By: Nick Lipton – Men’s Slopestyle now exists in a world of madness where the hammers of yesterday are the safety tricks of today. The top riders in this world don’t believe in gravity, pain, nausea or risk. Any sense of normality has died and what made you king yesterday won’t get you past the qualifier tomorrow. This constant progression has left past hero’s obsolete, unable to keep up, and continues to pave a road only the craziest or youngest riders can follow. Today’s Prelim continued to pave the way for what should be an insane Slopestyle Final come Sunday after Torstein Horgmo, the day’s top seed, set a high score record without as much as a smile. As usual, the win, the record and the hype did little to phase this seasoned pro’s sarcastic nature, “Now I think I’ll hit the gym for a few hours. I have some protein shakes, maybe I’ll pound them. Then I’ll sleep, to save energy.”
Torstein Horgmo broke the old record by combining some tech rail skills with a switch back 900, front 1080, doublecork 1080 line through the jumps. Each of Torstein’s jump tricks were better than or equal to any banger his competition could respond with. After Torstein shut the show down it was up to the other 16 riders to tornado their way into the Final. Eight riders, plus Torstein, ended up moving on, while the rest of the boys simply scratched their heads or pampered their bruises.
To make the Final you had to have multiple 900s, and one of them better be switch. You had to be able to slide a rail with style, land low in the tranny and keep your speed, and the 1080, while not mandatory, is becoming pretty freaking necessary.
Filling the 2nd spot was Chas Guldemond. The kid showed no fear, blasting off jumps and landing somewhere far past where a normal person would ever shoot for. Chas locked up 2nd by putting a line through the jumps entirely switch. After a Cab 1080 and switch back 720 Chas popped a huge switch method off the last hit. In all reality, a switch method the size of his could be one of snowboarding’s toughest accomplishments. Chas was hyped on the 2nd, but he’s got hidden plans for Sunday.
Still one of the most impressive jumpers on earth, Andreas Wigg brings something to the hill most can’t, raw power. This Viking warrior will whip around spins, huck switch and land stuff that would explode the knees of most people. The real trick to Andreas’s success though is his great style. Maybe he feels no fear, maybe he’s just that good, but either way Andreas has the ability to stay cool and calm even when the odds look bleak. Today Andreas felt he rode sketchy, “I want to do everything way smoother in the Final.” but when throwing switch back 900s, back rodeo 900s, and any other imaginable 900 variation, you wonder what he might consider improvement.
Torstein, Chas and Andreas are giants, and are always expected to podium, but if there’s one rule in this game, it’s watch out for the new guy. Sam Hulbert (4th), Brandon Reis (5th), Nick Poohachoff (6th), Ulrik Badertscher (7th) and Madison Ellisworth (8th) are all youngsters, and new to the pro circuit. Each of these young guns have 1080s on lock, 900s on an off day, and are learning new tricks on a constant basis. Their real ace in the hole though is hunger. Sam, after some nines and tens, threw a back 720 over the last jump that truly couldn’t have been any bigger without a pair of shattered legs. These kids aren’t just jumpers either, they slaughter rails too. With less to lose and a dream on their shoulders each of these guys could pull some magic Sunday, especially nut case Ulrik Badertscher. The only rider to land a 1620 and the most masochistic rider I’ve watched jump. Also, sitting on the bubble is Yale Cousino. The former rail jam champ is a good rider and could have a surprise or two waiting for the judges.
While these nine guys may have showed gusto today, Sunday will be a different story. Eric Willett, Sage Kotsenburg and Tyler Flanagan are waiting to defend their positions as the Dew Tour leaders. These pre-qualified young bucks took Breckenridge by the throat and have proven to be no joke over the last month. Keep a special eye out for Tyler. After proving his Breck’ win wasn’t a fluke with a 2nd place finish at the Mammoth Grand Prix Tyler has kept improving and learned a few new moves he’s sure to whip out Sunday. At only 16 years-old, little Tyler has the moves everyone wants and the desire to keep his place at the top.