X Games Aspen preview: Men’s and women’s snowboarding | AspenTimes.com

X Games Aspen preview: Men’s and women’s snowboarding

U.S. snowboarder Chloe Kim taking a practice run through the Aspen X Games superpipe on Wednesday at Buttermilk.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

MEN’S SNOWBOARD SUPERPIPE

Let’s get the most pressing question answered: Yes, Shaun White is here. The two-time Olympic gold medalist who has a ridiculous 13 gold medals at Winter X Games (plus two more golds from Summer X) is coming off the run of his life — a perfect 100 at the Snowmass Grand Prix to clinch a trip to his fourth Olympics. He opted to sit out the final qualifier last week in Mammoth, but looks to be a full go for X Games. While his dominance at X is unmatched, it’s crazy to think he hasn’t finished on the podium at X Games Aspen since 2013. He was a disappointing 11th in 2017 after missing the 2016 event because of a dispute with ESPN. He was fourth in 2015 and skipped the 2014 event to focus on training for the Olympics, where he finished fourth in Sochi. He’s the obvious favorite, but his competition is fierce with Australian Scotty James, the reigning X Games Aspen gold medalist, and 2018 U.S. Olympians Ben Ferguson, Chase Josey and Jake Pates competing. Notably missing are Matt Ladley, the 2016 gold medalist, Taylor Gold and two-time X Games gold medalist Danny Davis, who are all out with injury.

Format: No qualifying, 10-rider final, best score of three runs.

MEN’S SNOWBOARD SLOPESTYLE

Looking to defend his X Games gold from 2017 is Norway’s Marcus Kleveland, one of the best up-and-coming stars in the sport. He’s also a big air specialist, taking silver in Aspen a year ago. His competition? The usual suspects of Mark McMorris, Max Parrot, Sebastien Toutant and some kid from Silverthorne named Red Gerard. Gerard has never medaled at X Games and missed finals last year, but expect that to change. The teen sensation made easy work of the Olympic qualifiers and should be a gold medal frontrunner in both Aspen and Korea. Canada’s McMorris only has seven X Games gold medals to his name, plus an Olympic bronze from 2014, so expect him to factor. Keep an eye on rising star Chris Corning, a Summit County resident who once trained with the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club. He’s headed to his first Olympics in both slopestyle and big air and will make his X Games debut this week.

Format: 16 skiers compete in the 2-run qualifying with top 5 making finals; the three podium finishers from 2017 all automatically make finals, with the eight-man finals being a best of three-run format.

MEN’S SNOWBOARD BIG AIR

Consider this the practice round for PyeongChang. Big air snowboarding will make its Olympic debut next month and how Aspen shapes up could say a lot about the contest in Korea. Max Parrot, Marcus Kleveland and Mark McMorris went 1-2-3 in Aspen last year, and all are back for more this year. Sebastien Toutant, a two-time X Games gold medalist in slopestyle, will compete, as will X Games rookie Chris Corning, who is a name to know going into the Olympics.

Format: No qualifying; a 25-minute jam session with eight finalists, combined best two scores wins.

WOMEN’S SNOWBOARD SUPERPIPE

Chloe Kim, the teen phenom from California, saw her two-year reign of terror at X Games Aspen end last year when she settled for a measly bronze in 2017. She had won gold in both 2015 and 2016. The only woman to have landed a perfect 100 in a halfpipe, Kim will make her Olympic debut next month as she was too young to compete in Sochi four years ago. She’s the present and future of women’s halfpipe snowboarding, while the 2018 Olympics could be the start of a farewell tour for fellow Californian Kelly Clark. The six-time X Games Aspen gold medalist and 2002 Olympic gold medalist is 34 and likely down to her last hurrah. This might not be her last X Games appearance, but it’s most likely her final Olympics. She’ll go to Korea alongside U.S. teammates Maddie Mastro, Arielle Gold and Kim. Veteran Elena Hight is also back at X Games Aspen this year, looking to defend her breakthrough gold medal from 2017.

Format: No qualifying, 8-rider final, best score of three runs.

WOMEN’S SNOWBOARD SLOPESTYLE

This is Jamie Anderson’s world. The most decorated woman in X Games slopestyle history is actually in somewhat of a drought, the last of her four X Games gold medals coming way back in 2013. She took silver last year, losing to relative newcomer Julia Marino, who has carried that momentum onto the U.S. slopestyle/big air team for Pyeongchang with Anderson, Hailey Langland and Jessika Jenson. Of the four, only Jenson looks absent from the eight-rider X Games field. Canada’s Spencer O’Brien, the 2016 gold medalist, is back, as is Austrian star Anna Gasser, who won her first X Games gold at the event in Oslo last year.

Format: No qualifying, 8-rider final, best score of three runs.

WOMEN’S SNOWBOARD BIG AIR

Youngster Hailey Langland made a name for herself last year when she won the women’s snowboard big air contest for her first X Games gold medal. She also has a bronze from slopestyle in 2016. The California teen, who is close friends with Chloe Kim, pulled a stunning last-second upset over favorite Anna Gasser in last year’s competition. Julia Marino won bronze in 2017. All three are back at X Games this week, alongside Jamie Anderson, Silje Norendal, Klaudia Medlova, Enni Rukajarvi and Reira Iwabuchi. Like with the men, women’s big air snowboarding will make its Olympic debut next month. The same four Americans going for slopestyle will also compete in big air at the Olympics.

Format: No qualifying; a 25-minute jam session with eight finalists, combined best two scores wins.

acolbert@aspentimes.com


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