The 2023 Freeride World Tour (FWT) is about to begin, and the FWT has announced multiple withdrawals from the regular roster, largely owing to early-season injuries. This news provides an opportunity for more fresh faces to join the world’s best freeriders, with a little over a week to go until the opening event of the season in Baqueira Beret, Spain on January 28th - February 2nd.
The majority of changes are due to injury, showing the relentless commitment these riders give to the sport before competition has even begun. The injury list includes:
• Dillon Flinders (USA – Ski Men) with a broken ankle.
• Manon Loschi (FRA – Ski Women) with a minor injury, but enough to keep her from competing.
• Gabriel Bletton (FRA – Snowboard Men) is recovering from a major injury, and is not yet fit to compete. The multi-talented Gabriel was the first rider to qualify for FWT23, and he also won a number of FWT Challenger events in the ski men category.
• Victor De Le Rue (FRA – Snowboard Men) has injured himself and is still recovering.
• Manuela Mandl (AUT – Snowboard Women) has an ongoing injury and is not fit to compete for the full season. However, to the delight of her home crowd, she will compete in Fieberbrunn.
The FWT would like to wish all these athletes a swift recovery, and hope they are back to full strength soon, ready to compete again on the world stage. Adding to this list of season withdrawals is Leo Slemett (FRA – Ski Men), who is taking a sabbatical year to concentrate on other ventures. The former FWT World Champion has been competing in FWT and FWT Challenger events since 2012, and will focus on earning his mountain guide qualifications this season. However, he plans to return to the tour next year, stronger than ever. Blake Moller (USA – Snowboard Men) will also take a year off from the tour, deciding to pursue a personal film project instead.
The only silver lining of these exclusions is the opportunities that have arisen for other athletes in their wake. Therefore, the FWT has also announced a bunch of season wildcards, extending the chance to be crowned world champion to the following talented athletes:
Oscar Mandin (FRA – Ski Men)
The 25-year-old Morzine-Avoriaz local first started skiing at the tender age of three, and then spent his youth competing in various ski disciplines, including alpine racing, freestyle and moguls. He switched to freeride and started competing in the FWT Challenger series in 2016, quickly finding himself in 4* events.
“I’ve been chasing the FWT for seven years now, and have been close to qualification in many seasons, so I am so stoked to finally have a chance on the tour. Truly, this is my childhood dream come true!” –Oscar Mandin
Ralph Welponer (ITA – Ski Men)
Welponer hails from Val Gardena, a small valley nestled in the Dolomites in the north of Italy. Learning to ski from a young age, he entered competitions when he was 10, and spent almost eight years competing in FIS slopestyle and big air events. Welponer realized his dream of qualifying for the Olympics before a hard crash kept him off the slopes for 10 months and, unfortunately, from competing in the Games. During his rehabilitation, he decided he would focus on freeriding and to, one day, hopefully, make the FWT.
“I’m currently riding park and filming for a small movie project, but I am looking forward to having a good first freeride season with some excellent results.” –Ralph Welponer
Enzo Nilo (FRA – Snowboard Men)
Nilo comes from a freestyle background where he has competed in just about every discipline, from slopestyle and big air to halfpipe, including in World Cup events. He transitioned into filming in the backcountry alongside the likes of Victor De La Rue and Victor Daviet, massively improving his powder riding and big mountain skills. Eventually, Nilo found freeriding a more natural way to enjoy the mountains, and he hasn’t looked back since.
"I am so thankful to have this opportunity to compete on the FWT, and I am really excited to shred with the best freeriders in the world” –Enzo Nilo
Eight days and counting to the opening event in Baqueira Beret! Don’t miss a beat by keeping an eye on the FWT’s social channels (@freerideworldtour), and remember that all events will be shown live at freerideworldtour.com.