‘Big Air’ Burandt flips the monster jump, wins Winter X gold | AspenTimes.com

‘Big Air’ Burandt flips the monster jump, wins Winter X gold

Devon O'Neil
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Summit Daily/Mark Fox

ASPEN ” All week the buzz within the buzz had been about that jump, the one with the measurements on the landing ramp to illustrate how far these Winter X Games freestyle snowmobiling pioneers soar.

With 110 feet between the takeoff ramp and the most likely landing spot, everyone with an eye for this sport began whispering soon after the riders took their first shot at the course. Will someone attempt to flip it? Should someone attempt to flip it?

Thursday night’s elimination round came and went. No flip. In the first of Sunday night’s semifinals, an all-Scandinavian affair between Sweden’s Daniel Bodin and tiny Norwegian Aleksander Nordgaard, Nordgaard opened his run with three consecutive backflips on his way to winning, but he opted not to try it on the monster final jump.

Idaho’s Heath Frisby and Kremmling rider Chris Burandt were next. Frisby put together a sterling run, dropping the pressure onto Burandt, who qualified No. 1 in Thursday’s elimination round. The slender 28-year-old hadn’t planned on flipping off that final jump, but things change when the first-ever X Games gold medal is on the line. So he flipped. And he stuck it.

Fifteen minutes later he was holding that gold medal, grinning like he was on top of the world after he’d stuck another flip off the same jump to beat Nordgaard in the head-to-head final, 96.33 points to 93.66.

“It’s just the thing, you know, you gotta step up when the time arises,” said “Big Air” Burandt, who has enjoyed more major contest success over the last two years than any other rider in the sport. “I felt confident that I could do it and so I went out there and did it.”

Two years ago Burandt tried a backflip in the backcountry and, as he put it, “failed miserably.” Because of the fear that resulted from that first attempt, he didn’t go back to the trick until two weeks ago, when he decided he’d have no chance at the X Games unless he added the trick to his repertoire. He spent some time in a foam pit learning the maneuver, then stuck it the first time he tried it on snow.

“And what makes me sick right now is that I feel like I have it pretty dialed and for the last two years I’ve been kicking myself for not doing it,” said Burandt. “All it took was that one time to just step up and do it, and now I feel more comfortable doing a flip than I do doing my Holy Man.”

He needed more than just a backflip to win on Sunday, however, and much of that was due to Nordgaard, the 132-pound 22-year-old who said the silver medal marked “a dream come true.”

“I never, ever thought I could do this,” said Nordgaard, who is the only freestyle rider sponsored by a snowcross race team. “After coming from Norway and what I was doing a year ago on my ramp, and what I’m doing now, it’s so much bigger what I’m doing now.

“I did not think that I could get second place here. I was hoping to get to the final. That was my goal.”

Heath Frisby’s goal was nothing short of gold, but he professed to be plenty happy with the bronze he held after Sunday’s medal round. He earned it, too, getting up during the decisive run after a fall had pitched him from his sled and knocked the wind out of him. He completed the run and beat Bodin, whose sled malfunctioned during his attempt to win bronze.

“I’m proud,” said Frisby, 22, whose no-handed backflips on his 450-pound machine became the talk of Buttermilk this week. “I wanted to be proud of my run, and I’m proud of my run. I came here to do what I did and we blew our sport up here, man. And that takes a lot to get your sport out there and to get people to grab onto it. Now we’re there, ya know.”

“I didn’t think there was any he would go for it,” he added of Burandt’s initial flip off the monster jump. “But he did, he stepped up, he showed that he wanted it.”