words & photos: cko The first event of the Orage European Open went down Friday on the Crap Sogn Gion slopestyle course under grey skies and light snow. Though the weather gods didn't exactly answer the prayers of those on hand, we were saved from the fog that threatened superpipe qualifying on Thursday and the day went off without a hitch.Semi-finals were held in the morning and early afternoon and gave us our first peek at how the athletes that qualified Thursday stacked up against the international a-list of invited skiers. For the most part the young Europeans held their own, especially early on when a lot of the pros were having trouble adapting to the course and getting their speed figured out.But invited athletes are invited for a reason, and by the time semis were done the group of 12 heading into the finals comprised of guys like JF Houle (who won qualifying), Charles Gagnier, Simon Dumont, TJ Schiller, and the Europeans that were able to elicit wows from the crowd and judges.In the finals JF Houle, who'd skied well all day long, wasn't able to stick a clean run and was left off the podium along with fellow Quebecios Charles Gagnier. The podium was made up of those that were able to keep it all together in the face of the mounting wind, snow, and pressure to get a piece of the prize money, including Charley Ager who illustrated today that he definitely belongs with the big boys. Speaking of which, 2006 competition rulers TJ Schiller and Simon Dumont took their familiar spots at the top of the podium, large novelty checks in hand, after mastering the course with switch spins both ways and lots of dancing on and off the rails. Virginie Faivre won it for the ladies with Naomi Edmonston in second and Victoria Beattie third. There are a couple of shots below, with more on the way. Halfpipe happens Saturday and we're still being told we may see the sun. Until then we'll be adhering to the strict party regiment suggested by event organizers.  


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