​Switzerland’s Sarah Hoefflin wins Ski Big Air gold in her X Games debut

Sarah Hoefflin gets big air during the Women's Ski Big Air Finals on Sunday, Jan. 28, in Aspen. Hoefflin took first.
Chris Dillmann | |

Sarah Hoefflin wasn’t supposed to be a professional skier. But after the soon-to-be Swiss Olympian was denied acceptance to medical school — she has a neuroscience degree — she had to change her plans.

Now 27, the Geneva native made the most of her X Games Aspen debut by winning Sunday’s women’s Big Air contest at Buttermilk. Her next step? A nap.

“I just want to get this competition done so I can sleep,” Hoefflin said, only half joking. “I don’t really believe it, to be honest. It’s amazing. It’s been such a fun week.”

By the time the Big Air event started Sunday, the original eight-woman field was down to only four competitors. Notable absences included American stars Maggie Voisin, who won Saturday’s ski slopestyle contest, and Devin Logan. Both opted to pull out of the event.

Also missing were all three Big Air podium finishers from a year ago — Germany’s Lisa Zimmerman, Estonia’s Kelly Sildaru and Switzerland’s Giulia Tanno — meaning Sunday’s contest was wide open. It did include a pair of heavy-hitters, however, in Norway’s Johanne Killi and France’s Tess Ledeux.

“There were a lot of girls dropping out today, but I think the level was super high anyway,” Killi said. “Maybe it could be the same podium anyway.”

Hoefflin, who like Killi entered the contest battling an injury, stomped her first run to set the bar high. Her switch leftside double cork 900 was a trick she had only landed once before in her lifetime — a few minutes before the start of the competition during practice.

“I think the one in practice was a little better, but I just thought, ‘Go for it,’” Hoefflin said. “And I think I’m so tired a part of me just didn’t really care.”

Hoefflin scored 43 out of 50 on the run, and added another run of 43 later for a two-run combined score of 86 to take gold. Hoefflin was fourth in Saturday’s ski slopestyle contest, one off the podium.

Killi, who has a gold medal in slopestyle from X Games Norway in 2017, won her second Big Air silver with a score of 79. She also won Big Air silver at X Games Oslo in 2016.

In third was Ledeux (71), who owns a pair of X Games silver medals in slopestyle, and fourth was X Games rookie Dominique Ohaco (54), the first Chilean skier to compete at X Games.

All four women are expected to compete in the Feb. 17 ski slopestyle contest at the Winter Olympics in South Korea. Ski Big Air is not an Olympic event for 2018.

“I just hope I can come back. It’s amazing,” Hoefflin said of X Games Aspen. “We’ve had so much luck with the weather as well. Everything’s just been perfect and the girls have been doing so well.”