Chris Corning is becoming Mr. Consistent, and that could bode well for the Colorado snowboarder as the next Olympic cycle gets going in only a matter of weeks with the upcoming world championships and Grand Prix in Aspen.
“This is definitely the most consistent snowboarding I’ve been doing in a long time when it comes to competing, so I’m pretty stoked on that,” Corning told the Aspen Times on Wednesday. “And coming off of X Games and coming off of this, I think I’ll be pretty ready for what the world champs and what the Grand Prix have to throw at me. As long as I put down what I know I can do, then I should do pretty well.”
Corning, who currently lives in Avon, was in town Wednesday competing in the U.S. Revolution Tour stop at Buttermilk Ski Area. One of the more prominent names taking part in the competition this week, he won Wednesday’s men’s snowboard slopestyle contest, holding off runner-up Matthew Cox of Australia and North Carolina’s Finn Bullock-Womble, who was a distant third.
The Czech Republic’s Sarka Pancochova won the women’s snowboard slopestyle contest on Wednesday, holding off a pair of teenagers in New Zealand’s Cool Wakushima and Wisconsin’s Courtney Rummel. Pancochova, 30, was among the oldest of Rev Tour competitors — she even won X Games Aspen slopestyle silver back in 2013.
The Rev Tour win is hardly a notable accomplishment for the 21-year-old Corning, who has competed at X Games Aspen the past four years, rode in the 2018 Winter Olympics and has more than one World Cup crystal globe in the trophy case for winning season-long titles. But, the competition was a sanctioned FIS event and, frankly, he needed the points.
“Long story short is they froze points for COVID and I was hurt last year and they didn’t run any contests in the time I was healthy, so I lost half of my points,” said Corning, who went from being ranked in the top 10 in slopestyle to barely inside the top 100 in the world. “We came out there and did what we needed to do to get the most points possible.”
While the Rev Tour win won’t make his overall resume, it’s his biggest win in Aspen to date. He’s yet to win an X Games Aspen medal — he did win bronze at X Games Norway in 2018 — and only has a few USASA wins from when he was younger to show from his time here. That time includes having called Aspen home for about two years when he was part of the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club, training under his former coach Nichole Mason, who he followed to Aspen from Summit County.
Now, with Aspen hosting the rescheduled world championships and a Grand Prix next month, Corning will get an extended visit to his former stomping ground.
“It’s nice to be able to come back there and go back to all the restaurants and things I used to go to and see some people I don’t usually see too often, except for maybe once a year at X Games,” Corning said. “I am excited about it. I’m really excited just to be able to compete this year, because it was getting nerve-wracking that we weren’t going to compete really at all.”
Prior to X Games in late January, Corning’s only other contest this season had been at the Kreischberg, Austria, World Cup on Jan. 9, where he finished 16th in big air.
However, he did have a strong showing at X Games last month, where he finished fourth in big air after originally just being an alternate. With a bigger jump than in past contests, it turned out to be one of the best big air comps in X Games history. Norway’s Marcus Kleveland won, the first of five riders to finish with a combined score in the 90s.
“There was a lot of room for progression that night. Everybody was riding definitely some of the best I’ve ever seen them ride and it was pretty awesome to be a part of it,” Corning said. “I was super stoked that I kept my hands off the ground and did my two biggest tricks that I can do and happened to put them down in a contest at the same time.”
He’s followed that performance with a slopestyle win at Wednesday’s Rev Tour stop in Aspen. He doesn’t plan to compete in Friday’s big air contest, saying he doesn’t need the FIS points in that discipline, but has already turned his attention toward his Aspen return in two weeks for the world championships.
Corning is the reigning slopestye world champion, having won two years ago when Park City, Utah, hosted the event. He also competed at worlds in 2017, hosted by Sierra Nevada, Spain, taking silver in big air and bronze in slopestyle. There was no big air competition at worlds in 2019 after weather forced its cancellation.
Worlds was originally scheduled for China this season, but all FIS events were canceled in the country because of the coronavirus pandemic. Aspen stepped in as a last-second replacement after Calgary backed out. The world championships are scheduled for March 10-16 at Buttermilk, with the Grand Prix set for March 18-21. The Grand Prix will serve as the first 2022 Olympic qualifier for the American athletes.
Corning made the U.S. Olympic team in 2018, where he finished fourth in big air in South Korea. He did not make finals in slopestyle.
“My riding is in a better spot, and I’m not coming off of injuries that are nagging at me nearly as bad as they were in 2018,” Corning said. “So as long as I can stay healthy and stay in the gym over the summer, then I should be able to put together a really good run for 2022. But it will also just come down to being consistent and beating out all the other Americans in all the Grand Prix.”
Ruud wins another medal at Rev Tour
The skiing portion of the U.S. Revolution Tour stop at Buttermilk Ski Area wrapped up Wednesday with the big air contests.
On the men’s side, Norway’s Birk Ruud won for the second time this week, scoring a total of 184.75 in finals (best two of three runs) to beat Americans Kiernan Fagan (177.5) and Ryan Stevenson (174). Ruud, a four-time X Games medalist, also won Monday’s slopestyle contest over Fagan. Ruud was second to New Zealand’s Miguel Porteous in Tuesday’s halfpipe comp.
In the women’s big air contest Wednesday, Park City’s Rell Harwood (176.5) took top honors over fellow Americans Jenna Riccomini (162) and Marin Hamill (161). Harwood also won Monday’s slopestyle contest, in which Hamill was second and Riccomini third. Of the three, only Riccomini also competed in Tuesday’s halfpipe comp, where she finished third behind Kathryn Gray and Basalt’s Hanna Faulhaber.
The Rev Tour continues Thursday with the snowboard halfpipe contests and concludes Friday with snowboard big air.