Well they came, they competed and they conquered. This past weekend played host to the first stop of the Winter Dew Tour and it couldn’t have been better. Conditions for qualifying on Wednesday and Thursday were just about perfect. There were blue skies, a fresh slopestyle course, a pristine pipe, and the best winter action sports athletes excited to dust off the cobwebs of summer. And with this being the last complete winter season before the 2014 Winter Olympics, the whole town was buzzing about the road to Sochi.
What we learned from this weekend:
• Team Canada Ski Team will be stacked and ready to go in Sochi 2014. Last January? Justin Dorey was basically bouncing around like some dryer balls after he slammed in the pipe after last year’s Winter X. On Friday he proved that he’s got the talent and definitely did not let the past dictate his future by grabbing the top spot in the Men’s Freeski Pipe competition. Not only did he win in the pipe but he also won the day’s most Manly award from this writer as he popped his shoulder back in the socket. Dorey was not the only Canadian to make an appearance on the podium this weekend either. Fellow teammate Mike Riddle also made the podium while Roz Groenewoud placed third in the Women’s Freeski Pipe competition. Canada’s Kaya Turski placed as top dog in the Women’s Ski Slopestyle Competition. Regina, SK native Mark McMorris will also be looking ahead to the Olympics. While he won’t be able to show off his skills in the pipe until potentially 2018, he will in slopestyle. Needless to say, couple their action sports athletes with their hockey team and you’ve got some pretty potent talent. Look out world!
• Spins, not style will get you to the top of the podium. One of the oldest dilemmas in the sport is whether or not it is better to do a clean, technical run or to add spins galore. While just a few years ago the double cork was totally new age, it seems as though the sport is progressing again. Basically that means if you don’t have at least 2 double corks in your run, there’s no chance you’re making it to the podium. Is that right? Personally, I’d rather see the technical run. With all of the riders being able to do the same tricks these days, like the double cork, you’d think style would become more important than ever. Getting the right grabs, getting the high amplitude are all important. While style is valued to a degree, you’ve got to have the arsenal to through the big tricks. There is no question that style follows progression, but it should be interesting to see what happens now that all of the riders can throw 1260s.
• Tanner Hall is one remarkable dude. After 4 years, 2 broken legs and 2 blown out ACLs, Tanner Hall made his return to the pipe. It couldn’t have been more amazing! Known as one of the most influential freeskiers in history, Hall brought his explosive, technical riding to the pipe. While he wasn’t going full force at Breckenridge, he definitely was able to dust off the cobwebs. He already has talks of helping influence the sport to go from 1260s to 1440s. Abusrd right? He too has his sights set on 2014, where ski pipe and slopestyle will be debuting. Tanner Hall may sound like a nut job, but it was really refreshing to see him return to the sport he helped to create.
• Even skiiers are bummed over the NHL Lockout. Come on NHL, end the lockout already!
Henrik Harlaut is waiting!
• Knee surgery had no effect on Shaun White’s ability to dominate. It is no question that Shaun White has proven to be arguably the most dominant snowboarder ever. But knees are always a tricky thing, especially when you’re going as big as Shaun White does. Would he be ready to compete? When Scotty Lago qualified in the top spot, all eyes looked to White to see how he would respond. Well he did with a massive backside air, frontside double cork 1080, cab double cork 1080, frontside stale 540, double McTwist 1260 and alley-oop backside rodeo that scored him a 95.25. One run is all he needed. With a target on his back, there is no question that whenever White is involved he has a tremendous shot at winning. But is it because of the name? Once an athlete has reached a status as he has, it is expected for him to win. And although nobody questions his snowboarding abilities, does his name help carry him to the top of the podium? I don’t think so. This goes back to the style vs. spin question. Yes, being named Shaun White and having the reputation he has doesn’t hurt his cause at winning in competitions, but the bottom line is that he has got a big bag of tricks with some tight style. He is not known as the world’s most technical rider. I mean, in both his runs he grabbed his boot, not the board, which is not the way it’s supposed to be. (Sloppy man, just sloppy!) But for what he may lack in grabs, he makes up for in amplitude. His first hit may always be a massive air, but it is always super stylish and higher than probably any other rider in the pipe. Some people may root against White because he’s so good. I’d equate him to be like the Sidney Crosby of snowboarding. Sure, him winning can get really annoying, but you just can’t help but watch as he succeeds. And I, for one, cannot wait to see him stick the double back rodeo.
• It’s going to be a wonderful winter! This was the first big contest of the season, and it was awesome. Now that the cobwebs are gone, the runs will be smoother, the tricks will be bigger and the competition will be stiffer. The road to the 2014 Winter Olympics has begun for these athletes, and it will definitely provide for some amazing things this winter.
And in non-winter news, I am happy to extend a huge Congratulation to Joel Parkinson on his 2012 ASP World Title!
(Photo credit: Instagram Mrgnryn, TannerHall420 & salmass)