PISTE OFF – WHITECAP ALPINE
Words by Matt Coté | Photos by Bruno Long As he drives his skis through a mix of settled pow and thin...
In the event you were WiFi-less in a remote region of Rwanda, or chose skiing over couch surfing, then you probably saw that the Superbowl of freeskiing, X Games, took place this past weekend in a place where the beer flows like wine (sorry, we can never resist), Aspen, Colorado.
For those of you who did miss the array of action-packed sports stunts that were thrown, or are too lazy to riffle through the interweb for recaps, or just want to experience the extremeness again, we, your friendly neighbours at Forecast, have compiled a one-stop shop rundown of what went down, complete with all the moving images of the medalists. Let the games begins…
Following Maddie Bowman’s four-year reign, a new X Games Women’s Ski Superpipe queen was crowned, as the veteran Marie Martinod laid down a crisp run through the stunt ditch to take home the second X Games gold medal of her storied career.
Just behind her in second was the uber-smooth Ayana Onozuka, who skis the pipe like a hot knife through butter, while the aforementioned and always blistering Bowman took third.
The gentlemen’s side of things went a little less smoothly, as due to fluctuating temperatures and rapidly changing speeds, the majority of the men’s field had a tough time adapting to the challenging condition of the pipe, which resulted in some wrecks that made Sportscenter’s crash reel all the more cringing.
Not Aaron Blunck though. The bleach-blonde and always-smiling 20-year-old came into the event with six X Games appearances under his belt, but no hardware around his neck, which may have been the wick that lit the flame of his superb showing, which laid claim to one of the most balls-to-the-walls pipe run in recent memory. Taking the second step on the podium was New Zealand newcomer Miguel Porteous, while Canada’s pride and joy Noah Bowman rounded out the podium in third.
The following morning, after a hard-fought qualifier on the opening day of X, the 12 men’s slopestyle finalists took to the unique course (which consisted of more rails than a Las Vegas bathroom followed by a trio of air-time monstrosities with side hits to boot… and boost) to defy gravity in every which way.
In the end, after being at the bottom of the pack after his first run, the 2016 AFP Men’s Slopestyle World Champion Øystein Bråten showed everyone under the sun that he had the right stuff during his second and final kick at the can, while McRae Williams willingly settled for second and another bronze came home to Canada in the hands of Alex Beaulieu-Marchand.
Later that evening, history was made in many forms, as the inaugural Women’s Ski Big Air at X Games Aspen wowed the 20,000+ crowd. Throughout the proceedings, progression was the name of the game, with Kelly Sildaru looking like the female version of TJ Schiller with both way switch 10 tweaked mutes, and the legendary Kaya Turski unleashing a massive switch double cork 10… yeah, you read that right.
In the end though, the Euros earned the brightest stripes, as Germany’s Lisa Zimmermann dumped out a switch dub of her own to take the win, with Sildaru scoring the silver and Switzerland’s Giulia Tanno taking third.
Shortly thereafter, Men’s Ski Big Air absolutely went off, with so many triples being tossed that mathematicians are still trying to make sense of it all. After a scary start, which saw the second competitor of the evening, Luca Schuler, land tips first on a trip and sledded off by ski patrol (although we can now happily report that he’s a-okay, having only sustained a concussion), all seven stalwarts were sending it to the bottom of the landing, and somehow stomping… eat your Wheaties, kids.
After a neck-in-neck dual between James ‘Woodsy’ Woods and Henrik ‘E-Dollo’ Harlaut, which ended with the two being tied on not only their two, but three highest individual scores, the win went to Woodsy (his first X Games gold) thanks to his tie-breaking fourth highest score, while Harlaut was hyped on the silver, and Kai Mahler’s otherworldly carving triple cork 16s brought home the bronze.
And last but not least, after a week’s worth of welcomed sunny skies, Sunday morning also dawned bright for the final go-around of the games, Women’s Ski Slopestyle.
To no one’s surprise, last year’s winner, Kelly Sildaru, who is single handedly sending the women’s side of the sport to another stratosphere, became back-to-back champ with quite possibly the most stellar slopestyle run in the history of the fairer gender, while relative newcomer Tess Ledeux scored second in her rookie appearance at X Games, and last year’s bronze medalist Johanne Killi made it two-for-two.
On behalf of everyone at Forecast, congrats to all of the winners, medalists and competitors at this year’s X Games Aspen, and to the good people at ESPN for putting on another spectacular show. For more on this year’s X Games, and to check out the full results, be sure to visit xgames.com, and to see how the event affected the AFP World Tour Rankings, go to afpworldtour.com.