OPEN FACES season highlight on occasion of the Obergurgl-Hochgurgl 4* OPEN FACES contest

From 24 to 26 March, Obergurgl-Hochgurgl hosts the 4*FWQ Event – the undisputed season highlight for the international riders’ elite when it comes to the OPEN FACES FREERIDE CONTEST series. The yearly held top-star category OPEN FACES event has already become a tradition, attracting the cream of international riders. Among the attractions ranks the challenging “Hangerer” face itself, worth some 1800 winning points so important for the overall ranking.

Alex Hoffmann in Aktion - OPEN FACES Obergurgl-Hochgurgl
Alex Hoffmann on the way down © OpenFaces/ABrey

“Hangerer”: A quite tricky Face

Not without reason the unrivaled Face of the OPEN FACES OBERGURGL-HOCHGURGL contest is known as one of the scene’s most challenging slopes. Alex Hoffmann, former Freeride World Tour rider explains:

„I always look forward to Obergurgl-Hochgurgl because the area is an absolute freeride heaven: there are superb top-to-bottom tree runs. And as soon as the avalanche hazard is low you can enjoy very demanding, steep and exposed off-piste slopes. One of the shining examples is the Hangerer Contest Face, one of the most challenging and interesting faces I ever conquered.“

Perfect spectators area

Those who don’t want to miss the most tricky drops and turns get together in the Public Area at Hohe Mut Alm, offering perfect views of all elite riders taking part in the 4*OPEN FACES OBERGURGL HOCHGURGL contest. Audi’s “quattro Mountain Lodge” with show barkeeper promise a fun-filled event.

All runs are broadcast live to the giant video wall while OPEN FACES Fan TV keeps you up-to-date at Hohe Mut Alm. Already on Friday all freeride aficionados are welcome to Obergurgl’s center boasting a Freeride Village incl. chill & relax corner, ski demos, product presentations, Audi driving experience, quiz games, etc.

Public Area bei der Hohe Mut Alm - OPEN FACES Obergurgl-Hochgurgl
The Public Area at Hohe Mut Alm promises the best view of the contest slope © OpenFaces/MKnoll

Also non-skiers can easily reach the Public Area at Hohe Mut Alm thanks to the Hohe Mut Mountain Gondola.


Skifahrer Backflip Cliff - OPEN FACES Obergurgl-Hochgurgl
Cliffs don’t represent an obstacle but an opportunity! © OpenFaces/AVigl

Only the world’s best freeriders are allowed to participate in the Freeride World Tour (FWT). On this purpose, they must conquer varied qualification events in the course of the Freeride World Qualifier (FWQ) series. Each single FWQ Event is rated with 1 to 4 Stars corresponding to the freeriders’ level. Additionally, the number of points is defined for the FWQ Ranking divided into two regions: Region 1 – Europe, Asia and Oceania / Region 2 – North & South America. The best riders of both regions qualify automatically for the next FWT season. France, Austria, Norway and Switzerland organize event series for young and upcoming athletes on a national basis.

The OPEN FACES FREERIDE CONTESTS belong to the Freeride World Qualifier Tour. In 2017, Austria hosts no less than seven Freeride Contests of different categories/stars: “Open Faces Contests in Austria stand for meeting up with friends. You get together and it feels like home, as a part of the family. The Contests are always perfectly organized, the atmosphere is unbeatable,” states Manuela Mandl, two-time Austrian Freeride Champion and FWT Rider.

Judges während des Contests - OPEN FACES Obergurgl-Hochgurgl
The judges won’t lose sight of the rider © OpenFaces/MKnoll

The Judging System

A standardized training and certification system for all judges was developed. One head judge is sent to the contests in the name of the FWT, he is the FWQ advisor at the same time and checks the classification of the Face as well as the order of the contest, safety standards and judging procedures. Minimizing risks for both riders and event organizers is of utmost importance.

The motto is: “no bonus for trying”! For example, if you are not able to complete a jump you won’t score. Points are given to those who choose a clever line, show a certain level of aggressiveness or excellent techniques coupled with well calculated jumps and perfect landing.


Skifahrer am Start - OPEN FACES Obergurgl-Hochgurgl
What may cross the athlete’s mind right at the start … probably the severe judging criteria © OpenFaces/MKnoll

Every single run, divided into skiers and snowboarders, is rated by three judges and one head judge. Therefore the jury has a total of seven judges who rate each run with 1.0 to 10.0 points.

The scoring strongly depends on five different criteria:

  • Fluent run (no hesitating or waiting prior to take-offs)
  • Control (speed, landing, terrain)
  • Choice of line (logical but creative line without unnecessary crossings)
  • Technique (ski and snowboard technique/skills)
  • Air & style (height of jumps, landing, control while in the air, tricks, difficulty level of tricks adapted to terrain)

#Safety First

The OPEN FACES safety department, guided by Markus Kogler, has a wide range of checks to do before and during the event – regarding safety measures on the competition slopes or ascent and descent routes in the start and finish area. Many reports have started already in autumn like the analysis of snow layers.

Besides a huge range of safety measures (avalanche blasting, snow profile, local avalanche report, …) also the medical assistance on the spot is essential. Mountain guides, mountain rescue teams and rescue helicopters cooperate in the most efficient way in order to guarantee first aid right on the spot – if necessary. Up to 20 people per event are responsible for the daily action planning.

Markus Kogler - OPEN FACES Obergurgl-Hochgurgl
A mastermind when it comes to safety: Markus Kogler
© OpenFaces/MKnoll

“Safety is one of the most important pillars of the entire Open Faces idea. A complete team of experts takes care about it – a heartfelt thank you to all team members for their excellent work behind the scenes,” states Markus Kogler, responsible of the OPEN FACES Safety department. He is an experienced mountain and ski guide, a certified ski instructor, a sworn expert of Alpine accidents and – just recently – also an officially licensed avalanche blaster.

OPEN FACES 4* Obergurgl-Hochgurgl Program Details:

Friday, 24 March

  • 3.00 pm: Riders BBQ and BIB presentation – quattro Festkogl Alm
  • 4.00 pm – 10.00 pm: Freeride Village in the center of Obergurgl
  • 6.30 pm: Official presentation in the Freeride Village
  • until 10.00 pm: Open Faces chill & relax – Freeride Village

Saturday, 25 March

  • 8.45 am: First uphill ride in the mountain gondola
  • 9.00 am: Program starts in the Hohe Mut Alm Public Area
  • 9.30 am Start of livestream
  • 10.00 am: Start of Contest, Hohe Mut Alm Public Area
  • between end of Contest and Winners Presentation: DJ Setup
  • 2.30 pm: Flower Ceremony – Hohe Mut Alm
  • 3.00 pm: Freeride Village opens in the center of Obergurgl
  • 4.00 pm: Last downhill ride in the mountain gondola
  • 8.30 pm: Prize Ceremony/Event Village
  • until 10.00 pm: OPEN FACES Riders Party
  • from 10.00 pm: Freeride Night in Obergurgl’s bars and pubs

Please note the time frame: 25 to 28 March | 48 hours prior to the start the Contest can be postponed in case of inclement weather.

Get ready!


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Author Gastautor

... varied guest authors write about their adventures and experiences in the Ötztal / in Sölden / in Obergurgl-Hochgurgl.

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