words by kamikaze, photos by cko
The 2005 Orage Masters, Mammoth Mountain, California. Team Volkl and Team Dynastar have just been mobilized from their company cribs, two of eight scaffoldings forming a half-moon above nine features crafted by two of the world's best terrain park designers. From these scaffoldings, skiers from across the globe will watch and judge their peers in one of skiing's most unconventional competitions, one which labels itself skiing's anti-comp. The set-up is immaculate, adding two hips to the Masters' usual menagerie of rails, boxes, and other jibs. Even the weather has complied, with bluebird skies overhead after a solid week of blowing snow.
The Volkl riders know they have to pull out all the stops, because Dynastar's team is stacked with three of skiing's best young park riders--Dan Marion, Tanner Rainville and Corey Vanular--as well as the French jib queen Marie Martinod. Still, if Volkl's going to be the first team to be eliminated, they're determined to go out in style. Nick Mercon goes gonzo style on the first hip, hucking switch misty 9s, while Sarah Burke's 450 attempts on the first box result in some gnarly beatdowns. And then there's Hibbert, who in usual fashion finds the trick most likely to end in total disaster, in this case a switch flare onto the down rail. A young kid from Europe (whose name I forget) has replaced Nico Zacek, and he lays down the most solid runs for the team, killing the right C-box with a switch-up to 270 out. But even so they're no match for Dynastar. Rainville and Vanular are totally out of control, treating this park like a playground. They lap the park in tandem, victimizing the high box with ridiculous spins on and off and hitting the hips switch with smooth cork 5s. Marion and Marie are both tech and clean, rounding out a tight team full of talent and determination. At the end of fifteen minutes Dynastar is a shoo-in for the finals.
In the next heat, skiing's original core company, Line, is pitted against skiing's Goliath, Salomon. Sammy Carlson and Peter Olenick are both on their game, laying down runs with textbook style that would win any ordinary competition. But here at the Masters the team impression is more important than the individual, and Line's riders are obviously organized and interdependent. Each skier takes different lines with different style, but everyone is riding for fun. Bibby's antics are the highlight, with screamin' seamen airs and pole flips mixed in to otherwise relaxed, effortless runs like jokes in an obituary, while Tim Russell seems almost bored spinning casual 270s onto the step-up box. In a much-debated decision, Line advances to the finals with a score of 52, with Salomon a close second at 49.
The third heat is the battle of the core, with Armada lining up against 4FRNT. Both teams are in full get-up, with 4FRNT all in white jumpsuits, skis, even painted boots, while the Armada riders are rocking suits stencilled with the company logo and 80's hair band blonde wigs. Armada seems to secure a clear lead, with team riders TJ Schiller, Zach Davison, Phil Casabon and Grete Eliasson all on their game. While TJ displays what has become his apparently inhuman style and consistency, the young up-and-comers Davison and Casabon are both just as impressive. But with defeat seemingly imminent, Matt Sterbenz pulls out all the stops, hitting the hip straight on with 360s and then pointing it straight in to the boner box, boosting only inches from the top--check out the cover page if you haven't already seen the shot. Luke Van Valin follows Sterbenz over the hip with cork 7s, and Steele Spence and Shadasha Holmstead round out the performance. It's a decision that many are unhappy with, but by the vote of the other teams 4FRNT comes out one point ahead of Armada, 52 to 51. In the judges' booth the only comment is, "Were we watching the same fucking competition as everyone else?"
In the final heat Team K2 drops in against the team with the single most threatening rider on course, Candide Thovex and Rossignol. Candide stomps the run he's been practicing all day, 630 onto the box, an immaculate switch 180 tail over the hip, and heights on the pillar box surpassed only by Sterbenz. K2 has a stacked team but the riders just aren't taking the comp seriously enough, and Rossi is the clear choice to round out the final four.
So now it's Dynastar, Line, 4FRNT and Rossi. Dynastar drops first, and if Rainville and Vanular were off the hook in the first heat, in the finals they're off the charts. Rainville opens the 15-minute jam with back-to-back left and right cork 3s over the hips, eventually gapping both with switch 7s both directions. It seems there isn't a spin onto the box that the two East Coasters can't stomp, and the cheers from the team cribs increase in intensity as time runs out- 270s, 450s, 630s, then the same thing switch. Rainville's switch 630 on, 270 out is the final straw. Dynastar means business, scoring 10s and 9s for the highest score of the day, 74.
Line's up next, but they just can't match Dynastar's onslaught. Same with 4FRNT, who scores only slightly higher. And Rossignol's bid for the win is stifled prematurely when Candide, already hurting after decking out on the top of the pillar box platform, eats shit on the step-up box and decides to call it quits for the day. The hearsay of the evening is indecisive- either he bruised his heels or tweaked his knee. Either way, his replacement JF Houle, though he's the only skier of the day to clean the flat-down-flat, isn't enough to make up for his loss. Nor are Rory Bushfield's antics, an enormous switch backflip on the hip, and even an attempted switch double back.
Oh, one thing that has to be mentioned: pole tricks are now, officially, so hot right now. Bibby worked tirelessly until he stuck a 270-on pole flip on the step-up box, Andreas Hatveit went for the 270-on poles-between-the-legs, and I watched Sammy Carlson, one of the only riders to hit Unbounds's 80-footer later that afternoon, throw a second-hit switch cork 7 while passing both poles behind his back.
So Dynastar's stellar performance captures the crown, but that isn't even the best part of the Masters experience. Last night it snowed eight inches, and today Campbell from Ninthward showed us the best pitches on the lower mountain. Everything up high has been closed all day, but tomorrow the weather is supposed to clear, and it should be bomber. Right now as I'm looking out the window of our room at the Mammoth Mountain Inn, it's still coming down, blizzard style. May in Mammoth can surprise in more ways than one.
**Watch the video**
Here's another video made by an NS member (link). Good work gravitypro!Armada grom Cam Schuster makes the box look that much bigger than it was. The same can't be said of the hair. Team Dynastar, mid-domination. I didn't pick these pictures, Chris did. Don't blame me. We were expecting a Rossi Candide pro ski by now. What's the holdup? Putting the nail in the coffin for foreground foliage. The guy in the bottom left corner of this picture is a German man named Klaus. Tim Russell confused his tips with his tails. Did you? Six Flags theme park has that goofy old guy who dances. Steele Spence has six flags in this shot. Does Steele Spence have the goofy old guy who dances? A victory hug for Team Dynastar. The team reacts to Josh Novotny's decision to keep all of the prizes for himself.