X Games Aspen Day 1 notes: Ledeux adds more gold; Kleveland hucks way to win

Austin Colbert and David Krause
The Aspen Times

France’s Tess Ledeux added to her X Games collection by winning Friday’s women’s ski big air final at Buttermilk, her third gold medal in the discipline to go with her 2020 title in Aspen and her 2019 title in Norway.

The 20-year-old former world champion ran away with the victory behind her historic 1620, a first for the sport. The trick scored her 49 out of 50, a number that proved impossible to beat. She finished with 94 — the final score a combination of each athlete’s top two tricks — for the win.

“Just amazing,” Ledeux said. “The level is just incredible this year with the Olympic and with the progression. I’m so proud to be part of this movement.”

Canada’s Megan Oldham won silver with 89, while her countrywoman Olivia Asselin, an X Games rookie and alternate, won bronze with 72. American Maggie Voisin was just off the podium in fourth with 70.

Rounding out the athletes were Switzerland’s Giulia Tanno (fifth, 65), Canada’s Elena Gaskell (sixth, 57), Norway’s Johanne Killi (seventh, 53), and Switzerland’s Mathilde Gremaud (eighth, 9). Gremaud pulled out after crashing on her second run.

Ski big air is slated to make its Olympic debut next month in Beijing.

Kleveland gets his Aspen due

With Friday’s light snow making for a soft landing at the bottom of the knuckle huck venue, Norway’s Marcus Kleveland scored his first gold at the venue where he inspired the new event four years ago.

The Norwegian won the knuckle gold at the 2020 X Games Norway, but this was his first at Buttermilk where he was going against the past three winners. X Games Aspen debuted the competition in 2019 after Kleveland’s videos of himself hucking tricks off knuckles went viral.

“I didn’t expect that at all,” said Kleveland, who didn’t compete in the inaugural event because of a broken knee cap. “The landing was perfect with the soft snow. And props to the guys for sending it.”

A few changes this year in Aspen, including giving out (not brass) knuckles as medals to the top three, not just the winner as in years’ past. Also, this year’s judging was based on a total of their runs in the jam session, not just the best run.

Norway’s Fridtjof Saether Tischendorf, who won the 2019 event, was second Friday night and defending knuckle champ Dusty Henricksen of Mammoth Lakes was third.

The knuckle huck competition has riders hitting the last feature of the slopestyle course before snowboarding around the actual jump. They do this to launch off the roll-over, or “knuckle,” of the feature before landing in the slopestyle landing zone.

Last year, Jamie Anderson became the first woman to compete in the huck, throwing down a few runs with the men. But after winning silver Friday morning in the slopestyle, the Olympic-bound Anderson sat out this year’s huck.

No dampening Unified event

A steady drizzle of wet snow couldn’t damper the enthusiasm at the Special Olympics Unified Snowboarding and Unified Skiing events Friday afternoon. The unique races pair one professional winter sports athlete, all current or past X games athletes or Olympians, with one Special Olympics action sports athlete in two-person teams.

The teams — 10 in each discipline — then race against one another in matchups that pit each Special Olympic athlete against one another and each professional athlete going head to head. This is the seventh year Unified Snowboarding has been featured at X Games Aspen and the second year of the Unified Skiing event. Read the full story on the Special Olympics Unified events and the athletes in the Jan. 26 Snowmass Sun and in the meantime check out the medal winners:

Unified Snowboarding: Gold – Diana Shilts and Mons Roisland; Silver – Cody Field and Rene Rinnekangas; Bronze – Heather Bean and Jamie Anderson

Unified Skiing: Gold – Palmer Lyons and James Woodsy; Silver – Halden Pranger and Aaron Blunck; Bronze – Tanner Jadwin and David Wise

Shred Hate hits the ice

In partnership with Aspen Gay Ski Week, X Games will host the “Shred Hate, Choose Kindness” event from 2-4 p.m. Saturday with AspenOUT at Silver Circle Ice Rink (which is on Durant Street across from the Rubey Park Transit Center). The event aims to help promote tolerance, understanding and diversity in the Roaring Fork Valley. X Games medalist Gus Kenworthy, who competes Sunday in the ski pipe, is schedule to attend Saturday’s event.

Also Saturday, Bob the Drag Queen and Monét X Change will provide commentary for Saturday’s men’s ski big air. They’ll be back for Sunday’s men’s ski slopestyle competition.