterpipes are in the centre of the structure, with a gap possibility over a balcony.
After the quarters, the riders have the chance to ski through the structure and hit a flat-down-flat rail or a down-rail stair set. The massive structure has countless options, gaps and transitions for the riders to explore.
Monday was the first chance for the riders to check out the castle, although a strong, gusty wind meant that the riders kept things mellow. Most of the Knights still hit the jump, with Lolo Favre standing out with some super styled out 360s and 540s. The riders also spent a lot of time sessioning the quarterpipes, with Nico Zacek and Ben Valentin sending the impressive gap over the snow balcony. Some riders even gapped from the quarter to the landing of the hip.
When the wind picked up even more, everyone moved on to session the Power Balance stair-set where Völkl youngster Øystein Braaten stood out with some crazy trickery. However, the biggest cheer of the day came when Tom Wallisch did a switch frontflip on the quarterpipe.