Words: Jeff Schmuck
Photos: John Vandervalk
The fifth annual European Open continued today in Laax, Switzerland with what was supposed to be men's and women's slopestyle semi-finals and finals. However Mother Nature apparently wasn't all that interested in seeing the crème de la crème of freeskiing do their thing today, as she rolled out layers and layers of murk with some unrelenting twister-like winds thrown in for good measure.
As a result, much like yesterday, the better part of the sunrise-less morning was spent in No Name Bar overlooking the invisible Swiss Alps, as the throng of competitors, fans, team managers and media awaited the event organizers' decision as to when or if the contest was actually going to transpire.
Once the clock struck high noon and the wind was still a blowin', the decision was made to pull the plug. Initially, there was some mild discussion about holding a rail jam on the top section of the course, but for safety reasons and to no doubt please the townsfolk below, the organizers decided to hold a rail jam on a staircase setup at the base that consisted of a down box/ledge, a down rail and a down-flat-down box.
So although the 60+ skiers scheduled to compete were bummed, a few hours later they suited back up and spent the afternoon jamming their little hearts and skis out, much to the delight of the legion of weekend warriors present in Laax.
Keri Herman, Ashley Battersby & Anna Segal
On the ladies side of things, Keri Herman, Anna Segal, Ashley Battersby and Kaya Turski got right to work, throwing textbook 270's on and off along with switch-up's as smooth as their smiles.
As the two hour jam went on, many of the European ladies were doing their best to one up the Americans in the nicest way possible, and England's Katie Summerhayes was rewarded for her efforts by placing second.
Just behind her in third was frequent podium dweller Kaya Turski, who like always, was crushing it all day, while the top spot went to the steeze queen herself, Ashley Battersby, who put down a flawless 270 on 270 off for the win.
The rapid fire wizardry that took place amongst the men was hard to keep track of at times, as with close to 50 of them competing, the line up to drop in was longer than a club on Sunset Boulevard.
Amidst all the dizziness taking place, highlights included recent arrival Henrik Harlaut putting on a style lecture on all three rails after being off skis for the past few months while he recuperated from knee surgery...
Welcome back E'Dollo.
Simon Dumont laying it down cleaner than a germophobe's bathroom...
Gus Kenworthy showing his fierce competitive streak with a double switch-up to 270 out on the down-flat-down on his final hit...
Alex Schlopy transferring from the down-flat-down to the down rail...
Alex Schlopy, testing the flex of his skis. Post-transfer.
Joe Schuster throwing a lip 450 on 270 out...
Banks Gilberti switch 50-50'ing the down box, which on one attempt caused him to take a fierce header on the ice rink landing that would have been a lot worse if he didn't have the best hair in the ski industry to help cushion the fall...
James 'Woodsy' Woods just being the man with some sublime 450 on's...
Woodsy & Summerhayes...UK Represent!
Jossi Wells displaying Leonardo Da Vinci-like creativity with a variety of tricks including riding halfway down the stairs before ollie'ing onto the rail to 270 out...
And perhaps two of the most fun moments of the day on a day that wasn't that much fun for a lot of the guys, Elias Ambuhl taking off his helmet and passing it between his legs before putting it back on, and a good ol' fashioned pole flip...
Elias Ambuhl having a grand ol' time.
But once the dust had finally settled, France's Samuel Favret held it down for his continent with a third place showing that even he seemed surprised at, judging by how eagerly he made his way to the podium. In second place, surprise, surprise, was the pretzel man himself, Tom Wallisch, who was doing, well, a lot of pretzels, along with too many other combos to count and the trick that eventually landed him on the podium, a 450 on pretzel 270 out.
And in first, taking home $5000 Swiss Francs and the esteemed honor of providing all of us with a good time later tonight at Riders Palace, was JF Houle, with a nose butter 450 on to 270 out, which he spun so damn fast his toque and goggles flew off his head.
JF Houle. Who needs a toque, goggles and headphones when you can win a rail jam while losing them.
European Open hopefully continues tomorrow with men's and women's superpipe semi-finals and finals, and I say hopefully because the weatherman is forecasting that tomorrow will be the same if not worse than today. Keep your fingers crossed for everyone here in Laax.
1) Ashley Battersby
2) Katie Summerhayes
3) Kaya Turski
1) JF Houle
2) Tom Wallisch
3) Samuel Favret