The slopestyle competition kicked off the event under clear blue skies. Both skiers and boarders had their choice of two courses, each set with three jumps, and were judged on standard maneuver, rotation, landing, and overall performance.
Henrik Windstedt took the skier's slopestyle with his sweet inverted heli-grab jumps. King Windstedt also captured the overall men's skier title. Kari Traa of Norway became the skier Queen after taking all three events.
"This was a lot of fun and the other women were very good, so I am very happy I won," Traa said.
American skier Steve Blincoe, who placed 24th, was admittedly "a little confused" about the rules of this Euro-dominated event. Due to the soft snow, Blincoe didn't think he was getting enough speed for his final jump so he took off his skis and hiked up a bit. "I heard the announcer say, 'Oh, that's going to be bad for his time,' and I didn't even realize it was a timed event. Oh well," he shrugged, "I came here to have a good time and I am."
Thomas Johnasson took the men's snowboard division of slopestyle and Dorianne Vidal, of France, won the women's.
"I designed the course to flow with the mountain's natural terrain. There are some good jumps for skiers and snowboarders," Jansson said before the race. "With the snow conditions not being that great this year, we made the course shorter. We had a hard time building it and had to bring snow in from other parts of the mountain to make it," he explained.
Unfortunately, snow conditions in Sweden were less than stellar this year, prompting many of the North American competitors to withdraw from this event.
Salomon's International Free Ride Team, however, showed up and showed off. According to JP Baralo, the Salomon international freeride ski manager, the skiers were ready to tackle all the mountain could offer, and they don't do it for the money.
"We pay the team's expenses to Sweden and travel with them," Baralo said. "The money in freeriding is getting bigger, but only a handful of competitors can make a decent living out of what they are doing. They all do it because they love it.
"Free riding is a different way to personalize the mountain. People can express themselves and play with the fall line. Freeriding is basically an attitude of going out there and doing what the mountain has to offer," Baralo said.
Lots of skiers and snowboarders pulled out of the competition for safety reasons. Blincoe, for one, explained, "I like to give 110 percent in everything I do. I thought the course might be a little dangerous and I would be sitting back on my skis as well as holding back on my performance and I didn't want to do either."
Boarder Andrew Crawford, also from the US, voiced a similar opinion. Placing 4th in the slopestyle event on day one, Crawford said, "I know that not doing the boardercross will hurt my overall score in the competition," he said, "but I just didn't feel like taking any unnecessary chances."
Conditions cleared that night and many of the competitors and guests at Riksgransen took the opportunity to ski under the midnight sun. As Riksgransen is far north of the Arctic Circle, the sun never sets during the summer months.
The third day's quarterpipe event attracted the most competitors and the most spectators. More than 300 people turned out to watch the skiers and boarders give it their all. The event was originally scheduled as a quarterpipe and halfpipe competition, but the sparse snow conditions prevented the halfpipe. Still, the quarterpipe was exciting and full of big air and head plants.
"The natural quarterpipe is what this area is famous for," said Canadian Mike Douglas, who placed 19th in the pipe and 8th overall. Skier Patrik Soreide won the men's event; Kari Traa the women's; Dorianne Vidal, the women's snowboard; and, Olov Rickardsson, the men's snowboard. Rickardsson was also the men's overall "King of the Hill" having placed 2nd in slopestyle and 8th in boardercross.
Anna Tillman nabbed the women's snowboard Queen of the Hill. She placed second in each event and was a little surprised by the win. "I knew I was doing well, because I came in second in the slopestyle and boardercross," she said. "And there were only three of us in the quarterpipe finals, so I knew I would be in the top three, but I didn't know I'd be number one."
France's Mick Midali, second in the slopestyle placed second overall in alpine. Midali's story perhaps is the most interesting. A former World Cup snowboard racer, Midali was a silver medalist in the snowboard GS in the Nagano Olympics . Midali only began skiing four years ago. "I was a good snowboarder and now have a new talent," he said. "I like to participate in many sports and it is good for me to try something new," the multi-talented athlete reported.
The winners partied throughout the 24 hour day. To visit Riksgransen for next year's event or to ski under the midnight sun, you can hop aboard an SAS flight from New York, Chicago or the West Coast and fly directly to Stockholm. From there it's another short flight to Kiruna, then a two hour train ride from Stockholm. The train passes through many scenic areas as it winds its way north.
In addition to skiing under the midnight sun, it is possible to ski to the neighboring country of Norway and catch the train back to Riksgransen.
Laura Bell, MountainZone.com contributor