OK, well i now know that this little article i wrote didn't make it. anybody who has read the X-Games article in print, please tell me why its better. i really dont care what you say... fuck! rip me a new asshole if you think its that bad.
The Future is Now
By Ian Kirkpatrick
Philou Poirier is used to pressure. If he cracked under burden, the ski world would never know who the jibbing giant is. He never would have competed in the U.S. Freeskiing Open back in ’99 when he lost his skis and equipment. And now he’s at another competition, watching history unfold at the first X-Games skiing slopestyle competition. While all the biggest names are there (Hall, Olsson, Johnson, Dorion) putting on a good show for the masses, Philou has other things on his mind, like the upcoming superpipe competition. “I’m feeling pretty good, man… I’m out of a ski sponsor for the moment.” He says calmly in his Quebecois English. Most pro skiers would already be looking into a new career at this point but Philou is good with stress. There’s another problem though, Philou’s been hard pressed to find a good training facility. Every halfpipe he has tried to ski in the past few weeks was in poor condition or busy with a competition. But for now, all he can do is hope for a good training session and look to the future.
The slopestyle going on around Philou is not without it’s drama. there are more pros who aren’t competing. For some of these freeskiers, the absence of a bib on their back is because of what they, unfortunately, were born without.
“Word on the street is next year but we’ll have to wait and see how many girls show up for other comps.” Said the always upbeat Sarah Burke. Kristi Leskinen also thought that a women’s slopestyle or superpipe would get off the ground only when there were enough competitors. Newschool competitions for the ladies is one aspect of the future that everyone wants to see happen.
Another new aspect for this year was the location. Aspen hosted its first X-Games and all of the events were on Aspen’s Buttermilk Mountain. The Slopestyle course was held on one of the longest terrain parks and while some of the competitors might have muttered that the course was too flat, the flow was good and included a picnic table in one of the top jib sections and came to a great finish with the showcase booter at the base of Buttermilk. Local hero boy, Steele Spence (who made it to the X-Games with his second place finish at the last chance qualifier) was especially fired up. “I could definitely hear the crowd makin’ some noise. I’m just stoked to be here, representing my hometown.” That factor probably didn’t hurt Steele when he finished the day in seventh place.
While the X-Games are about the culture of alternative sports, the competition is the main focus. The day started out bluebird and with a diverse field. Some of the better-known pros could have been surprised with the starting list that was full of newcomers. Guys like Mike Schimke and 15-year-old Simon Dumont came out and showed the crowds present and the millions of viewers who they were. The best “rookie” in the end was Iannick B. with a sixth-place finish. There is one thing for sure, the talent pool is doing nothing but growing.
As the day went on, there was nothing but action. Odds were in favor of Tanner and he lived up to them, leading for most of the day. The leader board showed Boyd Easley in the top three only to finish in fourth and there was enough action to make the average mom faint. But events like Nick Mercon’s ski popping off after he washed out on the last jump and almost harpooning the crowd on the side of the course or Steele Spence’s conquering of the vertical zigzag rail didn’t match up to what happened at the end of the day.
Coming in to the last run, Tanner was still in the lead with Jon Olsson and Boyd nipping at his heels. “I’m just ready to come out and throw down bigger, harder tricks.” He said after his second run. As the sun set on the course and caused some very flat light, C.R. Johnson took his last run, right before Tanner, the last competitor. At the bottom, C.R. was tied with Tanner who had the second higher score and was guaranteed his second X-Games gold in a row. Instead of pulling spreads and daffies, Tanner threw down just as hard as he did all day and could have scored higher if he hadn’t lost momentum and wobbled off the last rail. In the end it was Olsson in third, C.R. in second, and Tanner Hall winning a momentous event in freeskiing’s development.
Skiercross has received the most coverage, mainly because it was the first skiing event in only the second Winter X-Games ever. While it might seem that the newschool-ish stuff is receiving more attention, there are lots of younger racer kids who are getting sick and tired of the increasing regulations of racing. With skiercross, these kids can use the course as a step in between their racing past and big mountain skiing or even park and pipe.
While the slopestyle was held under sunny skies and with warmer than usual temperature, the skiercross didn’t have such luck the next day. The whole day, Buttermilk Mountain and the rest of Aspen was submerged in a huge storm with strong enough winds to cancel the Snowboard superpipe. “It’s not gonna be a very fair race. It’ll be a holeshot race,” said favorite, Eric Archer. But that’s supposed to be the fun part of skiercross. As the day went on, there were a few surprises: Archer finished just out of the top ten and Thomas Rinfret, 2nd place in last year’s U.S. Open and all-around skier, didn’t make it past his third heat. The weather was a huge factor.
The ladies side did have a strong top ten, though, with Aspenite, and winner of last year’s Open, Gwen Abbott in ninth and Patti Sherman Kauf going home with the bronze. Seeing Kauf on the podium with her own kids gave everybody something to think about as far as pros in a few more years. Aleisha Cline also managed through the tricky conditions to repeat her win of last year’s event.
The big story of the day involved last year’s winner and his brother; Zach and Reggie Crist have always been a force to reckon with, Zach Crist won last year’s X-Games skiercross and that Reggie isn’t afraid to throw down the gauntlet if he feels that he was unfairly cut off. Just look at last year’s Open when Reggie punched Jaime Parks in the finish area after Parks made a move that was definitely questionable. In the first round, Zach crashed and, as Reggie put it:
“I knew I had to pick up the slack and carry the flag for the Crist family.” Reggie hung in there till the end and came out on top, truly representin’ the Crists.
Now we come back to Philou, who is still stressed and has had an extra day to let the impact of this event on his career sink in. He had to pull out the best run of his life to get some notice from companies if he wanted a ski sponsor and to stay in the sport he loved. To tell the truth though, nobody was feeling on top of his game. Jon Olsson, the favorite for today wasn’t really feeling well about his training and the weekend spectators on the deck could tell that he was feeling sluggish. But it was another first for freeskiing and the competitors weren’t going to let the crowd down. The event started under mostly sunny skies and the snowmobiles tearing up the skiercross course in the hillcross competition just added to the crowds throb. Sarah Burke shows up again, this time at the top of the course to forerun and make her case for the need for women’s superpipe and Slopestyle in the X-Games. Copper Mountain skier and working class hero Greg Tufflemire had the first big episode of the comp on Nick Mercon’s skis. Tired with Volant, GT used the same pair of K2’s he used to win the qualifier and went the biggest with a huge 900 on his first hit. Maybe he should have been a little easier on the skis, because two hits later, the toe piece ripped out; Tufflemire would get it fixed and end up in ninth on sheer, friggin’ amplitude. Philou comes out of the gate and lets everyone see his “new” skis. After Salomon dumped him, he still got to keep the skis that they gave him. For fear of contract complication, Philou painted his entire top sheet black. Not very long into the run, everyone was paying more attention to the skier than the skis when he started throwing his patented corked 9’s. Philou had just told everybody that he wasn’t going to just fade away and grabbed second place. Jon would agree with you if you said he didn’t look comfortable in training but he would let his actions speak for him. On Jon’s first hit, he threw a textbook tail grab flare, blowing all the know-it-all skeptic’s opinions out of the water. Soon after, Olsson was standing in the finish corral in first after a run that included his popular version of an inverted nine and a flatspin 540. While Jon threw almost identical tricks his next two runs (and maintained his first place position) there was a big standings battle going on below him. Philou kept it consistent yet there were two people that could bump him off the podium: Phil Larose and Candide Thovex. Watching Larose throw alley-oop and regular spins on both walls and move into second was enough to get Philou nervous but watching Candide throw his huge stylie airs near the end of the start list sent him into a cold sweat. But all of the commitment and stress would eventually be enough to beat le petit homme. “I didn’t want to win to piss off people, I just wanted to win for myself.”
While the Superpipe field had less newcomers and rookies than the slopestyle and the field is growing at about the same rate that the skiercross field is, it’s only the first year; halfpipe comps for skiers weren’t too common until two years ago, max. Also keep in mind that, while the ski industry has seen a ton of Jon in the past two seasons, he is only nineteen. The same applies to most of the skiers out there today. Guys like Tanner and C.R. still have, at the very least, five years ahead of them. But as Jon, Larose, Philou, and all of the other podium finishers smiled for the TV camera, it’s obvious that freeskiing’s future is happening now.
This rant has brought to you in part by the Gomer corporation. Bringing you quality bablings since January.
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