Street star Jesse Paul holds off Sharpe, Thorgren to win snowboard rail jam
Normally, the street specialists would have the advantage over the true slopestyle riders in a rail jam. However, the inaugural snowboard rail jam at X Games Aspen on Sunday wasn’t your typical rail jam, as it sent riders down the upper part of the actual slopestyle course at Buttermilk Ski Area.
“These rails are intimidating,” said X Games host and former competitor Jack Mitrani during Sunday’s telecast. “I used to come here and compete in pipe, and this was back in the day when slopestyle wasn’t as high a level as it’s at right now, but I’d come over here and I’d have some fun on these rails. But they were so intimidating. They are humungous.”
So, considering this, it may be surprising that Jesse Paul, a 27-year-old urban rider from Minnesota, took down X Games stars Darcy Sharpe and Sven Thorgren to win Sunday’s rail jam. Paul won bronze in the all-street video competition Real Snow put on by X Games in 2017.
“This is a dream come true,” Paul said after receiving his gold medal.
Sharpe won slopestyle gold only the night before, while Thorgren is now a six-time X Games medalist, including slopestyle gold in 2017. But Paul, despite his relative inexperience on the larger slopestyle rails at Buttermilk, took down the traditional stars Sunday.
The 20-minute jam session, which like most contests this weekend was using an overall impression scoring format as opposed to the tradition best run scoring system, was highlighted by the appearance of Craig McMorris, a pro snowboarder and X Games TV personality who is the brother of slopestyle and big air star Mark McMorris.
Craig McMorris was one of the eight competitors in the rail jam, finishing seventh. His antics and in-contest interviews gave the event some personality.
On his first run, he opened by hopping out of a parked Jeep and hit a large rainbow rail with only one foot strapped onto his snowboard. He hit it flawlessly, but stopped before the next set of rails, unstrapped and just slid down the rest of the course.
“It’s just pure improvisation at this point,” McMorris said. “I’m having fun. Everybody is having fun. I though I’d do something different. I’m not going to hang with these slopestyle guys on the 270s, so you got to find your own way.”
Other competitors included fourth-place finisher Rene Rinnekangas, a rising slopestyle star from Finland, street stars in Brandon Davis and Frank Bourgeois, and Japan’s Ryo Aizawa, who finished seventh in Saturday’s big air contest but made some noise with the quad-cork 1800 he landed in qualifying.
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U.S. Ski & Snowboard on Monday announced three freeski and snowboard Olympic qualifying events ahead of the February Winter Games in Beijing, with stops scheduled at Steamboat, Copper Mountain and Mammoth Mountain.