ASPEN, Colo.— At last year's X Games, sitting in first with one skier left to go, Tanner Hall was pretty confident he'd nailed the gold-medal slopestyle run. Then Quebec-native Charles Gagnier launched a massive switch 1080 with a super-technical grab on the course's last jump to beat him. This year, with Hall not competing, Gagnier had to unseat 19-year-old wunderkind T.J. Schiller—and came up just short.
With snow dumping on Aspen's Buttermilk Mountain—about a foot accumulated throughout the night—the Skier X and Slopestyle courses were considerably slower than they'd been in days. Event organizers changed the Slopestyle format to a Best Trick competition, where athletes did a single trick off the course's final tabletop jump.
Switch 1080s (three full rotations from a backwards takeoff) ruled the day. Schiller had nailed the world's first-ever 1440 (four full spins) in competition last weekend at the U.S. Freeskiing Open, and while other competitors had trouble landing in the flat light, Schiller busted out the winning trick—a switch 1080 with a nose grab that he held nearly start-to-finish—on his first hit. "A switch 1080 is a safety trick for me—I do them all the time, he said. "This course wasn't fast enough for 1440, for sure. I'm not sure if I'll do one of those again.
While several athletes were upset that the Slopestyle got reduced to a single jump, the format change actually aided Schiller's big-air style. "I think everyone wanted a slopestyle competition today, but Mother Nature wouldn't allow it, he said. "Hopefully next year, they'll give a course where we can link big airs together—then you'll be seeing back-to-back-to-back nines and tens like snowboarder Shaun White is doing.
Gagnier tried to best Schiller's 91.33 score with a switch 1080, but missed the true-nose grab he was going for and the judges gave him second-place. "T.J. had a better grab on that switch 10, he deserved to win, Gagnier said afterwards. Ironically, the podium finish was identical to the USFO's big-air content, with Schiller followed by Gagnier and Norway's Andreas Hatveit finishing third despite skiing with two broken ribs.
The Skier X course also suffered from too much snow.
Reggie Crist, in his bid to become the first-ever to win back-to-back golds in men's Skier X, did couldn't over take Sweden's Lars Lewen and finished second. Lewen, the 2003 Skier X gold medalist, took the hole shot (lead out of the start) and never trailed again. "It was a different course than we had yesterday, said Crist. "A lot of the jumps we were doubling yesterday just weren't there today. But Lars still had the fastest skis.