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

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

Australian snowboarder Scotty James, center, celebrates on the podium after the men's snowboard halfpipe finals on Friday, Jan. 27, 2023, at Buttermilk Ski Area. James won the contest in snowy conditions for his fifth gold medal in Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

This wasn’t my best work. I still stand by my original picks to win each of the snowboard contests at X Games Aspen 2023, but fate chose poorly.

The main lesson? Don’t pick against Mark McMorris, Marcus Kleveland or Scotty James, unless you have a very good reason. And even then, don’t do it. At least Zoi Sadowski-Synnott came through for me to get me on the scoreboard.

And Gaon Choi? She’s the real deal. Chloe Kim might finally have a real challenger.

Women’s slopestyle

My pick: Zoi Sadowski-Synnott

Actual winner: Zoi Sadowski-Synnott

The one snowboard contest I picked correctly, and only because New Zealand’s Zoi Sadowski-Synnott delivered big on her final run to jump Australian Tess Coady at the finish line. Winning is winning, though. It was the Kiwi’s third slopestyle gold in Aspen and second straight. Jamie Anderson sat this one out because of her pregnancy.

Men’s halfpipe

My pick: Ayumu Hirano

Actual winner: Scotty James

This wasn’t a great contest for the Japanese riders, including Olympic champion Ayumu Hirano, who finished sixth. It was another great day for Australia’s Scotty James, who continues to dominate the discipline more often than not. Make that five X Games Aspen gold medals for James, who has now found the halfpipe podium eight straight years at Buttermilk.

South Korea’s Gaon Choi celebrates on the X Games Aspen podium after winning a gold medal in the women’s snowboard halfpipe final on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, at Buttermilk Ski Area.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Women’s halfpipe

My pick: Xuetong Cai

Actual winner: Gaon Choi

China’s Xuetong Cai did well, finishing third, while California’s Maddie Mastro earned her second career silver medal. But it was South Korean phenom Gaon Choi who made the massive jump to superstardom. Only 14, she became the youngest to ever win the event, a record previously held by California’s Chloe Kim, who was not competing.

Women’s big air

My pick: Zoi Sadowski-Synnott

Actual winner: Reira Iwabuchi

Sadowski-Synnott came to play, winning silver. But Japan’s Reira Iwabuchi decided to reset the bar, landing the first triple underfoot by a woman for her first X Games gold medal. Canada’s Laurie Blouin won bronze, the 48 (out of 50) she scored on her fifth and final run being the best of the contest. She just didn’t have that second run to match.

Men’s big air

My pick: Chris Corning

Actual winner: Marcus Kleveland

Well, Chris Corning’s X Games curse lives on. The Colorado son finished seventh of eight riders, making him 0 for 9 in podium appearances in his X Games Aspen career, including slopestyle. The win, no surprise, went to Norway’s Marcus Kleveland, who is the undisputed king of the discipline at the moment. It was his third straight big air title in Aspen.

Canada’s Mark McMorris celebrates after his final run that won him the X Games men’s snowboard slopestyle final on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, at Buttermilk Ski Area.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Men’s slopestyle

My pick: Red Gerard

Actual winner: Mark McMorris

Much like Corning, Summit County’s Red Gerard seems to have an Aspen curse. He does have one career bronze in Aspen (slopestyle, 2020), but that’s it for the 2018 Olympic champion. This year, he settled for fourth, bumped off the podium by Mons Roisland (bronze), Kleveland (silver) and Mark McMorris (gold). McMorris, who jumped Kleveland on his final run, snagged his 22nd Winter X Games medal, the most all-time. He broke a tie with Jamie Anderson.

Knuckle huck

My pick: Moritz Boll

Actual winner: Marcus Kleveland

I picked Moritz Boll, an X Games rookie, for no good reason. He performed decently, but came up short of the podium. The win, again, went to Kleveland, who inspired the contest’s creation and has now won it back-to-back years in Aspen. Kleveland, only 23, now has 13 career Winter X Games medals (including the contests in his native Norway), a number that will only grow before he’s out of the game.