Words: Mary Walsh
Photos: Ryan “Huggy” Hughes
Captions: Pat Bridges
While much of the hype generated by Winter X is contingent on the terms "double cork," "halfpipe," and "Shaun White," the X Games have made a conscious effort over the last couple of years to incorporate riders who usually are more focused on video parts than bib numbers. The Real Snow competition, which pits eight riders against one another in an early season video part showdown, has garnered accolades from X Games fans as well as the snowboard community and in an effort to showcase rail-riding prowess from the specialists in this genre of snowboarding, Real Snow's live onsite counterpart, X Games Snowboard Street has become a marquee event at Aspen.
Situated to the left of the iconic halfpipe and slopestyle courses, was this year's Street arena, a megalith of a build in its own right. On Friday afternoon, under greybird skies, ten of snowboarding's most celebrated rail riders were towed behind snowmobiles to the top of the drop in, as a crowd of spectators assembled below.
Snow Park Technologies created a multi-faceted set up that allowed for the wide variety of snowboard styles present to coexist. Part of the beauty of this event is just that, many riders whose video parts are put on repeat in DVD players all year long coalesce into one area, providing a veritable throwdown of creativity in one succinct event. As for the course itself, rider's right began with a sixteen-foot tall wallride that, if hit in the middle as opposed to end to end, dropped down into a tunnel beneath the rest of the set up, siphoning the rider toward an elbow hitching post. Next were two parallel features, perfect distance for rail-to-rail transfers. On the right was a long flat to down rail, and on the left, a closeout rail to down rail. The closeout offered multiple options, with a transition for redirects on the left, and a jump set up before it that allowed riders to clear a modest thirty-five feet to gap to the down section. While the course was surely sick, and a large step forward since last year's competition, the set up seemed to favor regular-footed riders, which was challenging for goofy competitors and was reflected in trick selection and scoring.
The contest began with two fifteen-minute heats, each comprised of five riders. Dropping in jam session succession, riders were scored on their best two runs, with the top three riders advancing to an eighteen-minute final.
The semifinal heats started off quickly with hammers being dropped one after another. Jaeger Bailey helped to kick things off with an alleyoop onto the wallride down through the tunnel to stall on the hitching post and 450 off. Dan Brisse followed suit with a switch hardway backside 270. The heats were running more like finals than semis. Dylan Alito came out charging in heat two, nearly touching coping on the wallride and utilizing more of the course than most other competitors. Brandon Hobush, who gained entry to the competition minutes before it started, showcased his savvy technical style with various rail combinations and a one-footer over the gap. Jonah Owen took to the wallride as well and kicked out a method from the downrail for good measure. Forest Bailey and Nick Visconti, gold and bronze finishers in 2012 respectively, exhibited strong showings, even though they didn't advance to the final round.
When the semifinals dust settled, it was Dan Brisse, Louif Paradis, Jaeger Bailey, Ryan Paul, Dylan Alito, and Dylan Thompson that advanced into finals. Looking at this roster of names, it is unlikely that a more diverse group of jibbers has ever been assembled at one venue, and it was clear as the clock started running that everyone was intent to show the breadth of their individual talent. Jaeger put another notch in the list of reasons he was awarded the prestigious SNOWBOARDER Magazine "Rookie of the Year" title with a deluge of tricks that began at spins on and off rails, one footers, and wallrides, and ended with flips and a switch McTwist off the hitching post. Like Alito, Jaeger touched all aspects of the set up. Kid is on fire. Brisse's powerhouse strength contributed to some crowd-wowing maneuvers, but during finals he wasn't consistently able to land the massive gaps he was attempting, which left him below the podium. Ryan Paul had been riding well all afternoon, putting down a gnarly 5050 270 to boardslide rail transfer. He landed a few signature flips, but lacked the consistency needed as well.
Dylan Thompson exhibited his usual tight and smooth riding, frontboarding the entire length of the flat downrail, landing a large wallride 270 out, and backside 450 to frontboard on the downrail, amongst other tricks. His aptitude landed him in third place at his first-ever X Games showing. Legend will tell that Dylan Alito spent the previous night before the contest, hunting big game cougars in the Aspen wilds, and yet his ferocity on hill was relentless as he attacked each section of the set up with a variety of 270 combinations, a 5050 to 360 gap over the down rail, and a half cab into the wallride. For his troubles, he also earned his first X Games medal, in handsome silver. But, it was Louif Paradis, who, after winning gold in Real Snow the day before, became the newest member of the Winter X double gold club. Louif exuded easy style each time he dropped in, taking the hardway often and touching down on switch backside 270s like they were just regular boardslides. As the competition continued, Louif sealed his winning fate with a litany of rail-to-rail transfers, including a mental frontboard to backlip from flat of the flat down rail to down rail.
Congratulations to all of the competitors for providing a barrage of rail tricks for a hungry crowd that was more than excited to watch and learn from the best. And of course, a thank you to Dylan Alito, Dylan Thompson, and Jaeger Bailey, for their celebratory three-shirtless-men salute at the end of the competition. Check our instagram for that ham.
First place – Louif Paradis
Second place – Dylan Alito
Third place – Dylan Thompson