This past weekend saw the return of the media fuelled Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado. British snowboarder Jenny Jones was looking for her 4th X Games gold while Shaun White was tracking a record 4th consecutive superpipe gold.
The Winter X Games is the biggest winter sports event of the year. Yes the Winter Olympics are huge, the TTR is massive and the F.I.S. is well the F.I.S. but there is something about the X Games. Is it the huge media circus that ESPN brings, the ridiculous amount of money from sponsors, the prize money or the crowds? There is skiing, snowboarding and nutcases who spend their time inverted on snowmobiles. There is ski/board/sno(mobile)cross, big air, superpipe and slopestyle on offer. The biggest names in the snowsports world are in town from Shaun White to Jamie Anderson.
Over the past few years freestyle skiing has rivalled the crowds, rivalry and excitement of snowboarding and the American loved snowmobile craziness. We have seen Jon Olsen, Tanner Hall and Candide Thovex wooing the crowds, sponsors and TV cameras, but Winter X Games was the year of the snowboard.
The weekend took off with a bang on Saturday when Kelly Clark became the first female snowboarder to land a 1080 (three full rotations) in the superpipe. She had tried the trick earlier in the month at the Burton European open but her endeavor paid off with a massive 1080 in her last run in the final. Combining great style, huge amplitude and a competition first. With Olympic Champion Torah Bright taking part in the slopestyle this year her impressive riding offered the crowds a convincing win.
The women's slopestyle also threw in a few surprises and some incredible riding. Britain's Jenny Jones, winner of the last two Winter X Games and the European Winter X Games golds, was up against an in-form Jamie Anderson and the up and coming Enni Rukajarvi. After laying down a solid run with some clean 540s into a big 720 finish it looked as if she had wrapped up her third gold in a row in Aspen, only to miss out to the 20 year old Finn. The scores were marginal but the luck was on Enni's side as her final run didn't look like it would surpass Jones until the judges scores hit the board. Though Jenny Jones does get to add an X Games Silver medal to her previous haul of three golds in two years.
For the men the Big Air was the first of the three competitions that really showcased how much men's snowboarding has progressed. Big crowds turned up looking to see is Seb Toutant could add to his Beijing Air & Style win and to see if Torstein Horgmo would throw down the triple cork (three inverted rotations while spinning four full rotations). Seb Toutant stepped up with a huge switch backside 12 leaving Torstein only one choice, after slamming in his first run he threw down the first ever competition triple cork 1440 (see below) to take the gold.
The men's superpipe was pretty much a formality, but still offered great entertainment with Shaun White taking a record fourth consecutive Superpipe gold at the Winter X Games in Aspen. Coming into the final Shaun White was sitting in second place to fellow Olympian Scotty Lago, but after an earlier disappointment he had something to prove. The 'flying tomato' came back with vengeance and a frankly astonishing score of 97.33 in his final run, proving his dominance in the half pipe.
The big surprise came in the slopestyle, the aforementioned White was hoping to wrap up another gold before the halfpipe final, yet failed to qualify leaving the likes of Seb Toutant, Mark McMorris and Torstein Horgmo fighting for the gold. The world's most famous snowboarder later admitted he could no longer compete with the best slopestyle riders. After the disappointment of coming second on the big air Seb Toutant was determined to beat Horgmo to the gold. The young Canadian had qualified with the highest score ever in slopestyle smashing his run with a 97, leaving him in a great form for the final and his super-styled final run including two double corks and two 1260s took the gold comfortably.
With two months until the European X Games in Tignes we don't have to wait long for more of the same. Hopefully we'll see Jenny Jones, Aimee Fuller and Jamie Nicholls flying the flag for us and picking us more medals.