Words by Jeff Schmuck
Photos by John Vandervalk (http://www.majestyphoto.com) & Jeff Schmuck
Winter X Games 13 soldiered on today through its second day, beginning with men's and women's slopestyle practice.
The course this year is much more interesting than in year's past, with a few extra features crammed into the lower slopes of Buttermilk for good measure. The setup is favoring some of the skiers but many are having some issues getting use to the bottom section of the course, mainly on the colossal transfer gap.
The course begins with a down box or rail option...
then a staircase setup with a down-flat-down box or rail option...
followed by a cool and slightly banked butter box or flat box option...
to a cannon box over a table top (with the option of hitting it as a straight jump on either side of the box instead)...
then a massive kicker...
into the infamous transfer gap...
and then capped off the legendary bottom booter which is flanked by the capacity crowd at the base.
The transfer gap in question is causing the biggest problems, as the steep in-run after the previous table top forces a speed check, which is giving many of the riders difficulty in finding enough mustard to go for the gap, opting instead to hit one of the two tombstones straight on. Also due to the narrowness of the jumps themselves, the guys are finding it hard to find the space to hit the last jump switch, although Jon Olsson, Jossi Wells and Andreas Hatveit were all going for it near the end of practice.
Overall, strongly teeing things off throughout the day were Jossi Wells, Sammy Carlson, Matt Walker, Phil Casabon and Bobby Brown (who is still an alternate), all who seem to be the most comfortable with the course.
Both Bobby and Jossi were the only two to go inverted off the cannon box, while Phil, Sammy and Walker were getting real tricky on the top rail section and corking out some seriously smooth spins on the bottom.
Last year's gold medalist Andreas Hatveit began turning up the heat near the end of the session as well, throwing switch right and left 10's on the jumps and spinning over the transfer gap.
Also back in fine form after a year off was TJ Schiller, whose patented flavor of beyond tweaked out grabs and wickedly corked spins were a joy to watch from the nicest guy in the sport. And while PK Hunder was taking it relatively easy today (aside from some massive 9 true noses off the bottom hit), he will be undoubtedly be one to watch as his fluidity was become more and more apparent each run.
On the girl's side of things, Sarah Burke was looking as solid as the Great Wall of China, while Anna Segal was the only girl hitting the transfer gap and going for some huge switch 5's on the previous hit. However as I walked off the course, the phenom of the women's slopestyle world Kaya Turski had just stepped it up by hitting the cannon box and throwing a buttery smooth switch 7 off the middle table.
Kim Lammare & Kaya Turski
Ol' greybird unfortunately began to roll into Aspen half way through practice, and the forecast is threatening snow over the next few days, which could change the game dramatically in both the slopestyle finals on Sunday and tonight's superpipe finals, should the powdery white stuff begin to fall before 7pm.
In the end though, the slopestyle contest will be anyone's game, as all of the talented field of competitors are good enough to win, and as is always the case at X Games, it all depends on how the course is set up. Plus with two days of practice left, things could change in more degrees than the skier's rotations.
The men behind the scenes: John Symms brushin dirt off his shoulder and Luke Van Valin mean muggin
Stay tuned to NS later tonight as men's superpipe finals are going to absolutely go off in under an hour. The kingly pipe trio of Tanner Hall, Simon Dumont and Justin Dorey were nowhere to be seen today, as all of them were resting up for tonight's big show, which is bound to go down in the history books as one of, if not the best pipe contest ever seen.