apr 07, 2013

"Taking ski touring to a whole new level"

The inaugural Atomic Waymaker, the ultimate ski touring challenge, has proven a great success, despite the difficult weather conditions. The eight ambitious teams breathed life into a concept which is both inspiring and which celebrates the versatility of the sport.

When asked at the start about their goals in the Atomic Waymaker, the "United States of Canada" team answered with a mixture of emotion and irony: "To be able to say in 20 years that we took part in the very first, now globally successful, Atomic Waymaker." Now the three top athletes from the USA and Canada will be able to wrap up their story with a very satisfying punch line - because not only did they compete in the inaugural Atomic Waymaker, they also won it.

This is a very symbolic victory for the world-class trio of Marc Smiley, Andrew McNab and Reiner Thoni and is indicative of the shape of things to come: this ski touring challenge, which demands fitness and creativity, navigational and freeskiing skills, a sense of responsibility and team spirit, has international potential. "The Atomic Waymaker represents a milestone. I believe that this event can take ski touring to a whole new level," said Patrick Tritscher of the Waymaker event team.

For two days the panel of judges, comprising Head Judge and organizer Heli Putz, Hannes Arch, Matthias Haunholder, Beat Kammerlander and Andreas Ringhofer, observed every step taken by the athletes – directly on site, via live tracking using Red Bull MOBILE, using data from the Suunto navigation devices and video footage recorded by the GoPro helmet cams. "The teams' performances exceeded all expectations," said Hannes Arch. "All eight interpreted the terrain differently and made the most of their strengths – and that's just what we were looking for." For each sector the jury awarded points, and right up until the end it was neck and neck between the North Americans, the Austro-Spanish team which included World Cup winner and World Championship medalist Kilian Jornet and the tenacious local heroes.

"We're incredibly proud to have won this event," said Marc Smiley, who hopes, along with his wife Janelle, to become the first to complete all fifty classic climbs of North America by 2014. "And we had two fantastic days in the Dachstein. One of today's descents took us through a steep couloir (Ed.: narrow gully) with a gradient of over 50 degrees where there was some great snow – it was an experience that puts everything we've ever done in Europe in the shade."

There was thick fog between Ödensee and Krippenstein on Saturday and on Sunday the conditions were even worse: from the 5am start on the Krippenstein, visibility was reduced by the fog to just a few meters. Consequently, the jury were forced to abandon their assessment of the teams at 11am and allow the teams to finish at their own pace. "Safety comes first," said Putz.