Ragettli wins ski slopestyle at X Games Aspen as Hall, U.S. look to Olympics | AspenTimes.com

Ragettli wins ski slopestyle at X Games Aspen as Hall, U.S. look to Olympics

All four members of the U.S. men’s Olympic slopestyle and big air team competed Sunday at X Games Aspen 2022

Park City freeskier Alex Hall holds up his bronze medal after taking third in the men’s slopestyle skiing finals at X Games Aspen on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, at Buttermilk Ski Area.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

A coronavirus scare prior to the week and some sticky rails on game day weren’t enough to slow Utah’s Alex Hall on Sunday, who won another medal at this year’s X Games Aspen by taking third in the men’s slopestyle skiing final at Buttermilk Ski Area.

“I just had COVID a little over a week ago and tested negative a couple of days before X Games,” Hall said. “We’ve just been super tight in our bubble and wearing a mask whenever I can and just playing it safe. I grew up watching X Games, so I would’t skip it for anything.”

Hall healed up in time to take bronze on Sunday morning, finishing behind runner-up Max Moffatt of Canada and winner Andri Ragettli of Switzerland. Hall’s podium came only a night’s sleep after he won an intense big air skiing contest on Saturday night, highlighted by him putting down a first-ever 2160 that dropped jaws on his final jump. The Park City product now has nine X Games medals — one being a gold in the Real Ski film series — and a defining 2019 slopestyle gold in Aspen.

Hall’s ninth medal came late Sunday when he won bronze in ski knuckle huck to become the first male freeskier with three medals at one X games. Fellow Park City skier Quinn Wolferman won knuckle huck, while Oregon’s Jake Mageau was second.

Hall only jumped into podium position on his fourth and final slopestyle run earlier Sunday, knocking U.S. teammate Mac Forehand down to fourth place in Forehand’s X Games Aspen debut.

“I was actually trying to do a different rail trick at the top, and it wasn’t working this morning, and I had to switch it up,” Hall said, giving credit to the wax technicians for figuring out the sticky rails caused by the cold night and warm day. “Everyone is so good nowadays, it’s so crazy. The skiing level is insane, and I’m just trying to keep up in my own personal style and just have fun with it and not plan too far ahead because I think things are always changing and stay in the moment and focus on the tricks you are trying to do right now.”

Finishing fifth was Norway’s Sebastian Schjerve, another X Games rookie, while Great Britain’s James Woods, the oldest competitor at 30, was sixth. Woods, a veteran with five X Games medals, including big air gold in 2017, had one of the more exciting tricks of the contest, a switch double backflip on his last jump that delighted the crowd, although didn’t do much to improve his standings from the judges.

Utah’s Colby Stevenson finished seventh, Indiana’s Nick Goepper eighth, Canada’s Evan McEachran ninth, and Norway’s Christian Nummedal 10th.

British freeskier James Wood competes in the men’s slopestyle skiing finals at X Games Aspen on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, at Buttermilk Ski Area. He finished off the podium.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Goepper, the four-time X Games slopestyle champion, including gold in 2021, crashed hard on his final run but was able to walk away mostly in one piece. He was wearing a Cincinnati Bengals jersey, repping his favorite football team after they knocked off No. 1 seed Tennessee in the NFL playoffs on Saturday.

“It wasn’t really a question of if I was going to come to X Games or not. I took a pretty hard hit just now, so that kind of shook me up. But I feel equally as prepared,” Goepper said of deciding to come to X Games with the Olympics so close. “I can’t relax. It’s just crazy, kids keep getting better and better and better. You think progression might chill out for a couple of years, but it’s really impressive to see what everybody is doing.”

Ragettli was able to take over the top spot after his second run and hung on from there. The Swiss standout had previously won Aspen big air gold in 2021 and slopestyle gold at Norway 2020, but his previous best slopestyle result in Aspen had been bronze from 2018. While the Norway event means a lot to Europeans, even he admits Aspen is held in a much higher regard.

“There are X Games in Norway, but that’s kind of the European X Games, but the real ones are here in America, and if you win those, that’s even crazier. So it means the world to me,” said Ragettli, who is just coming back from a severe knee injury, which he suffered at the world championships last March in Aspen. “To be back competing here and being able to ski on that level, it’s just amazing. Of course, it’s my third X Games gold medal, the first in slopestyle in Aspen. I have one in Norway, but Aspen is the real one, so it feels great.”

Like so many other contests at X Games this week, there were many big names not competing, most deciding to sit out in order to prepare for the Beijing Olympics next month. Still, the Buttermilk competition was good training ground for those who did compete and hope to be a podium factor in China. Ragettli competed at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, taking seventh in slopestyle. That year’s podium included Norway’s Oystein Braaten (gold), Goepper (silver) and Canada’s Alex Beaulieu-Marchand (bronze).

“Of course it gives you motivation and also momentum for the Olympics. I wasn’t sure if I’m able to perform on that level,” Ragettli said of his X Games gold and being within striking distance of the Olympic podium. “Of course it is in reach for me. When you are able to win an X Games gold medal, it is in reach for you. But it’s a totally different event. It starts from zero again. I’ll just try to ski my best at the Olympics as well and see how far I can go.”

The four Americans who competed in Sunday’s slopestyle contest at X Games are the same four who will represent the U.S. at the Olympics. Stevenson, 24, and Connecticut’s Forehand, 20, will be first-time Olympians. Goepper, 27, is going for the third time; on top of his slopestyle silver in 2018, he won slopestyle bronze at the 2014 Sochi Games as part of an American podium sweep behind Gus Kenworthy (silver) and Joss Christensen (gold).

Hall, 23, is headed to his second Olympics after finishing 16th in slopestyle at the 2018 Games.

Most of the slopestyle athletes will also compete in ski big air, which will make its Olympic debut this February in Beijing. Snowboard big air became an Olympic sport in 2018.

American Mac Forehand, left, hugs Canadian Max Moffat after Moffat earned a bronze medal at X Games Aspen, the first X Games medal of his career, on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, at Buttermilk Ski Area.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

“It’s amazing. We are all such good friends. I couldn’t be more hyped on the team going,” Hall said. “Despite the crazy times and I think how restrictive it’s going to be when we are there, we are with a good group of guys, so we are going to be having a ton of fun at the events and between the events. That’s a huge factor for a lot of us. … That’s the main reason we do it. I think when we are having fun, that’s when we do the best.”

The U.S. women’s Olympic slopestyle and big air team consists of Montana’s Maggie Voisin, who will be a three-time Olympian, Vermont’s Caroline Claire (second Olympics), Montana’s Darian Stevens (second Olympics) and Utah’s Marin Hamill, an Olympic rookie.

The opening ceremony for the 2022 Beijing Olympics is scheduled for Feb. 4.