Wester wins inaugural NAO slopestyle | AspenTimes.com

Wester wins inaugural NAO slopestyle

Adam Boffey
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jacob Wester on his way to slopestyle victory at the North American Open Saturday in the Breckenridge terrain park. Wester was joined on the podium by Jon Olsson and Tanner Rainville in the inaugural event. (Eric Drummond/Summit Daily)

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. ” Jon Olsson woke up Saturday morning with more on his mind than just securing a podium spot at the North American Open in Breckenridge.

As co-host of the event (with Simon Dumont), the Swedish freeskiing sensation was up at dawn with the quality of the slopestyle course on his mind.

Olsson began the day by maintaining the NAO jumps and finished it by taking second in the competition behind Jacob Wester and ahead of Tanner Rainville.

“I try to ski well whenever I put on an event,” Olsson said, several hours before results were announced. “But it’s impossible to ski your best and organize at the same time.”

Olsson’s organizational duties on Saturday included contending with the conditions.

“I came up this morning at 7 and said, ‘I wonder if we’re going to be able to do this,'” Olsson recalled. “Then it started snowing more and there was an uphill wind – it was like this nightmare scenario.”

Snowy skies came and went throughout the day, which caused a major delay midway through the proceedings while skiers slipped snow off the jumps (half of the men’s field was actually allowed a re-try on their second run out of fairness).

“It was kind of a safety issue for sure,” said Rainville, who currently hangs his helmet in Breckenridge. “It wasn’t just a couple of people – it was everybody having problems clearing the jump.”

Mother Nature may have been smiling down on the inaugural event because the snow subsided, the temperature dropped and the course got a lot faster, which was good for Wester, who stomped his third run.

The Swedish star seemed relieved.

“I’ve had a pretty (bad) competition season so far,” Wester said. “I tweaked my knee at the X Games, didn’t feel (my best) in slopestyle at the X Games or the U.S. (Freeskiing) Open, came here and everything’s just working out.”

Wester drew the judging panel’s attention with a very clean double-inverted 1260, which involves three and a half body rotations (going upside down twice).

Wester, who was one of 32 finalists on Saturday, praised the NAO for its awesome atmosphere and the extensive practice time it built in for athletes.

“It was a perfect opportunity to ski a lot of times on the course without even doing tricks,” Wester said, “Just to get comfortable with everything.”

Breckenridge skier Keri Herman had a great time at the NAO and happened to win the competition as a bonus.

“I don’t care (where I stand),” Herman said soon after her third slopestyle run, but long before podium toppers were announced. “Especially with this group of girls – we just hang out and have fun. I’m just as excited about my run as I am about everybody else’s.”

Herman was one of only five women in the finals (the group was narrowed down from roughly 20 who competed in Fridays qualifying round).

“There are only a few women,” said Breck’s Athena Brownson, who took third behind freesking legend Kristi Leskinen in second. “But the few that are here love (the sport) and it’s cool to see.”

Leskinen, like Wester, was a big fan of the first NAO.

“I’ve never had this much fun at a contest,” said the nine-year pro, who clearly appreciated the event organizers’ flexibility in working with difficult conditions, “let alone this much fun on that big of a jump in weather like this.”

NAO action continues today with a halfpipe qualifying jam session in the morning and the finals beginning at noon.


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