Best of Winter X |

Best of Winter X

Nate Peterson and Jon Maletz
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” The Mountain Dew high has worn off, your visiting couch creatures have hit the road and you’re still wondering about Saturday night: Did you really do body shots with Kelly Clark and Lil John at Hannah Teter’s 21st birthday party at the Fly Lounge, or was that just the pot brownies and one too many Red Bull and vod­kas?

If only you could find the camera phone you lost.

Yes, people, the Winter X Games are over. Which can only mean one thing. No, it’s not time to resume your “Send Winter X back to The Butte” letter writing campaign. It’s time for our annual X Games retrospective where we take a look back at the week that was: The best, the worst and all the bad foam Taco Bell hats in between.

Best moment: No contest in this one. Not when local pipe princess Gretchen Bleiler van­quishes two worthy foes in a women’s snow­board superpipe smackdown that lived up to all of its hype. ( Hard to do, considering how insanely overhyped this event has become.) Bleiler, wearing a sun-scorched outfit that could cause eye damage if viewed in plain day­light, found herself in a full- on catfight Friday night with former champs Kelly Clark ( 2006) and Torah Bright (2007). Pushed into a corner, Aspen’s very own unleashed her inner dragon, delivering the knockout blow in front of her hometown fans with a brilliant 92.66-point sec­ond run that was about as close to perfect as it gets.

Doesn’t get any better than that.

What were they thinking? We know Tanner Hall is a skiing icon. We know he is one of the faces of Winter X ” an interesting fact in an of itself considering his face looks like Jon’s uncle’s back. We know he was gunning for a record seventh gold medal. We know he com­pleted seven flawless hits in the Buttermilk pipe compared to Simon Dumont’s five.

We also know he shouldn’t have won Thurs­day night’s pipe final. Why else would the crowd erupt like a bunch of aggravated English football fans when the scores were announced? Why else would Hall’s victory lap be overshad­owed by a chorus of boos?

We thought Winter X was as much about entertainment as sports prowess. No one enlivened crowds more than Dumont, who soared as high as a four-story building, and, on multiple hits, traveled farther down the pipe than most RFTA bus drivers during an eight­hour shift.

Memo to Winter X pipe judges: Don’t leave Dumont alone and expect him to smile when asked how it feels to get carjacked on live TV.

Name of the Games: This might be the most hotly-contested category of the weekend. Seri­ously, how can you choose between a pool that includes the outlaw Jossi Wells, Kees-Jan van der Klooster, Mirjam Jaeger(meister) and Iouri Podladtchikov ( try and make that fit on the back of a bib). iPod does get our vote for the best nickname ” sorry Flying Tomato.

But the choice is clear. The best name goes to Torstein Horgmo. Sounds more like the name of a European sedan or some kind of strange meat pie ( they’re crazy for the stuff in Scandi­navia) than a Norwegian snowboarder. That might change, though, if Horgmo continues to land a switch backside rodeo with a shoulder dip ” the trick that won him big air gold.

Best Trick: Charles Gagnier did his best impersonation of a Sikorsky in Friday’s skiing big air finals. But even a switch 1260 with a dou­ble grab wasn’t good enough to top the seem­ingly effortless style and fluidity of Jon Olsson.

A trick inspired by a marsupial from Down Under ” a double kangaroo flip accented with a Japan grab ” puts Olsson on top. Had Andreas Hatveit landed his 1440 off the money booter in Sunday’s skiing slopestyle final, however, the Norwegian would’ve been a shoo-in.

Biggest fashion statement: We think a group of 10-year­olds ate a bunch of sprinkle-covered cupcakes then threw up on snowboarder Kevin Pearce’s jacket. And we wonder why Hall can’t get the hint ” there’s a reason Schick is a pri­mary sponsor, bro. That fresh-from-the-dumpster, hobo chic, sasquatch-inspired beard is so 1887.

But the winner? It’s our hometown hero. Not many peo­ple could make a yellow ski suit look fashionable, but Gretchen Bleiler pulled it off in Friday’s pipe final. In doing so, she proved our theory: Bleiler would look good in any­thing, including, but not limited to, an orange prison jump­suit, overalls, a fedora, a garbage bag and a taco hat.

Wonder what she would look like with Tanner’s beard.

Athlete of the Games: The title could’ve gone to skiing superpipe winner Sarah Burke (have you seen her FHM photoshoot?), three-peat winners Tanner Hall (skiing superpipe) and Nate Holland (boardercross), or to skiing big air winner Jon Olsson, if for no other reason than he won something other than bronze for a change.

It could have gone to two athletes who are ushering in the youth movement. They aren’t old enough to vote, but 17­year-olds Jamie Anderson and Jossi Wells are old enough to turn heads. Anderson won back-to-back snowboarding slopestyle golds and Wells nearly walked away with a skiing slopestyle gold. Not bad for the Kiwi, who fell during pipe practice in his first trip to Winter X in 2007 and broke his clavicle in four places.

But the real winners are Norwegians Andreas Wiig, Andreas Hatveit and Horgmo, who made Aspen feel more like Oslo. How can Wiig, a man nicknamed “The Machine,” who made Shaun White look downright human for a sec­ond- straight year in slopestyle, not top our list? Couple that with Hatveit’s dominance in slopestyle and Horgmo’s uncanny aerial exploits, and it’s clear: Leif Eriksson is not the only viking to land in North America.

Skol, gentleman.

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