Words by Jeff Schmuck
Photos by Ananda van Welij & Jeff Schmuck
Following a duo of cabin fever-like days and alcohol-fueled nights hoping and waiting for the weather to change while some plunged deeper into the depths of Facebook addiction by day and Swedish women by night, the howling winds finally silenced and the elite line-up of spinners and flippers in attendance here in Åre, Sweden for the Jon Olsson Invitational got their first kick at the can.
The can in question is a mighty big one, clocking in at 80 feet in length, god knows how tall, and with enough hang time to make a wingsuit-wearing skydiver jealous. In a nutshell, it's perfect.
Before practice began, Olsson called a riders meeting to formally welcome everyone to the event and go over the format, before the biggest question of the week was posed...which maniac would guinea the beast? Historically, Olsson or Andreas Håtveit have always been the first to eagerly sack up, but Jon claimed he was too old while Andreas is not in attendance this year due to the recent birth of his first son (congrats Dre!).
Much to the delight of everyone in attendance, Sean Pettit and Luke Van Valin have arrived to emcee the event.
In the end, the man with the biggest set of balls in Åre was Alexsander Aurdal, who stepped up the plate to grab the bull by the horns and lead the charge, before unleashing the most ravishing trick of the session later on in the evening, an impeccable switch double cork 12.
Kai Mahler also deserves some seriously mad props for his superman front flip.
After a surplus of straight airs followed by a cyclone of warm-up tricks, much like last year's first practice session, things started to get stupid, particularly when Russ Henshaw unleashed a triple cork 14 mute straight to his feet after having not performed the tour de force since this time last year.
After that, it was game on, with too many doubles to type, and a second triple cork 14 from Mikkel Jøraandstad, a newcomer to JOI who some of the athletes had never even heard of. "You know this is fucked up when someone does a triple and we ask, who was that?" proclaimed Jacob Wester afterwards.
Mikkel Jøraandstad, the newest member of the triple club.
Another JOI rookie, Noah Morrison, then attempted a triple cork 16, proving that there's still something in the water of his hometown of Vernon, BC, while Switzerland's Rico Schuler took Morrison's cue and attempted one of his own.
But the loudest cheers of the night were reserved for triple-less offerings from Jossi Wells and Frej Jönsson, after Wells damn near landed in the lake with a monstrous zero spin, and Jönsson unleashed the slowest double cork 9 ever done, while attempting to somehow defy physics and turn it into 7. Here's hoping he can pull it off tonight.
And speaking of tonight, the first competition day, qualifiers, begins at 7pm, where all 22 riders will get three jumps with their best one counting and the top seven moving on to tomorrow night's finals.