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If you had forecast any of what was to happen Sunday afternoon in Aspen, you're certainly a smarter man than I. It was X Games Slopestyle for the men and, fresh off of appearances in the US , the big guns were out in hopes of cashing in on the fame and prize money associated with skiing's most hyped contest of the year.
Qualifications got underway around 10:00am, and despite the perfect bluebird weather, it seemed everyone was having trouble putting down a full run. Up-and-comers like John Spriggs, Charley Ager and Tanner Rainville were all gunning for a place among skiing's elite, but couldn't quite hold it down enough to find a place in the ten openings for the finals. Andy Mahre and Pep Fujas were also tossed out during the elimination round, but not for a lack of creativity. Both K2 riders decided to compete on the new rockered Hellbents, sans poles, and were throwing nice 5s of all varieties, lipsliding the rails (not the boxes) and generally destroying most everyone's notion of a typical X Games run. Like so many others though, speed issues (ski issues?) quickly sequestered them to the sidelines for the finals.
Midway through the qualifiers, the pressure was on for some of the heavy hitters. Jon managed to pull off the top-scoring qualifying run, continuing with his air prowess from the Open. The same couldn't be said for the likes of TJ Schiller and Peter Olenick, who just couldn't get it together during their two kicks at the can. TJ's loss was JF Houle's gain as he sat on the bubble and eventually made it into the finals, but a fall took him out anyway in the first round.
So it was down to 9. Jon came in on top in qualifying, but his previous success on the course evaded him in the finals, and he ended up ninth. One gun down. Charles Gagnier octo-grabbed, one-footed, and generally tech'd his way through the course, but again, couldn't hold it down in the finals. Two guns down. That left a top five that few would have imagined going into the day.
Colby West, who qualified sixth, stepped it up on both finals runs, bringing bigger spins to the rails and upping his switch 7 double-nose to 9. His efforts landed him in first place with a 90, the highest score dolled out up to that point in the competition. Up next, Simon Dumont and Jacob Wester double-flipped their way to fourth and fifth place finishes respectively.
Sammy Carlson had been killing it all day, with very consistent runs and a bag of tricks that didn't allow anyone to question whether or not he belongs at the top of this sport,. Sammy brought a triple switch-up on the up-flat-down box and poked out a huge switch 10 mute for the lead.
So what about the judging? The course? There has been a lot of talk on the forums about rails vs. boxes and their place at a high level competition like the X Games, and the fact that a run with a revert in it could actually score an untouchable 95.00. My comment on the above issues would be that this year's X Slopestyle was one of the best representations we've ever had of where skiing is right now. On the plus side, we have new and innovative tricks popping up all the time, an increasingly deep talent pool and pretty much unlimited options for the future. On the negative side, I think this competition illustrated quite well the problems inevitably faced when you have a event of this level that includes a sport with no formalized judging system. If someone is calling you out for hating on something, stay true to your opinion, we haven't yet defined rules for this sport so your take on things is just as valid as those that were sitting in the judges' chairs. Big ups to the athletes, organizers, and of course the judges. Considering the circumstances, you put on a great show and skiing is stronger for it.
In the end though, it was La Clusaz native Candide Thovex who captured the judges' attention and catapulted himself into the lead to a huge score of 95 - a number no one could have hoped to touch. Candide's run was certainly impressive, but one wonders if it deserved the highest score ever given in a ski event at X. Props to the Frenchman though; he played this contest like a violin, slyly getting into the finals with a run that included a zero spin over the gap, and then stepping it up in the finals by replacing the zero with a 9 and gapping a huge switch 630 onto the flat-down box. And just like that, Candide is your Winter X 11 Slopestyle champion.
|Men's Ski Slopestyle Finals|
|Rank||Athlete||Run 1||Run 2||Best Score|
|Men's Ski Slopestyle Elimination (Top 10 advance to finals)|
|Rank||Athlete||Run 1||Run 2||Best Score|
|12||A. J. Burton||69.66||70.00||70.00|
^^ESPN posted all of their footage on google video, its got some commercials but here it is!
Day 2 of the BRITS 2015 saw a huge pool of competitors for the British Freeski Championship in Ski Slopestyle, with a total of 66 riders riding the specially prepared slopestyle course in Tignes.
Candide building a massive kicker at the famous "la balme"
Men and women's slopestyle wrapped up this morning