The world’s best specialists in the discipline competed in snowboarding and skiing during the 19th edition of the snowkite masters, from December 4 to 10, at the Lautaret pass (Hautes-Alpes). At 27, Didier Botta flew over all competitions, winning the gold medal at the French and Masters championships, in snowboarding and skiing.
An exceptional and rare performance, according to Régis Labaune, organizer of the event: “He takes four titles, it’s huge, especially since he is the only atypical who participates in both categories. His level is stratospheric, and he is just as comfortable on a kite on the water ”. The Auvergnat had already been titled French freestyle champion in 2012, and world champion in 2015 and 2018.
Here is an edition that will be remembered, as these Snowkite Masters 2021 were the scene of a great show at the Col du Lautaret. The competition format was centered on freestyle with 3 categories: men in snowboard, men in ski and women in snowboard.
Each day, all the competitors measured themselves in 12-minute heats, and had the opportunity to perform 12 tricks, the 6 best tricks being retained for the scoring (the overall score was therefore out of 60 points). There were two rounds on Sunday 05 December, one round on Monday 06 December and one round on Tuesday 07 December.
The classification was made with the addition of the scores for each round. Wednesday December 08 was off due to weather conditions (snow / no wind). On Thursday 09 December, a freeride session was offered, with a prize giving. The weather conditions only allowed the men to snowboard.
A freerace was also contested and it was epic, in more than a meter of powder!
Didier Botta Interview:
A figure in the snowkiting world for several years, Didier Botta achieved an enormous performance during the 2021 Snowkite Masters held at the Col du Lautaret in early December. The French rider has indeed won the world titles in both skiing and snowboarding, dominating the competition with authority.
– Didier, in what state of mind did you approach these Snowkite Masters?
Hi Nicolas, hello everyone! I approached these SKMs without stress, just with a great desire to ride, to enjoy the slopes of Lautaret and to show my new tricks. I was super excited to get back to the pass where I haven’t been since last spring.
In terms of competition, I was calm; my main goals were to have fun and not hurt myself but I knew it would take the best runs possible to reach the top spots.
– How did you prepare for it?
The weeks before the competition we had snow at home, in Les Estables, in the Haute Loire. So I had a good feeling on the skis again. We had shared great sessions with Eloi RONDEAU (who rode really well) and the friends of Mezenc Kite, so we were warm and in a good mood!
However, during the first heat snowboard, it was the first time that I had put my board on since last season. But I immediately felt comfortable. Snowkiting is super similar to kitesurfing, and I kite regularly during my season in Brittany and in the fall.
So my preparation takes place throughout the year, I practice as soon as possible when I’m not working and I have plenty of snowkiting projects in mind that motivate me to reach the best possible level.
In my practice, a lot of big air kitesurfing, lots of foiling sessions, a little surfing and also a lot of paragliding and speed riding flights.
-You were impressive during the competition, winning the ski and snowboard disciplines but also the freeride session. Did you expect to skim over the debates at this point? What do you attribute this great success to?
Thank you !
The level of the riders is high. I knew that some of my tricks done at the end of last season were new, it was just a matter of doing them during the event and holding the grabs well and resting the one foot. I was happy with all of my heats and it’s amazing that the judges saw the technicality of the maneuvers. However, we did not know the results before the awards ceremony and it was only when the awards were presented to the Chazelay that I was sure. Really happy with this great success which comes after years of practice, many crashes and a lot of experience since my beginnings. Everything is linked to this enormous passion that I have for this incredible sport, which continues to grow with so much to do.
-What are you most proud of?
There was a lot of level, so this result is very pleasant.
It was a goal for a few SKMs already: competing in ski and snowboard is not easy and it was great to be in good shape to do both and win. The last SKMs in the 2 categories showed me that it is complicated to be on top in both, fatigue accumulates and you regularly change shoes in the cold. In any case proud of this ranking, and happy with the many positive feedbacks and congratulations I have had since. One thing that made me really happy was being congratulated by Chasta (Guillaume Chastagnol, editor’s note) who has inspired me since my beginnings.
-What images will you keep in memory of these SKMs?
The SKM 2021 will remain in my memory, it will have opened the 2021-2022 season with good conditions, good kitesurfing with friends and a great atmosphere.
Usually in January, this choice to organize it in early December has turned out to be a good one. We had just in time falls at the pass and Serre Chevalier, several sunny and windy days. So it was great and it’s great that the event is finally back at the pass.
-Something to add ?
it was a great event.
The scoring system this year was to multiply the «Heats» and get a mark each time. No elimination, it pushed to do the best possible with each pass and gave everyone the opportunity to express themselves and to ride a lot. The organization adapted to the snow conditions, which we had in impressive quantities during the freeride session on Thursday. We spoke on the pyramid where the steep slope allowed for beautiful turns and the varied terrain offered many possibilities. There was only to imagine the possible traces and tricks above natural obstacles. I really felt like I was in a free session, and this format really represented what snowkiting is to me, derived from the kitesurfing , snowboarding in the wind, and the possibilities are endless! Finally, thank you to the organizing team, to the riders, to Joss from the Hôtel des Glaciers (and his team) who delighted us, to Chazelay for the dinners and parties and to Ozone for the top gear!
Proud to bring home the medals and can’t wait to come back to ride in the Alps.
Thanks for the interview, see you soon!
Photos: Bertrand Boone and Wareck Arnaud