You couldn’t have asked for a better day in Aspen for Winter X Games 15 on Wednesday – blue skies presided over a handful of practice sessions at Buttermilk Mountain, and the men’s and women’s Ski SuperPipe Elimination rounds - the first competitions of this season’s WXG - went down under the lights.
Competition kicks into full gear on Thursday, but Wednesday was all about testing out runs on the Slopestyle course and getting the first cracks at the snowboard and skier X courses, as well as the snowmobile freestyle course.Canadian snowboarders Sebastien Toutant and Mark McMorris were having a great time in Slopestyle practice, not a big surprise since the good friends frequently shred together, pushing each other to throw down at events around the world.
Sebastien Toutant and Mark McMorris Quick Facts
- Seb is 18 years old and lives in Montreal, Quebec
- Mark is 17 years old and lives in Regina, Saskatchewan
- Seb won January’s O’Neill Evolution in Davos, Switzerland
- And Mark finished in second place
- Both are rookies at Winter X Games 15
Although both riders are making their WXG debut this year, Seb received an invite in 2010 but an injury forced him to withdraw. “Last year I was invited so I was super pumped,” he remembers. “I had a really good start to the season, then at Air & Style I overshot the jump and broke my ankle. I was out for three months so I had to skip Winter X.”
He’s back in one piece and psyched to be in Aspen, to say the least. “[Riding at] Winter X has pretty much been my dream since I was nine years old,” he said after Wednesday’s practice session. “To be in Slopestyle and Big Air this year really means a lot to me; it’s probably the most major contest for me this season.”
I’m riding at my best, so it’s going to be really cool to see what happens on Friday
Mark plans to capitalize on his first WXG invite. “I’m trying to take it as just another contest and not get too worked up,” he said. “The course is good and I’m riding at my best, so it’s going to be really cool to see what happens on Friday for semis.”
Seb is also happy with the course, which consists of seven different hits, split between massive jumps and street-inspired rail features. Ever wonder how you would figure out a course like this without pounding yourself into the snow? We did.
“I just speed-check all the obstacles to check everything out and make sure I’ve got the right speed,” says Seb. Mark then added, “You need to understand the flow and the speed before you can start trying to put runs together. It’s fun to ride a new course, though; every feature is different.”
As is usually the case, the WXG Slopestyle course requires on-the-spot landings and a precise approach to make it from top to bottom without veering off-line and missing a feature. The field is comprised of the best snowboarders in the world, but a banger trick or two won’t guarantee a spot on the podium. The riders who can put together tech moves on the rails and progressive tricks on the jumps – all with a smooth, flowing style – will be the ones in line for gold.
Shaun White Slips Back Into Slopestyle
Speaking of gold, five-time WXG Slopestyle gold medalist Shaun White is back in the field after sitting out in 2010 to concentrate on SuperPipe. After a delay yesterday when his snowboard bag didn’t show up in Aspen when he did, he ran through practice sessions in both disciplines today just as cool as a cucumber, despite having been on snow only a few times since his gold-medal performance in Vancouver in February.
In fact, he “learned” a new frontside double cork 1080 in Slopestyle practice after only three attempts. He may not have logged as many recent hours on park features as his competitors, but everyone knows he possesses the skill to get busy when it counts. Can he return to double-gold glory this week? Anyone who’s seen him ride knows he can’t be counted out.
Shaun, Seb, Mark and Red Bull teammate Marko Grilc from Slovenia will face off against 12 other riders in Friday’s Slopestyle Elimination round. “That’s the really nervous part,” says Toutant. “You really want to make it through to the Final. Once you’re in the Final, you have three runs and the best one counts, so you go all in.”
The Dumont Delivers
Simon Dumont probably felt a bit of that nervousness in Wednesday night’s Ski SuperPipe Elimination round after his first run was cut short after his very first hit. His ski blew off on the landing of a double cork 1260 mute grab, putting all the pressure on run two to advance to the Final.
Pulling it together on his second visit to the pipe, Simon followed the double cork 1260 with a 900 mute grab, a double flair, an alley-oop 720 and a switch 720 mute grab to land in 5th, safely making the eight-man cut. He’ll now have a day off to prep for Friday’s main event.
Thursday’s WXG Events:
- Ski Slopestyle Men Elimination (Bobby Brown, Russ Henshaw and Elias Ambuhl)
- Ski Slopestyle Women Final (Kaya Turski, Grete Eliassen)
- Snowboard SuperPipe Men Elimination (Shaun White, Iouri Podladtchikov, Greg Bretz)
- Snowmobile Elimination/Round 1/Final (Daniel Bodin)
Check the broadcast schedule to find out when and where you can see the events.
MORE WINTER X COVERAGE:
- Winter X Games TV and Internet broadcast schedule
- Winter X Games on-site event schedule
- Check here for all of Red Bull's X Games-related content