ASPEN, Colo.—A more relaxed, down-to-earth Tanner Hall showed up in Aspen this year. The ski star—known in the past for hip-hop exuberance and cocky swagger—won gold in the X Games superpipe on primetime Monday night.
"This is three years in the making for me, he said. "I've never had a gold at X Games gold, but I'm riding the pipe really well. It feels really good. It's beautiful.
Hall said that breaking both of his ankles—in addition to the serious head injury sustained by his friend and fellow freeskier C.R. Johnson in December—helped put things in perspective for him.
"It was crazy year, he said after the contest. "Between my crash and C.R.'s crash, it was really intense. I talked to him just now and he said he was sending me positive energy all night. Someone from up above must be looking out.
Coming into the contest, two-time gold medalist Simon Dumont was the heavy favorite, but a strained back, possibly stemming from a crash last March, limited his ability to boost out of the pipe. He finished third with a score of 90.00, completing his run with a big 1080, but never really looking like the Simon of old.
"I couldn't even stand my back was hurting so bad, Dumont said. "But there was no way I was dropping out of this competition.
France's Laurent Favre finished second, combining back-to-back, supertechnical spins while getting upwards of 23 feet out of the pipe.
But the day belonged to Hall. Decking out on his first run, Hall nailed the second attempt, using his usual combination of flat spins, 900s, and capping it off with a 1080. Though not getting as high out of the pipe as Favre, Hall was jumping higher on his tricks than in previous years.
Now, Hall says his still-sore ankles have made a backcountry skier out of him. His film production company, called The Bigger Picture and co-owned by Johnson and Evan Rapps, plans to shoot exclusively big mountain and backcountry footage, leaving the pipe to the next generation of park rats. "In a few years you're going to see all these tricks we can do in the park, but off natural features, said Hall. "That's where the sport is going and that's where we're going to take it.