Words and photos: Ethan StoneThe World Skiing Invitational halfpipe has become hands-down my favorite ski event to watch. Every year in the spring, after the madness of mid-winter competition has died down, everybody heads for Whistler for a few solid weeks of partying and skiing in (usually) pristine spring conditions. The pipe is soft but fast, the atmosphere is laid-back and all of the skiers have their runs honed to perfection. And it seems like every year, something absolutely ridiculous happens in this halfpipe. This year was no exception. Allow me to show you why.

Whistler has a reputation for a lot of things, but clear skies isn't one of them. Thankfully there was no fog this year, and the sun even broke through the clouds during a few choice moments. Of course, no one was going big during those few choice moments.
The women's field looked more challenging than it's ever looked before; there's no doubt that the girls are going bigger with better tricks and style. Roz Groenewoud surprised everybody by stomping a few 900s on the right wall, making Sarah Burke, the former "only girl with a 9 in her run," dig a bit deeper in to her back of tricks to stay on top.
Here's Sarah dropping out of her 900, with as much amplitude as some of the guys. Never afraid to send it to another level even in her advanced age, Sarah went balls-out during the Superhit competition and stomped a clean 1080!
Meanwhile, top qualifier Stefan Thomas was having a bit of difficulty putting together a full run. Here he is picking himself up after a spill on the first hit. It seems like Stefan can stomp the most beautiful switch airs in the pipe effortlessly, except for when he really needs to, like the finals of the WSI. Even though he didn't make the podium, Stefan wowed everyone present with his pipe prowess, linking switch hits all the way down. In the age of the 1260, it's a real pleasure to watch Stefan lay down a nice 360 first hit.
Andreas Hatveit skis the pipe like a linebacker, powering his way through each and every hit. This is a right 900 as Andreas starts off his big combination: right 9, left 9, right 1080. Pretty damn impressive, but believe it or not, Andrea wasn't the only one throwing two nines into a ten in this pipe.

What is the only grab in the halfpipe that could ever dream of rivaling the popularity of the mute grab? Why, the reverse mute of course. Jon Marks demonstrates.
Of course, no halfpipe competition is complete without a few burly wrecks.
Matt Hayward holding it down for 4FRNT with a big flair reverse mute, right after his 1260 first hit. The man was skiing with a vengeance, and it was good enough for fifth place.
All of those Ski Tour halfpipe runs must have done Mike Riddle good, because he tore into this halfpipe looking like he already had the winner's check in his back pocket. 540 true nose into a right 540, followed by a tweaked 1080 mute and the biggest switch 7s and 9s of the competition... Riddle stomped this run without fail in his podium bid.After everyone had logged their four final runs, the Superhit competition began. This is a one-hit-takes-all challenge to max out the amplitude while defying common sense and the laws of gravity.
Everybody made a scramble up the left wall of the pipe to drop in; as usual, the last hit on the right wall was the most popular launching point. You can see Kevin Rolland running up higher than anyone else... you'll see why in a minute.
This is Andrew Taylor doing a 1440 (!), stomped deep in the transition. Andrew was pumped on stomping this trick, and started right back up the wall claiming a 1620... he dropped in again, spun like a goddamn maniac and unbelievably, almost made the full rotation—until his tips connected with the coping and he ate transition like it was Thanksgiving dinner.
Mike Riddle's 900s and 1080s were one of the highlights of the Superhit. He was going absolutely huge, and tweaking the grab like he didn't know that he was 25 feet above a very solid deck. On this hit though, he pulled a classic skier mistake, the tweaked mute to binding release...
...to an antagonizingly long plummet back down to earth with one ski.
Don't worry though folks, he picked himself up like a champion, hiked back up and tossed a 1080 even bigger.Meanwhile, the most photogenic skier of the day was quietly adding a few feet to each hit as he pushed his 540 to ever greater heights. It takes a lot to be photogenic—you gotta go huge, grab forever, and wear something that sets you apart from everyone else. Frenchman Kevin Rolland passed perfectly for this role.
Here's Kevin's 540 mute during his finals run. In the Superhit competition, he decided to go a bit bigger...
Big enough? No, not yet...
That's more like it, Kevo!After the comp wrapped up, I stuck around long enough to grab this shot of Mike and Sarah...
...then headed for a few laps through the Blackcomb park. Everything was looking money, but this step-up booter seemed to be getting the most attention, so I set up to shoot a few sequences, just for the hell of it. I thought you might enjoy these:
Nice little shifty... this guy was killing it.
The flatspin 7, such a wonderful trick.And that does it for the 2007 World Skiing Invitational halfpipe. Riddle ended up taking both the halfpipe and the Superhit titles, with Kevin Rolland a close second, while Sarah had a lock on the women's division.Final resultsMen1. Mike Riddle2. Kevin Rolland3. Xavier Bertoni4. David Wise5. Matt HaywardWomen1. Sarah Burke2. Jess Cumming3. Roz Groenewoud4. Stephanie Sirianni5. Grete EliassenSuperpipe final results (.pdf)Men's Qualifying Results - Heat 1Men's Qualifying Results - Heat 2Men's Qualifying Results - Heat 3Women's Qualifying Results(all files in .pdf format)