This year, the Laax Open serves as the final qualifying event leading up to the pinnacle of the 2022 season and will respectively determine the future of many elite athletes. With the 2022 event scheduled for January 11-15, it’s time to take a look at who’s competing, and more importantly, who’s projected to win (with the obvious caveat that, especially given the current global situation, we can never be 100 percent certain who's going to be there until we see the rider list on the day).
Men’s slopestyle snowboarding is one of the fastest-progressing sports in the world.
Though the overall standard is sky high, there are a number of standout riders who frequent the finals. Firstly, past winners are attempting to defend their legacy. Riders like Sweden’s Niklas Mattsson (2021), America’s Chris Corning (2019) and Norway’s Ståle Sandbech (2015) all have what it takes to take the top spot. Now, stack these riders against the young guns of the mix, like Americans Jake Canter and Dusty Henricksen and Finland’s Rene Rinnekangas, and you have one of the heaviest hitting competitions in modern-day snowboarding.
While the women’s field is equally stacked with experienced veterans and talented newcomers, a group of usual suspects is predicted to take the top spots. Defending champ Jamie Anderson, fan-favourite Hailey Langland and emerging Japanese powerhouse Reira Iwabuchi are among those riders.
But like years past, all eyes will be on Austria’s megastar Anna Gasser. Despite holding one of the most impressive resumes in snowboarding, Gasser is yet to take gold in Laax. Will she rise to the occasion? And, will she bring her infamous cab triple cork to the competition?
Anna Gasser: First-ever Cab Triple 1260
Laax is home to the most progressive parks in Europe, and it’s no surprise that the resort houses the world’s longest competition halfpipe. At 21m wide, with seven-metre-high walls, this icy arena was built to boost riders to record-setting heights and push the limits of the sport.
Now, the infamous halfpipe is graced by some of the most exciting and innovative men's riders in the sport. The list starts with the Japanese pacesetters: Yuto Totsuka, Ruka Hirano and Ayumu Hirano. Totsuka will return to defend his 2021 crown, Ruka Hirano is coming off a win at the World Cup season opener, and Ayumu Hirano made history when he landed the first triple cork in competition at Dew Tour 2021. Needless to say, their ability to top the podium seems to be interchangeable on any given day.
Rivalling the Japanese dream team is the Australian duo made up of Scotty James and up-and-comers Valentino Guseli. For James, he’s aiming to make his way back to the top after a series of uncharacterized silver-medal efforts throughout the 2020-21 season, while 16-year-old Guseli hopes to shake up the rankings at his second showing in Laax.
Watch the player below to discover the story behind Valentino Guseli’s swift rise to stardom and how the 16-year-old Halfpipe prodigy plans to dominate the podium for years to come.
Val Guseli: Snowboarding's worst-kept secret
Regardless of who takes the win, Laax is set to be a mind-blowing precursor to this season’s ultimate finale.
Meanwhile, the women’s Halfpipe field is just as competitive. The Spanish veteran, Queralt Castellet, is set to lead the way alongside the up-and-coming Japanese triple threat of Mitsuki Ono, Sena Tomita and Haruna Matsumoto. All of them are no strangers to the Laax podium. The event is also expected to see the resurgence of American halfpipe prodigy Chloe Kim, who returned from a 22-month break to claim Laax 2021 gold.
Additionally, China’s Cai Xetung is a contender for the top spot in the event. Coming off an early-season win at Copper Mountain, the overall World Cup points leader will be aiming to better her 2020 silver medal performance.
Join us at Red Bull TV, where the finals will be exclusively screened on Saturday, January 15. The Slopestyle finals will air at 5:30pm CET and the Halfpipe finals at 9:30pm CET.