Posts Tagged ‘freeskiing’

X Games Aspen 2015 has been quite the game changerfor both action sports and for me personally.  I decided to immerse myself in the social media experience and as a result, had the time of my life.  It’s really unbelievable how much social media has changed the X Games experience.  It allows us to connect to fellow fans from all around the world, staff who can give us a behind-the-scenes peek, and even the athletes.  When this year’s competitors weren’t busy Instagramming and Tweeting, they participated in some of the most intense battles for first, resulting in a lot of progression and the changing of guards.

Best Female Athlete – Chloe Kim (Snowboard) Despite some criticism for having to be reminded to grab (let’s just hope she was just nervous), Chloe Kim killed it in the SuperPipe.  She had a natural flow, and she proved to be the toughest high school freshman, winning gold after chipping her tooth in a gnarly crash during practice.

Best Male Athlete – Danny Davis (Snowboard)

As I posted on Twitter, Danny Davis had so much style that even my mom knew he should be in first.  He never lost his cool, throwing down the top-qualifying run at the end of eliminations and edging out a high-flying Taku Hiraoka on his final run.

Newcomer to Watch – Christy Prior (Snowboard)
Taking bronze your first X Games is quite the feat.  Christy Prior had the technical skills and the style to make her Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle one to remember.  She is definitely here to stay.

Most Dramatic Finals – Men’s Ski SuperPipe
The gorgeous sight of the sun disappearing behind the mountains provided a dramatic backdrop of this competition, where the men kept going bigger and harder.  It was cool to see the progression and the emotions, and everybody was on edge over which country would rise to the top (U.S., Canada, or France) until the very end.

Best Trick – Sage Kotsenberg’s Backside 1260 Off the Heels (Snowboard)
Amidst the buzz of Big Air and Spencer O’Brien’s 900, Sage Kotsenberg slipping a new trick with a lot of his signature flair.  He didn’t get nearly enough recognition for innovation so I’m giving it to him here.

Picture Perfect Moment – Yiwei Zhang shoots for the crescent moon.
 photo wxg15-1_zpsvlggpj21.jpg By Christian Murdock/Associated Press.  From sfgate.com
The juxtaposition of the moon and Yiwei Zhang in the Men’s Snowboard SuperPipe elimination gives the shot an out-of-this-world quality.  The spray of snow in the corner is the perfect embellishment, as it is reminiscent of smoke coming from a rocket.

Best Moment Outside Competition – X Games Extra Show

Okay, I may be a little biased since I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ask Chloe Kim a question on the show (and chat about my dad’s office decor with Jack Mitrani off-air).  However, snowboarding fans have long known that Jack and Craig McMorris are a winning duo, and it’s great that X Games has brought them on to show the fun side of the event.

Most Educational Moment – Drones at the X Games
Finally, a use for drones that doesn’t make people cringe!   They’re bringing in a new perspective on the competition, and it will be interesting to see how they change action sports photography.

Greatest Comeback – Nick Goepper (Ski)
After not qualifying for the finals, Nick Goepper could have thrown in the towel.  However, he got in as a last minute replacement and brought his A game.  Sure his victory might have resulted from some good fortune, but it was mostly skill and level head.

Most Inspirational – Chris Devlin-Young (Mono Skier X)
Fifty three-year-old Chris Devlin-Young proved that one should never let age or disability get in the way of the gold.  He won the first Mono Skier X gold and still has the skill to dominate the races.

Lifetime Achievement Award – Simon Dumont (Ski)
 photo wxg15-2_zpsmtfho88a.jpg
By Garth Milan/Red Bull Content Pool.  From redbull.com
Freeskiing would not be where it is without Simon Dumont.  He’s had his ups and down at Winter X, but he always puts on a good show and tries to push the sport.  He could’ve bowed out with the hard slam he took (especially already being injured), but he still gave fans one final show.

I’m bummed that there are still pronunciation issues and name inaccuracies, but hopefully that will improve with him. However, I had a blast dedicating my weekend to the X Games.I wound up only getting four of my predictions for gold right, but I enjoyed the surprises. Congratulations to all the winners and mad props to those who got back up after a hard slam to medal.  I also want to wish a speedy recovery to the less lucky ones: Henrik Harlaut, Levi LaValle, Alex Beaulieu-Marchand, and Mike Schultz.

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I had another post to write, but with the X Games kicking off tomorrow, I wanted to make predictions for some of the events. It’s too fun to not do it. I’m also doing Fantasy Freeride League again (click here – it’s not too late to join).

Ski Big Air – Bobby Brown
Men’s Ski Slopestyle – Gus Kenworthy
Women’s Ski Slopestyle – Emma Dahlström
Men’s Ski Superpipe – David Wise
Women’s Ski Superpipe – Maddie Bowman
Snowboard Big Air – Yuki Kadono
Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle – Mark McMorris
Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle – Jamie Anderson
Men’s Snowboard Superpipe – Greg Bretz
Women’s Snowboard Superpipe – Chloe Kim

To commemorate two decades of competition and innovation, X Games Austin compiled a series of milestones titled “20 Years 20 Firsts”.  Fans could vote on their favorite, and the winner was Elena Hight stomping the first ever double backside alley-oop rodeo.

The list inspired me to create one of my own.  Since this year’s X Games marks my fifteenth year of following the competition (I started watching in 1999), I decided to countdown my top fifteen firsts at X Games.

15. Jake Brown’s 720 in Skateboard Big Air (2007) – The subsequent fall overshadowed his history-making achievement, and while the horror will forever be etched in my mind, Jake’s daring trick deserves to be remembered as well.

14. TJ Schiller’s double cork 1620 in Ski Big Air (2011) – I used to be able to keep up with the math, but then TJ came along and made me wish I had a calculator.  Although he may have had to settle for second, he raised the bar for freeskiing.

13. Eito Yasutoko becomes the first Asian gold medalist in Men’s Vert Skating (2000) – He was the first Asian I saw win an X Games event (I missed seeing Ayumi Kawasaki the previous year).  It gave me something to relate to and proved that action sports is truly global.

12. Tucker Hibbert wins the first Snocross race at X (2000) – Never did I think I would be into snowmobiles, but watching 15-year-old Tucker become the youngest X Games gold medalist, beating out his father in the process, got me interested.
15y15f-12 photo 000204tucker_i_zps80512410.jpg
Photo by Aaron Kores/ESPN.com

11. Ashley Fiolek becomes the first deaf X Games medalist in Women’s Moto X Super X (2009) – Ashley’s story is so inspiring and to see her win showed that with hard work, determination, and skill, you can overcome great odds.

10. Elena Hight’s double backside alley-oop rodeo in Women’s Snowboard Superpipe (2013) – Elena’s achievement proved that gender doesn’t matter, just innovation.  The fact that she won the vote is an encouraging step for female action sports athletes in overcoming the glass ceiling.

9. Zacky Warden’s bike flip backflip to late tailwhip in BMX Big Air (2013) – There are so many things going on in that trick combo that it’s hard to break it down without slow-mo.  The creativity and technicality is mind-blowing.

8. Torstein Horgmo’s triple flip in Snowboard Big Air (2011) – Although it may have been more flip than cork, no one thought a triple anything was possible.  Torstein took the chance and set in motion the events that would change snowboarding.

7. Fabiola da Silva and Ayumi Kawasaki compete in the Men’s Vert Skating (2001) – Thanks to the Fabiola Rule, both ladies’ scores were judged against the men.  Although neither qualified for the finals, it opened doors and foreshadowed Fabiola’s future boundary-shattering accomplishments.
 photo ayumikawasaki_zpsf7a696be.jpg
Ayumi Kawasaki in the prelims. Photo by Bakke/Shazamm/ESPN (from Skatelog)

6. Caleb Wyatt’s no-handed to no-footed backflip on snow in Moto X Best Trick (2004) – As backflips were starting to become the norm, Caleb took it to a whole new level while on tricky terrain.  He shut up all the haters, and heck the whole thing even inspired poetry.

5. Kevin Robinson’s double flair in BMX Vert Best Trick (2006) – Kevin is best known for his flair, and now he’ll be immortalized for doing the first double flair.  The highlight of watching it was telling my mom that this is where the rider we saw a few years back is and having her root for Kevin too.

4. Vicki Golden becomes the first female freestyle motocross competitor in Moto X Best Whip (2013) – When I got into action sports, I fantasized about being the first female FMX rider at the X Games.  People told me it wasn’t possible for any woman to ride with the boys, but Vicki proved them wrong.

3. Travis Pastrana’s double backflip in Moto X Best Trick (2006) – This was the first time I remember being completely unsure of the outcome because a double backflip on a dirt bike seemed so far-fetched.  The suspense, the glorious payout, and the mutual admiration of both fans and non-fans alike made this one of the best moments ever.
 photo travis-pastrana-double-backflip-xgames_zpsc0ba4b4a.jpg
Photo by Christian Pondella/Red Bull Photo Files (from Motorcycle-USA)

2. Travis Pastrana wins the first Moto X gold (1999) – I had to put Travis twice because if it weren’t for him, I would have never gotten into FMX and be where I’m at.  He was the perfect ambassador for this new sport, and the rest is history.

1. Tony Hawk’s 900 in Skateboard Best Trick (1999) – This was the other moment from X Games that changed my life forever.  The sheer determination, coupled with the support from his fellow skaters and the disregard for competition rules, summed up what action sports was all about and inspired me to never give up.

I had quite a few gripes about both the U.S. and Canadian coverage of Olympic snowboarding and freeskiing (and apparently my friends did as well).  It highlighted the inequality that’s rampant in both action sports and media, but that’s a post for another day.  Right now I want to focus on one of the good things that came out of this: the increased opportunity to explore the science behind skiing and snowboarding.  This is a great way to get action sports fans interested in science and scientists interested in action sports.

NBC paired with the National Science Foundation to create a series videos exploring the Science and Engineering of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.  They’d done a similar series in 2010, but now they have gone past just a cursory coverage of sports, looking at halfpipe engineering and snow.  There’s also the addition of slopestyle skiing.

If you’re subscribed to The New York Times, you can get access to their interactive stories, which break down gold medal-winning runs and the keys to success.  They’re definitely worth checking out just for the composite photography.  Those without a subscription can catch some of the videos on Hulu.

The blog Physics Buzz did a podcast about snowboarding.  They explained the triple cork better than I ever did, and there’s a link to a post that breaks down the physics of one.

We can’t forget about the Paralympians, especially with the debut of boardcross this year.   Live Science shared an article about the technology that helps these athletes do things their able-bodied peers can do.  I want to take this time to congratulate Evan Strong for grabbing the first U.S. Paralympic gold in Sochi, being a part of the American sweep in men’s boardercross with Michael Shea and Keith Gabel, and making his way onto an upcoming Wheaties box:

Wheaties/Evan Strong

Finally, I came across a surprising mention to snowboarding while listening to the linguistic podcast, A Way with Words.  The term “wind down the windows” caught the attention of host Martha Barnette because it’s becoming a rather dated image (I remember winding down the windows in my dad’s old pick-up as a little kid).  It’s been pretty cool seeing and hearing snowboarding and freeskiing pop up in the most unexpected places.

Could Winter X been any more dramatic this year?  As the final ski and snowboard event before the Olympics, there was a lot of anticipating, predicting, and wondering.  While the favorites tried to stake a claim on the gold, the underdogs and those who would have to wait another four years grabbed the opportunity to showcase their talent.  There was Shaun White’s “will he or won’t he” question of attendance and an on-line debate over spins versus style.  Above all, in a sport that probably will never see the Olympics, one man turned tragedy into triumph in a celebration of brotherly love, going big, and following your passion.

Best Female Athlete – Lindsey Jacobellis (Snowboard)
Although Kelly Clark deserves all the acclaim for being the winningest female athlete in the X Games, we cannot forget about Lindsey Jacobellis, who is now the female athlete with the most gold.  Her smart riding and consistency allowed her to obtain her eighth one in the Snowboard X finals and dominate the field, Olympics be damned.

Best Male Athlete – Tucker Hibbert (Snowmobile)

Speaking of dominance, no man has seven-peated at X until Tucker Hibbert crossed the SnoCross finish line.  He also has the most National wins so this really isn’t a surprise.  His hard work and discipline is as much to credit as his talent.

Newcomer to Watch – Chloe Kim (Snowboard)

You know an athlete is awesome when the only thing keeping her from the Olympics is her age.  Forget the Shaun White and Ayumu Hirano comparisons; Chloe Kim made a name for herself in the Women’s Superpipe with her high-flying, easy-going style.  The future of women’s snowboarding has arrived!

Most Dramatic Finals – Men’s Ski Slopestyle
The Men’s Ski Slopestyle finals had so many moments to remember: Andreas Hatveit’s X Games swang song, the first triple cork in an X Games ski slopestyle contest, and the first repeat winner in ten years.  On top of that, we had an excellent mix of style and spins, as well as proof by Nick Goepper that if at first you don’t succeed, do it better on your next run.

Best Trick – Danny Davis’s switch method (Snowboard)
XGAspen14-1 photo wxg14-2_zps7454d242.jpg
From Chris Wellhausen / Transworld Snowboarding
In an era where most riders spin to win, Danny Davis aired out a a huge switch method in the Men’s Superpipe finals.  While it might not look as fancy, the technical skill it required, along with the opportunity for self-expression, was exactly what propelled him to the top and what snowboarding needs to not forget.

Picture Perfect Moment – Mark McMorris receives his slopestyle silver medal from his mom.
Technically this is a video, and it’s not pro quality. However, the moment is too adorable to not recognize. Plus it’s nice to see Mark McMorris in good spirits after his gnarly crash.

Best Moment Outside Competition – the on-line Snowboard Big Air debate
Style versus math—what should count more?  When Halldor Helgason threw down a sick method, he made a statement and got people talking.  Add in some damning Tweets from pioneers like Pat Moore and Todd Richards, and it was clear that snowboarding is in need of some self-reflection and possibly a revolution (no pun intended).

Most Educational Moment – Jossi Wells show us how to land on your feet when things go awry. (Ski)
Big Air competitors are expected to wipe a lot.  Jossi Wells seemed to be immune to that, thanks to quick thinking  and physics.  The minute he knew the trick wasn’t going to work, he stretched out his arms and legs to slow down.  The increased air resistance bought him time to right himself and ski away.

Greatest Comeback – Kaya Turski (Ski)
Just four months after ACL surgery that involved a new technique, Kaya Turski came back to show why she is the top Women’s Ski Slopestyle competitor.  Her competitors, Maggie Voisin in particular, did not make it easy, but her mastery of the rails put her ahead of the back and on the road to Sochi gold.

Most Inspirational – Colten Moore (Snowmobile)

There was no a dry eye watching the Freestyle Snowmobile finals.  Colten Moore didn’t just come back from separating his pelvis; he returned after losing his brother in the same contest last year.  Some would walk away or at least take more time to recuperate physically and mentally, but Colten gave the ride of his life.  Regardless of your personal faith, it was obvious that Caleb was right there by his side.

Lifetime Achievement Award – Gretchen Bleiler (Snowboard)
XGAspen14-2 photo wxg14-1_zpsbd08cbf6.jpg
From Mahala Gaylord / The Denver Post
Gretchen Bleiler has been one of the most influential female snowboarders.  She’s the first woman to land a Crippler 540 and the first female action sports athlete to appear on the cover of the ESPN the Magazine.  Her visibility and enthusiasm helped the ladies of Superpipe get noticed, and her comeback from a horrifying eye injury is nothing short of miraculous.  Even though she won’t be on the X Games leaderboard, Gretchen’s influence will undoubtedly still be felt.

I’d like to conclude this wrap-up with my predictions for the Olympics, which has continued to change with the onslaught of injuries:
Snowboard Slopestyle – Max Parrot and Jamie Anderson
Snowboard Halfpipe – Iouri Podladtchikov and Kelly Clark
Ski Slopestyle – Nick Goepper and Kaya Turski
Ski Halfpipe – David Wise and Maddie Bowman

Usually thinking about the X Games a week later brings back fond memories and inspirational moments.  Although we still have that, the mood is clouded by sad news.  Snowmobile and ATV rider Caleb Moore has died.  The world of action sports will miss him, and the X Games may not be the same.

I debated whether I should continue with my usual wrap-up of the best moments.  The answer is yes.  Caleb was doing what he loved, and let’s celebrate his life and accomplishments, along with all the others at the X Games.

Best Female Athlete – Jamie Anderson (Snowboard)
This is her tenth X Games appearance, and look at how far she has come. From racing Boarder X with her sister to getting back-to-back golds in Slopestyle, Jamie is just unstoppable. Whatever sort of zen she reaches while hugging trees is evident on the course with her smooth riding and flawless tricks.

Best Male Athlete –Henrik Harlaut (Ski)

Henrik not only stomps his first triple cork, but he nose butters it. Those little touches of style is what makes a stand-out athlete and why he medaled in both Big Air and Slopestyle. Best of all though is his giant smile. This guys is out there having a good time, and that is how things should be.

Newcomer to Watch – Ayumu Hirano (Snowboard)
I’ve said a lot about him already, and the clip below does a good job of highlighting his amazing skills. If you didn’t know who he was at the beginning of the SuperPipe finals, you definitely knew him afterward.

Most Dramatic Finals – Snowboard Big Air
For the second year in a row, Snowboard Big Air made me want to run around and scream. Instead my facebook friends got a ramble of things that made no sense to them until I related it to watching a dramatic movie or TV show. The odds were against Torstein Horgmo and Mark McMorris, but when the time came to deliver or walk away empty-handed, they gave us new tricks. Which brings me to the next category…

Best Trick – Torstein Horgmo’s switch backside triple cork 1440 (Snowboard)
It’s easy to get tired of the spinning, but when you think about what switch means (the analogy X Games commentators love to use is throwing a fastball with your non-dominant hand), you have to be impressed by the skills and the balls it takes to pull a trick like Torstein’s.

Picture Perfect Moment – Ski Big Air podium is filled with friends.
 photo Winter_X_Games_Aspen13_10_1_zpsa6e8b052.jpg
From Christian Pondella / Red Bull Content Pool
This photo sums up the camaraderie that happens within action sports. When one person wins, everyone wins.

Best Moment Outside Competition – Tucker Hibbert gets his first professional haircut in 15 years
At first, I was wondering why was this even an article, but the story behind why he wound up at Uncle Jack’s Parlor is really amusing. His crew member’s buzzcut is too.

Most Educational Moment – How many rotations are in a 1980? (Ski)
Freeskiing has progressed so quickly that I had to start doing math again to keep up with the tricks. Alex Schlopy’s 1980 attempt required him to do a whopping five and a half rotations (which he completed but did not land).

Greatest Comeback – Levi LaVallee (Snowmobile)
For the past two years, we’ve seen (or rather heard) Levi in the booth, but he has returned to the sled in good form. He took home two golds (Freestyle and Speed and Style) and was going to enter the two more snowmobile events before tearing a muscle in his back. Nonetheless, he is back in action!

Most Inspirational – Elena Hight (Snowboard)
I’m a firm believer that girls can do anything the guys can, and Elena proved that to be true by stomping the trick that has eluded Shaun White, a double backside alley-oop rodeo. This wasn’t the first time she’s done something major: she was the first woman to do a 900 at just the age of 13. On top of going big, she promotes eco-friendly style with Repreve and is on the Boarding for Breast Cancer Team. She’s an excellent role model for both young women and men.

Lifetime Achievement Award – Caleb Moore (Snowmobile)
Even though this was only his third X Games, Caleb and his brother Colten have done so much for freestyle snowmobiling. No one thought these ATV riders from Texas would place very high, but they have proven to be both skilled and memorable. Caleb’s tricks were always impressive (check out his rock solid in the footage below), and he was working hard to get a gold. He embodied the determination and joy that is a part of the action sports lifestyle. Ride on, Caleb.
Caleb Moore photo calebmoore_zpsaca8a9ac.jpg
From Rockstar Energy Drink US facebook page

Saturday was a very busy day, especially in snowboarding.  There was a lot of drama and sick tricks.  I’ve got a lot of notes so let’s not waste any time.

However, I do want to give an update on Caleb Moore, who crashed on Thursday.  He underwent surgery for a heart contusion and then suffered complications involving his brain.  Current updates say that he’s still in critical condition.  My heart goes to him and his family.  Let’s all hope for better news tomorrow.

Ski thoughts

  • Why is it called Round 1 when Round 2 is the finals?
  • Gus Kenworthy lands first triple rodeo Japan air in Round 1 of Big Air. Talk about throwing down the gauntlet.
  • Triples are key again.
  • Henrik Harlaut’s style is giving him high scores.
  • 1980 is a year, not a trick (unless you’re Alex Schlopy). That’s the equivalent of five and half rotations by the way.
  • Everyone’s reaction to the 1980 attempt: O__O
  • Henrik is skiing with his goggles backwards and eyes closed. Is there a method to the madness?
  • Jossi Wells gave us sick style and a nice break from all that spinning.
  • A corked 540 looks really slow but still cool.
  • Going 100 feet downhill via the jump with GoPro looks like you’re flying.
  • There is such a thing as too much air. Ask Bobby Brown.
  • Gus changes his mind from doing a triple to a double cork mid-air. That’s some quick thinking.
  • The judges really liked Henrik’s nose-butter double cork 12.
  • Apparently the jump designers learned a few things from aerials.
  • Kai Mahler missed a few jumps due to a potential knee injury, but he came back to do a double Japan air and a switch double misty 1620.
  • Henrik nose-butters his triple. WTF.

Snowboard thoughts

  • Mark McMorris did 13 jumps in Big Air and remained in top condition for Men’s Slopestyle the next day.
  • Rookie Max Parrot threw down some triples, which he just learned recently. Forget the White versus McMorris showdown; it’s Parrot versus McMorris.
  • The Financial District elements crack me up. You’ve got the Deposit, the Down Payment, and the Money Booter. I suppose big investment = high pay off.
  • Lighting was starting to affect the snowboarders. Only two out of eight landed their second runs, and the highest score was 65. Also, I didn’t realize they had different lenses for different conditions.
  • Shaun White sketched in beginning of his last run on Cab 270 on rail, and that seemed to throw him off a little. He went down on a double cork.
  • “Perfect” was the word of the day. Jumps were packed so tightly that you needed to be flawless to complete your run.
  • Mark looked unfazed by everything.
  • Max couldn’t better his score, but hey, silver is definitely not bad for a rookie.
  • Peetu Piiroinen did well until a hand drag. He had a beautiful rodeo, but since he didn’t do a triple (the word of the weekend), it wasn’t enough.
  • Instead of cruising through his victory run, Mark does a full run that included a cab 1260 double cork and a backside triple cork 1440. He wound up improving his score to a record-breaking 98. He also looked really good on the rails.
    markmcmorri_zps12aad757 photo markmcmorri_zps12aad757.jpg
    By Brett Wilhelm /ESPN Images (via X Games official site)
  • Jamie Anderson was spotted hugging a tree in the beginning of Women’s Slopestyle. It’s her form of meditation apparently.
  • Enni Rukajärvi had first full run of the day, and she was grabbing with a broken wrist.
  • Rookie Aimee Fuller went for broke on backside 7 but wipes out.
  • You gotta spin both ways to get the points. Cab and frontside look too similar in Sina Candrian’s run
  • Enni was really good but reverbed at Money Booter, and the judges (along with the course) are just as hard on the ladies about little mistakes.
  • I wonder if more girls are going to meditate next year. It seemed to put Jamie in the zone. XG13Aspen3 photo jamie-anderson_zpsee8c0e77.jpeg
    By Matt Morning / ESPN Images (via
    The Ski Channel)
  • Later on in the evening, Elena Hight stomped the first ever backside double alley-oop rodeo in a contest! No one else has that trick except Shaun White, and he hasn’t landed it in contest. That ought to shut up the people who say women’s snowboarding is boring.
  • Kelly Clark answered the challenge with a frontside 1080.
  • Rookie and alternate Ariel Gold had a sick cab 900.
  • “The girls want to rip, and the girls are ripping.” – Gretchen Bleiler (who needs to be a commentator when she’s not competing)
  • Kaitlyn Farrington got points for committing on her grabs.
  • Gretchen was recovering from a shattered eye socket and concussion
  • Torah Bright’s strategy this year is “totally boarding”: doing all three snowboarding events. It’s really helping with her versatility and confidence.
  • Wax tech = god (according to Gretchen)
  • Not perfect conditions b/c pipe slopes
  • Kelly has more technical difficulty and high amplitude, as well as no set ups.
  • Great amplitude from Hannah Teter
  • Kelly’s 1080 was 14 feet high. It was really hard to determine whether hers or Elena’s was better, but in the end, technicality ruled over innovation.  Check out Kelly’s blog post about the finals.
  • People are using “double rodeo” and “double cork” interchangeably. I thought they were different?

Congratulations to Mark McMorris (Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle), Jamie Anderson (Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle), Henrik Harlaut (Ski Big Air), and Kelly Clark (Women’s Snowboard SuperPipe) on their victories!

Prediction Status: 3/6
Quote of the Day: “Wait, those are girls?!” – my mom, midway through Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle finals
Trick of the Day: Henrik Harlaut’s nose-butter double cork 12
henrikharlaut_zps36801747 photo henrikharlaut_zps36801747.jpg
By Josh Duplechian/ESPN Images (via X Games official site)

Question of the Day:
What IS the difference between a double rodeo and a double cork?

The last two days have been a test of my determination to watch the X Games. I wound up missing Day 1 and part of Day 2 because of work and a photoshoot. On top of that, AT&T doesn’t have WatchESPN access so I had to go hunting for a TV with cable, dinner and Mountain Dew in tow. When I found one, I wound up losing my pen. It’s been a fight to see the action, but I’m glad I was able to catch what I did.

Ski thoughts

  • The TrickTrack on the X Games site is really cool, but it takes away part of the fun of my job.
  • Sarah Burke would’ve been proud of what went down in Women’s Ski SuperPipe. Everyone except Jen Hudak (who’s coming back from injury) did a 900.
  • Annalisa Drew, a rookie, tried to go for the 1260. That’s definitely a way to get noticed.
  • The walls are 22 feet. Roz Groenewoud soared 14+ feet over that.
  • The defending gold medalist goes last, which creates potential drama. In this case, we had Maddie Bowman snagging the top spot early on and Roz trying to knock her off.
  • In the Men’s SuperPipe final, Simon Dumont made a comeback. He gave quite an impressive performance considering it’s his first comp after his injury and he’s got pins in his wrist and no poles.
  • Newcomer Aaron Blunck showed a lot of potential. He goes fast and huge, but he’s gotta learn to not be so squirrelly.
  • Kevin Rolland had good run until he clipped his ribs on last trick. That looked like a painful way to go down.
  • I’ve heard a lot about the effectiveness of visualization, and maybe the claims are true. It seemed to have helped David Wise, who was shown spinning his helmet.
  • He did the first back-to-back double cork 1080, spinning in both directions.
  • Joffrey Pollet-Villard got so much amplitude, over 23 feet.
  • Torin Yater-Wallace put up a really awesome fight for gold, especially since he was coming off of an injury and doing tricks he hadn’t tried since summer.
  • David Wise got second highest score in Ski SuperPipe history. The highest belongs to Candide Thovex.davidwise_zps27b09eba photo davidwise_zps27b09eba.jpg (From Aspen/Snowmass Instagram)

Snowboard thoughts

  • Triples (corks and rodeos) are the trick to winning Snowboard Big Air. Because the standings are determined by your two highest scores, it’s good to have different variations in the bag.
  • I did wish the judges gave more style points though.
  • Halldor Helgason took a hard fall and wound up getting a concussion. Hope he gets well soon!
  • Ståle Sandbech got an early lead with the competition trailing behind by more than 20 points for much of the evening.
  • Backside triples are harder than Cab triples so Mark McMorris’ only got a 38. It’s unbelievable to consider that triple corks were the winning trick last year.
  • Also crazy is Ulrik Badertscher getting a low score for a 1620.
  • Guys were crashing all over the place trying their triple cork variation.
  • The Big Air finals really proved that you can’t be too comfy sitting up top, especially when you’re against a hot bed of talent. Ståle didn’t try to better his score (not that I blame him because the guys were getting really beat-up), and that wound up costing him.
  • There could not have been a more dramatic conclusion. Last two riders on their last jumps, both former gold medalists, do tricks that have never been stomped in competition (and in Mark’s case, never done period) after spending most of the contest wiping out. Both Mark McMorris and Torstein Horgmo made it count although they both seemed really surprised too.

Snowmobile thoughts

  • Even though I wasn’t present to see the contest, I did watch the video of Levi LaVallee’s run and he has definitely made a comeback.
  • I also want to send well wishes to the Moore brothers. Caleb Moore has had surgery for his heart contusion. Colton Moore has been treated for a dislocated pelvis.

Congratulations to our gold medalists: Levi LaValle (Snowmobile Freestyle), Louis-Felix Paradis (Snowboard Street and Real Street judges’ vote), Maddie Bowman (Women’s Ski SuperPipe), David Wise (Men’s Ski SuperPipe), and  Torstein Horgmo (Snowboard Big Air)!

Prediction Status: 2/3
Quote of the Day: “She would fall harder than any other girl, and she would get back up and do it again until she got it.” – Maddie Bowman, on Sarah Burke
Trick of the Day: Torstein Horgmo’s switch backside triple cork 1440, with Mark McMorris’ Cab triple underflip 1440 in a a close second
Inspiration of the Day: Simon Dumont – He came out for the fans despite having surgery last December. He couldn’t use poles and still got bronze.
Question of the Day: Do you think skiing is becoming more popular than snowboarding? (The New York Times thinks so.)

It’s that time of the year again. I would’ve been caught off-guard had the date for X Games Aspen been marked on my Fantasy Freeride League calendar (it’s been a busy month, and sadly, I’m missing all of Day One). Here are my predictions for some of the events.

Ski Big Air – Kai Mahler
Men’s Ski Slopestyle – Henrik Harlaut
Women’s Ski Slopestyle – Kaya Turski
Men’s Ski Superpipe – David Wise
Women’s Ski Superpipe – Maddie Bowman
Snowboard Big Air – Sebastien Toutant
Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle – Mark McMorris
Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle – Jamie Anderson
Men’s Snowboard Superpipe – Shaun White
Women’s Snowboard Superpipe – Torah Bright

Don’t forget to vote for the Real Snow winner. You have until Sunday.

The action sports world lost some key figures last year, and I thought I would pay tribute to them all here. The links are different videos I found of them.

Freeskier Sarah Burke died on January 19, nine days after crashing on the halfpipe. She suffered a cardiac arrest, which led to irreversible brain damage. She was a pioneer in her sport, being the first woman to do a 1080 and lobbying to bring freeskiing to the Olympics. Winter X Games 16 held a touching tribute that celebrated her contributions and her love of life. She was 29.

Freestyle BMX rider Mike Tag died on April 13 after a year-long battle with Stage ll Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A member of the FBM team, he is remembered for his burly street and trail riding, immortalized in videos like “1201” and “All Time Low”. He was 37.

Freestyle BMX rider Randy “The Don” Taylor was found dead on August 19 in his home. He was known for combining technicality with huge tricks in videos like “Stoked On Being Pumped”, “Road Fools 17”, and “Let’s Get Mystical”. He was 26.

Skate and snowboard pioneer Tom Sims died from cardiac arrest on September 12. He created the first snowboard with metal edges, the first women’s model, the first pro-model, and the first longboard for skateboarding. He also helped develop the first freestyle snowboarding contests and sponsored action sports legends like Christian Hosoi, Craig Kelly, Steve Fisher, and Tony Hawk. He was 62.

BMX racer Kyle Bennett was killed in a single-vehicle auto accident on October 14. He was the first rider to make the 2008 U.S. Olympic BMX team and is a three-time UCI World champion and NBL champion. He was 33.