X Games Aspen wrap-up: Looking back on my skiing predictions for 2023 | AspenTimes.com

X Games Aspen wrap-up: Looking back on my skiing predictions for 2023

Canada's Megan Oldham stands on the X Games podium after winning the women's slopestyle skiing final on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, at Buttermilk Ski Area.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Did I make a single correct skiing pick for X Games Aspen 2023? No, but after Eileen Gu and Kelly Sildaru both got hurt in slopestyle practice, it just seemed the universe wanted me to do poorly and I’m OK with that.

Thankfully Gu’s injury seems relatively minor and it sounds like she’ll be back soon enough. I feel for Sildaru, who said she tore her ACL (again) and is looking at a longer recovery. At least local star Alex Ferreira made it out in mostly one piece after two tough crashes. Anyone who says the sport is easy is completely insane.

Women’s big air

My pick: Mathilde Gremaud

Actual winner: Megan Oldham

Little did we know X Games Aspen 2023 was the Megan Oldham show. With Olympic big air champion Eileen Gu a scratch (more on that later), the door was open for anyone to step up. And Oldham did in a big way. The 21-year-old Canadian won her first Aspen gold medal after she became the first woman to land a triple cork, scoring a perfect 50 out of 50 on the trick. And it wasn’t the end of her stellar weekend.

Knuckle huck

My pick: Joona Kangas

Actual winner: Jesper Tjader

I picked Joona Kangas to win because he has an awesome name. Apparently, there is more to picking winners than name alone. Kangas did finish fourth, just behind Colby Stevenson and Matej Svancer, but knuckle huck gold went to Jesper Tjader. The 28-year-old from Sweden has been an X Games mainstay since 2015, but this was his first official medal, and win, in Aspen.

Men’s slopestyle

My pick: Birk Ruud

Actual winner: Colby Stevenson

Straight out of Park City, Utah, Colby Stevenson proved he isn’t a one-hit wonder. In his X Games debut back in 2020, he won gold in both slopestyle and knuckle huck, but didn’t touch the podium in either 2021 or 2022. The 25-year-old also won Olympic silver in big air last February, but taking down a talented slopestyle field in tough conditions at X Games this year certainly establishes Stevenson as one of the discipline’s true stars. Birk Ruud was fifth.

Utah’s Colby Stevenson waits to receive his medal for winning the men’s slopestyle skiing final at X Games Aspen on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, at Buttermilk Ski Area.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Women’s halfpipe

My pick: Eileen Gu

Actual winner: Zoe Atkin

This contest was missing two superstars in Eileen Gu and Kelly Sildaru. Oddly enough, both hurt their knees during slopestyle training and had to pull out of all events. We still have yet to see the two phenoms go head-to-head at X Games. We’ll keep dreaming, though. This did open the door for someone like Basalt local Hanna Faulhaber, who finished fifth in a snowy and slow halfpipe, but it was the 20-year-old Zoe Atkin who came through. The Great Britain skier won her first X Games medal in four tries, having finished fourth twice.

Women’s slopestyle

My pick: Eileen Gu

Actual winner: Megan Oldham

Again, no Gu and no Sildaru. Those absences really took the thunder out of this competition. But there was no slowing down Oldham this week. She already had big air gold and decided to take home slopestyle gold as well, holding off Mathilde Gremaud and Kirsty Muir. We can dare call Oldham a star after that performance. She competed in her first Olympics last winter, finishing 13th in slopestyle and fourth in big air. An X Games golden sweep is a big step.

Men’s big air

My pick: Alex Hall

Actual winner: Mac Forehand

Well, an American won, it just wasn’t the one I picked. Utah’s Alex Hall finished at the bottom of the pack, but Mac Forehand made a statement. The 21-year-old rising star from Stratton Mountain School took home what is already his third X Games Aspen medal in only four contests over two years. He also took silver in slopestyle this year and silver in big air a year ago to go with a fourth in slopestyle in 2022, his debut season. A podium rate of 75 percent is pretty darn good.

From left, Birk Irving (silver), David Wise (gold) and Jon Sallinen (bronze) stand on the X Games podium for men’s halfpipe skiing on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, at Buttermilk Ski Area.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Men’s halfpipe

My pick: Alex Ferreira

Actual winner: David Wise

With New Zealand’s Nico Porteous sitting out this year, the door was wide open for anyone to win. The stars seemed to be aligning for Aspen’s own Alex Ferreira, a two-time champ of the event, but two hard crashes in two runs forced him to drop out of the contest midway through. Enter David Wise, whose familiarity with winning in the Buttermilk halfpipe rivals the best. The 32-year-old from Reno held off Winter Park’s Birk Irving and Finland’s Jon Sallinen, who graduated from Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale, to win for the fifth time in Aspen. Chalk one up for the old guys.