Cover photo: FIS/Kielpinski
Almost a month after Big Air lifted the lid on the 22/23 comp season in Chur, Switzerland, slopestyle returned this morning in Stubai, Austria. Despite a terrible start to the season in Europe, the parks have been firing on the Austrian glacier for weeks now, which meant all the competitors have had plenty of time to find their feet on the jumps that would become the slopestyle course. Conditions were tricky for qualifications which got pushed forward to Thursday because of bad weather but for finals today they were stunning. Fresh snow, clear skies, and cold. The course in Stubai has super short gaps between features and high speed, which always makes for crashes but this year, it was Austrian TV that came through with the massive L, not showing almost the entire first run for the women. Combine that with the format putting 8 women but 16 men in the final... come on guys, that's not good enough.
In run one, Kelly Sildaru and Johanne Killi were the only two to put down clean runs. Johanne was a little bit more powerful and while Kelly was super clean as always. But she wasn't really pushing her limits technical limits on the jumps with a switch 7 to switch 9 combo, and that left them one and two respectively.
On run 2, Brynn Johnston put down in her first-ever final. It's a run to build on but sick to see so much talent coming through. Sandra Ei didn't have a perfect run but stomped a nice dub 10 again, and if she cleans it up, is looking like a slopestyle threat to back up her big air chops. Sarah Hoefflin put down a loose but lit run, switch dub 10 up top squeaked around, tokyo drift swap on to the cannon to down... all a bit too loose for a good score but dope to see the creativity. Grace Henderson put down a clean run too. Switch 9 to switch 7 too and a back 6 on the cannon feature... enough for provisional third and she was hyped! Kelly Sildaru stepped it up with a switch 10 up top and a clean front swap p2 on the long down rail to end. But, she missed the grab on the switch 10, gifting Johanne the win in the first event of the season.
The first few guys to drop struggled with the butter pad to rail feature, all hitting the pad but misjudging the trajectory and coming off the rail section early. Max Moffat was the first to put it down, taking the lead with a clean (underscored?) run, followed immediately by Konnor Ralph on his finals debut. Andri went to the moon on a huge switch dub bio 16 but landed backseat off the cannon rail feature. Jesper stomped the first 3 tricks of his run, including a crazy switch pretz dub 10 set to 7 and the switch crashflip (as seen on ze 'gram). But he also fell victim to 'that butterpad'.
Matej pulled off one of the steeziest crashes of all time, double ejecting and then stomping a switch half-flip to boot ski out. Colby S put it down. A touch short on the second jump (switch dub 14), but the nosebud dub 16 on the first jump, nosebutter 4 on to the downrail and a 2 on 2 off through the flat gap donkey dick feature for 85 were enough to take the lead. Alex Hall immediately responded, revert to switch dub 14, switch 7 tap with dub true nose... but it wasn't enough for the lead. He did have a switch dub 10 on the second jump but looked low score wise to me. Birk Ruud put it down to take the lead. Not the most exciting run but textbook throughout and the dub bio 14 mute was no joke. I feel like the 'simple' route of the last rail (skipping the gap and just spinning on from the side) should have been docked more for lack of risk but that's how she goes sometimes and it was certainly the cleanest run.
Max Moffat put down a peach of a run, dub bio 14 with a poke, front swap p2 on the gap to donkey.. only 78 points for some reason. The judges scored the handrag 9 on the bonk super low, but I'm not sure why. Andri stomped too, huge sw dub bio 16 and the frontside bio 810 mute on the cannon was dope but he did take the easy route on the final rail section... good enough for second. Jesper Tjader was maybe 30cm of rail away from taking the lead, coming off early on a back 3 swap transfer p2 on the final rail feature after a dope, creative run.
Matej managed to somehow hold on to his run the second time around. Dub 16 into switch pretz dub jump combo was perfect, and he somehow held on to an improvised butter pad to kfed situation. It looked for all the world like he was coming off early but somehow he didn't. The judges said no podium, but the save and style were undeniable. Colby had a near perfect run but unfortunately bobbled on a 2pretz2 on the flat gap to donkey. Insane trick to try in a comp though. Then AHall couldn't put down his switch dub pretzel, leaving Birk with a victory lap and the W in both the first Big Air and Slopestyle events of the season.