words: Pat Bridges
photos: Ryan “Huggy” Hughes and Aaron Blatt
captions: Pat Bridges and Mary Walsh
In 1997, perennial Whiskey player and South Shore Soldier, Jimmy Halopoff sent it off the first X Games Big Air booter at Snow Summit, California and handily defeated the likes of Devun Walsh, Kevin Jones, and Peter Line by chucking a cab 540 melon. Fast forward seventeen years and a young French Canadian named Maxence Parrott multiplied Halopoff’s huck by three and added a trio of flips into the mix to became the 2014 X Games Big Air gold medalist.
On the evening of January 24th, 2014 the lights were shining bright over Aspen’s Buttermilk base area as ten of the most talented twisters in the big air game strapped in to see whose stunts would be good enough to get them onto the podium. With this being an Olympic year, halfpipe and slopestyle seem to have been bogarting the hype, yet tonight, national pride, quota spots, and Sochi hysteria took a backseat to what has become the best show in snowboarding, Winter X Games Big Air.
The format for the invite-only X Games Big Air is pretty simple. The field of ten riders is divided into two heats of five. The competition begins with each grouping being given twevle minutes to lap the poppy 60-foot dished0deck stepover. While each attempt is judged, only the best two tricks are counted and in turn added together to create a ranking with the three best competitors in each heat advancing to the six man finals. While Sage Kotsenberg and Halldor Helgason didn't move out of the elimination round, they each carried the flag for style in their own fashion. Methods, lobster flips and front cork tens off of the toes were what Halldor had on tap for Aspen and while he didn't end up in the finals, more importantly he didn't end up in an ambulance, which is a rarity for Iceland's favorite son at Winter X. Newly named US Olympic Slopestyle Team Member Sage Kotsenberg also steered clear of the triple cork fiesta by sending various double grab variations, including the two handed 1080 and the Holy Crail nuclear nosegrab Japan backside double cork 1080. It would seem that simply doing a triple cork also wasn't enough to insure a spot in the finals as 2013 X Big Air Champion and winner of Thursday's slopestyle qualifiers, Torstein Horgmo found himself amongst those contenders who would be sitting out the main event.
With the field cut down to six, Torgier Bergrem, Yuki Kodano, Seppe Smitts, Maxence Parrot, Stale Sandbech and Sven Thorgren were given an additional eighteen minutes to make their mark. Torgeir Bergrem put down a clutch backside 1620 triple to earn his spot in the finals, but had trouble in the later running. Seppe Smits has a fluid spin style that makes every move appear deceptively slow. While the ease of execution may leave the impression of a 900 or 1080, the fact of the matter is that he is actually pulling tricks like cab 1260 truck drivers. Sven Thorgren's slightly off-axis 1440 and 1620 attempts were amongst the most compelling attempts of the night. While triple corks are seemingly the trick du jour, being able to stomp a high-degree flat spin is arguably more difficult. Ståle Sandbech is currently the most consistent jumper on the circuit. Ståle also has an uncommon depth to his bag of tricks, which is equal parts style and technicality. Tonight the recently announced Norwegian Sochi slopestyle representative threw his patented single-hand double grab switch spins in the early running alongside higher scoring maneuvers like triple cork 1440's to earn a well deserved bronze. Seventeen-year-old Yuki Kadono set down a backside 1620 triple cork to land in a tie for the highest score of the finals. Unfortunately Yuki's second best trick, his switch backside 1620 triple cork wasn't clean enough to earn him the combined points necessary for the victory. This left French Canadian Maxence Parrot with the win. Maxence set the pace for tonight from his first drop and continued to match, if not better everyone else's efforts. Like Kadono, Parrot popped off a backside 1620 triple cork but found the fortitude to follow it up with a cab 1440 triple to seal the top spot. Tonight marks the first time that Max has made his way to the top of a Winter X podium in Aspen, but considering that he earned a silver in slopestyle in 2013, there's a good chance that it won't be his last.
First – Maxence Parrot
Second – Yuki Kadono
Third – Stale Sandbech
Fourth – Seppe Smits
Fifth – Sven Thorgren
Sixth – Torgeir Bergrem
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