Words and captions: Pat Bridges
Photos: Ryan “Huggy” Hughes
In June of 2010, a Norwegian regular footer found himself strapped in above a late season Lapland booter. With the cameras rolling, he dropped in and stomped what has become the most polarizing and decisive trick of the last decade. Two and a half years later that same rider, Torstein Horgmo, dug deep to unleash a switch backside 1440 triple cork to win the 2013 X Games Big Air and the fourth gold medal of his career.
In stark contrast to the frigid conditions that have greeted X-goers in years past, Winter X Games 17 has been blessed with unseasonably warm temps. While less than ideal for pow pursuits, when it comes to sending it under the lights, having something other than subarctic ice to touch down upon is a welcome change. In turn, the ten riders invited to test their tricks on the cherry 70-foot long SPT-sculpted stepover left nothing in reserve.
The semi finals saw several flat spin and abstract cork variations, but perhaps the most notable event of this initial round was Halldor Helgason's over-rotated triple back, which sent shudders throughout the crowd. Despite an extended course hold and having to be tobogganed off the slope, Halldor still left the faithful with a defiant thumbs up, as the ski patrol sled he was strapped into exited the finish coral. Had his three and a half backie been done in colder temps, with a firmer landing, as is more typical in nighttime competition, the outcome of this folly would surely have been even worse.
By SNOWBOARDER Magazine's calculations there were roughly eleven triple corks landed in all of the past year. This means that more triple corks were landed on the evening of Friday, January 25th, 2013 than in all of 2012. Whether you love 'em or hate 'em, there is no denying that triple corks are a consequential trick; to see five out of six of tonight's finalists tossing them with confidence, solidified their place as a must have trick for any current big air contender. From his first drop up until the final seconds of the finals, Norway's Stale Sandbech appeared to be the rider to beat. He followed up his first hit backside triple cork with a frontside double, and continued with a backside triple on his third lap that was nearly flawless. From there he held a score that was firmly in the nineties and ten points above the rest of the field. With the event seemingly in the bag, Stale kept the corking mellow, opting to expose his deep bag of tricks to the Aspen crowd, which included rewind and multi-grab spins.
With the clock timed out, two riders remained at the drop in with only one trick each to possibly usurp Stale. The first to drop was Torstein Horgmo. Torstein's chosen trick was the switch backside 1440 triple cork, which had yet to debut in competition. As Horgmo rode away with a perfect score of 50, Sandbech's hopes of earning his first Winter X win faded. Nineteen-year-old Canadian Mark McMorris dropped next. McMorris is the 2012 X Games Big Air gold medalist and arguably the most consistent triple corker on the circuit and tonight proved no different. Like Torstein, he opted for an NBD, a cab triple underflip 1440. McMorris set the landing gear down with precision to achieve a score of 48. By the math, this left Horgmo and McMorris in a dead heat for the 2013 X Games Big Air gold. The tie-breaker was deemed to be the last jump for each rider, where Torstein's 50 bested McMorris' 48.
Now that the potential consistency of triple corks has been fully realized, the countdown has begun for this trick to transition into the slopestyle repertoire. The wait may not be long as tonight's second place finisher, Mark McMorris is set to defend his slopestyle win from 2012 in less than twelve hours.