Every skier and boarder likes to think they are the next world champion in the making, but in reality we spend a couple of weeks at the most on the snow each season – and most of that time is spent trying to get back to the level you enjoyed (?) the last time you strapped on your planks or board.

It’s not until you see the world’s best close up that you realise there is a huge gulf (or should it be crevasse?) between your twice-a-year piste bashing and the pros who spend their time living the life in The Alps and around the top peaks of the World, trying to carve out a living.

There can be no finer example of that gulf than standing at the side of a hip, half-pipe or boarder/skier cross circuit and watching the pros battle it out for honour – and a fistful of Euros.

The Tignes Airwaves – with 150,000 Euros in prize money – was held for the fourth time between January 7 to 11 and attracted some of the best riders from the alternative snowsports scene from around the World.

The competition took place over five days. On an invitation only basis, riders descended on one of the highest resorts in The Alps to test out and preview their new moves for the 2008 season.

The week slid into action on the Monday with the hip competition. An explosive formula, skiers and boarders straightline it down a steep piste before taking off from a high ramp and performing spins as big as 1,200 degrees – one, two, three and a half turns in the air. These fearless freestylers aim to stand out from the crowd by executing tricks with perfect style – and outrageous daring.

The riders are then marked on the height, technical difficulty, style, creativity and skill on landing.

The next day we were treated to the half-pipe competition. Now, this really is crazy! The pipe is 120 metres long, six metres high and 25 metres wide.

Riders must link an increasingly difficult series of tricks and jumps on skis or boards. They pull off stunts with names such as Japan Air, Canonballs, grabs and full-on spins… you have to see our picture gallery and videos to get the true picture!

The skier cross took place on Wednesday. Six riders leap out of a start gate and hurtle themselves down a course filled with jumps, rollers and banks. It’s best to be out in front, giving you chance to pick the best line. It reminded me a bit of the film Rollerball…

One competitor told me: "Skier cross is the major extreme sports race due to its technical nature and the direct confrontation between racers." You can take it from me, these guys and girls are tough and not afraid of making their presence felt…

The Oxbow Back to Powder event was something I’d not witnessed before. Tignes’ own favourite Lolo Favre – the resort’s renowned freestyler – invited along 11 of his friends from Planet Freestyle and Planet Freeride to tackle the untracked slopes of Tignes for a backcountry freestyle session.

Each rider had to choose their own line, pick their own jumps and head down the slope using the natural terrain as a playground.

At the end, the riders then judged each other on style, spirit and fluidity of movement – and chose the winner. The prize was a week riding the waves in Hawaii.

Thursday night was totally mind-blowing. Freestyle motocross riders – at full throttle – rode up a slope and jumped up to 12 metres high, before pulling off stunts such as Fender Kiss, Tsunami and NacNac…

But the mountain bikers were not to be outdone the next day when they raced down a snowy, icy course down the mountainside. Studded tyres were banned, helmets compulsory (hardly surprising) and skidding controlled. With four riders leaping out of a start gate, it was pure adrenaline buzz.

And so Tignes Airwaves drew to an exciting close. What an eye-opener. If you want to see dare-devils close-up – and pick up some tips (?) – book a date in your diary for next year’s event.

To see more information and results, go to www.tignesairwaves.com