In the run-up to the pipe finals I'd heard about some speed issues resulting from fluctuating temperatures in Sierra Nevada but they didn't really materialise. The speed was there but the looker's right wall the pipe took out a bunch of guys. It's hard to tell if that was an issue with the pipe itself or the riders going too hard but they seemed to have to pop much harder than usual.
Pipe is insanely gnarly, but three runs seemed to me to make this way too long a contest for the viewer. I can see the reasoning from a rider perspective (though FIS made their view on the importance of that pretty clear yesterday) but it doesn't make watching a whole event a particularly enjoyable experience. The crash count was through the roof again too, with 13/30 men's runs landed (and a couple of those had bobbles too). On the flip side, there were some positive signs for the future. The new generation of pipe skiers were showcasing a bunch of unique dub rotations with Birk Irving, Aaron Blunck, Noah Bowman and Brendan Mackay standing out and making things a bit more engaging. On to the recap:
First Place Runs
Men's Run 1:
Birk Irving started things off with a dope dub 10 rotation but clipped the deck which killed his score. Aaron Blunck went wild with a switch to switch dub flat, switch dub 9, dub 12 at the bottom, five hits, what an epic run. Kevin Rolland went massive and the back to back dub 12s at the bottom were crazy but for me it was way less interesting than Blunck. The allez allezs and his celebration at the bottom were still pretty hard to watch too. The judges actually seemed to agree about the lack of innovation and gave him an 88. I'd never seen Brendan Mackay ride pipe before but his back to back switch hits up top, varied grabs immediately highlighted him as someone to watch. A couple of small bobbles limited his score but I think he's going places. Noah Bowman started off with a floaty three stale and had two crazy switch dubs for 85.3. Another different take on things which was super cool to see.
Birk cleaned it up to go third with an enormous dub 12 at the bottom. Simon D'Artois crashed on his first dub for a second time, but it's one hell of a rotation. Kevin Rolland took an unbelievably brutal deck hit on his second run, no hating on getting up from that, impressive. David Wise took a hard slam too, as did Gus. All three on of them on the same wall. The intrigue of the new dub rotations from first run was wearing off in a whirlwind of crashes. Mike Riddle managed to improve his score with an 89.2 for second but he was only the second guy of the 10 to manage to put down a clean run.
Birk Irving put his run down again, Benoit Valentin sent it to the moon on a JPV-esque alleyoop flat 5 but hip checked on his last hit. It wasn't a crash score but neither was it a clean run. David Wise put a run down on the last time of asking, another guy with the back to back dub 12 mutes at the bottom but only good for fourth. Riddle put down his run clean for a second time but it was identical to the previous run so couldn't improve. Again, the rest of the runs were all crashes meaning another big win for Aaron Blunck. For all the shortcomings of pipe right now, it's dope to see the guy with the most interesting run taking multiple big wins in a season. Props.
Women's Run 1:
Maddie Bowman was barely clearing the lip on her standard back to back 9 + no grab run. Devin Logan put down a clean but stock run for a 79.2 and the lead, the key there being she grabbed a couple of tricks. Annalisa Drew went bigger on b2b 9s and a couple of ao flats (5+7), definitely some grabs missing but still good for first, 81.2. Ayana Onozuka put down a clean run too, but again missed a couple of grabs for 80. Marie Martinod put down her clean, largely grabbed run for a large lead of 87.0. Epic tartan pants too.
Run 2: Annalisa tried an insane screaming 7 or 9, kind of hard to tell, but didn't make it. Ayana managed to largely get the grabs in her run, which had a 9 and a dope switch 7. She actually jumped ahead of Marie Martinod, who has been dominating pipe this season.
Run 3: Devin Logan cleaned up her grabs to bump Annalisa Drew out of third. Marie Martinod bumped upped the technicality of her run, bumping a 5 to a 9 and her bottom hit to a 10. But she didn't put the 10 down clean, so Ayana took her first big win. Well deserved.