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BRITS KICK OFF - Jane Peel, Laax, Switzerland
Tuesday April 4, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

The British Snowboard and Freeski Championships are underway in Europe's premier freestyle resort. PlanetSKI was slopeside as the Snowboard Slopestyle and Skier Cross titles were decided on day one. NEW

Drizzly rain at Laax base station and low cloud first thing threatened to put a dampener on the opening day but the first of the week's competitions went ahead with only minor disruption.

Big names from the GB Park and Pipe Squad such as Katie Summerhayes, Aimee Fuller, Billy Morgan and Matt McCormick were in action, with Fuller and McCormick taking the Overall titles in the Snowboard Slopestyle.

Snowboard SlopestyleSnowboard Slopestyle
















Snowboard Slopestyle at The Brits 2017Snowboard Slopestyle - photo
















Snowboard Slopestyle at The Brits 2017Snowboard Slopestyle - photo
















For the elite athletes, The Brits comes at the end of a long and exhausting World Cup season,  and is as much about supporting the young novices and the rising stars of the sport taking part as it is about aiming to become British Champion.

And some of those rising stars rose right onto the podium.

Among them was 16-year-old Cerys Allen who capped off a great winter - in which she was placed 5th in her first Europa Cup Finals in Italy - by winning the under-18 girls' category in Snowboard Slopestyle.

She took the gold medal ahead of Amber Cordingley.

Cerys AllenCerys Allen















Even more impressive was the achievement of 14-year-old snowboarder Leon Drynan, who took gold in the under-16 boys' competition and showed he could compete with the big boys by picking up the bronze in the Overall Men's competition.

He shared the podium with two of GB's best -  Billy Morgan, who won silver, and Matt McCormick who became Overall British Snowboard Slopestyle Champion.

Billy Morgan, Matt McCormick, Leon DrynanBilly Morgan, Matt McCormick, Leon Drynan
















"It was a really good day, the course was sick here in Laax," McCormick said.

"It was great to have Leon on the podium, he really deserved it and put down a really good run."

Snowboard Slopestyle judges hard at workSnowboard Slopestyle judges hard at work
















The Overall Women's title went to another elite British athlete - GB Park & Pipe Squad member Aimee Fuller, who won by a point against some fearsome competition.

Natalie Good was second and Fiona Reid third.

Natalie Good, Aimee Fuller, Fiona ReidNatalie Good, Aimee Fuller, Fiona Reid
















Chuffed with her win, and the field, Fuller said: "Over the moon to come back to Laax, and especially to see so many girls riding today. The UK Armed Forces made up a huge percentage of the field, and it's great to see them represented, and how strong their riding has become."

There was a clean sweep for the women of the Armed Forces in the Masters' category for the over 30s.

37-year-old Claire Collis triumphed, ahead of Louise Page and Jessica Drew.

Louise Page, Claire Collis, Jessica DrewLouise Page, Claire Collis, Jessica Drew
















PlanetSKI was especially delighted to see Oliver Burkinshaw pick up the bronze medal in the under-12s.

We featured Oliver in our review of The Brits 2016. It was his first ever competition and, at 8-years-old, he was one of the two youngest competitors in last year's contest.

Now, at the grand old age of 9 and still the youngest to hit the slopestyle rails and kickers, he's obviously a bit of a veteran, taking competition in his stride. 

Oliver BurkinshawOliver Burkinshaw, aged 9
















Over on the Ski Cross course, the standard was probably the highest and the competition the tightest it has ever been at The Brits.

Ski Cross - photo Bluebird PhotographySki Cross - photo Bluebird















Emma Peters defended her British title ahead of runner-up Claire Winthrop and Claire's younger sister Zoe Winthrop, who took the bronze.

Ollie Davies took the Overall Men's title  - his first ever British Ski Cross title after moving from alpine racing last summer.

In the Overall category, the GBX Ski Cross team were competing ahead of the World Junior Championships in Valmalenco, Italy, where they will race on Friday.

With some speedy times being set in the qualification rounds there was clearly a big appetite to win, but with softening conditions and those Junior Championships just days away, the athletes in the male Open category agreed that they would use the results from their timed runs to decide the winners.

"I didn't think it was going to be easy this year as there is loads of good athletes, but it was great to take the title in my first year here at the Brits," Davies said.

"I was happy with my time in qualification and it was good fun. It was a shame we didn't get to race head to head, but conditions weren't great and we really didn't want to risk anything with the World Juniors this week. It is always good to get a British title, so yes, I am pretty satisfied."

Laurence Willows, Ollie Davies, Jonthan BinghamLaurence Willows, Ollie Davies, Jonathan Bingham
















Peters said she always enjoyed coming to the Brits and it was great to see so many younger skiers coming through.

"Last year was way more chilled and straightforward, but this year I had to work for it! If you look at the top of the course, you can just see that there is a higher standard with loads of the athletes from the GBX programme and lots of other Ski Cross programmes. It's great to see a high level here at the Brits."

According to GB Park & Pipe Head Freeski Coach, Pat Sharples, the youngsters really stood out on a difficult course.

Liam BrogdenLiam Brogden, silver medallist, Under-12 boys
















Skier Cross can be a brutal sport.

17-year-old Alannah Lawrie couldn't make up the steps onto the podium to pick up her under-18 title after a heavy crash left her on crutches. 

The rest of the podium -  Zoe Winthrop (silver) and Caitlin Lewington (bronze) - came down to join her for the medal ceremony.

Zoe Winthrop, Alannah Lawrie, Caitlin LewingtonZoe Winthrop, Alannah Lawrie, Caitlin Lewington


















The full results from Tuesday's Snowboard Slopestyle can be found here and the Skier Cross here.

Day two of the championships will see titles decided in Ski Slopestyle and Snowboard Cross and PlanetSKI will again be slopeside to bring you all the news. 

Competition schedule (subject to weather and conditions)

                                              Snowboard Championships               Freeski Championships

Wednesday 5th                      Snowboard Cross                             Slopestyle

Thursday 6th                          Big Air                                               Halfpipe

Friday 7th                               Halfpipe                                             Big Air


The BRITS is supported by partners: LAAX, Picture Organic Clothing, Swiss International Airlines, Swiss Travel System, Switzerland Tourism and British Ski & Snowboard (BSS).

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.

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