words: Mary Walsh
photos: Peter Morning
Saturday, January 30th, under cloudy skies, the 2016 men’s slopestyle finals took center stage in the Buttermilk base area at X Games Aspen. The field, per usual, was heavy in talent. 2015 slope gold medalist Mark McMorris, Stale Sandbech, Torstein Horgmo, Max Parrot, Alek Oestreng, Darcy Sharpe, Yuki Kadono, Sven Thorgren, Eric Willet, Sage Kotsenburg, X Games rookie Mons Roisland, and Seb Toots, twelve riders all in possession of mental bags of tricks.
While the women had been privy to pristine conditions the day prior, the men were not so lucky. An early am rain had saturated the top layer of snow and shifting temperatures and partly cloudy skies were causing wide variations from run to run. Early on, guys were sending the jumps super deep, compressing on landings and having a challenging time holding a line to the next hit. As the contest continued, seemingly clean makes tossed riders moments after touchdown as the snow vacillated between being weirdly slippery and at time catchy. This talented twelve was facing challenging snow and more than a few truly consistent competitors were thrown slightly off their mark because of it. For every rider that excelled during the 2016 edition of this fabled contest, it was a single landed run out of three that earned them accolades.
Only a few months after breaking his back, Torstein returned to Aspen and while his barrage of tricks was decidedly mellower than usual, he brought a presence steeped in proper back ones to the contest proceedings. Sage Kotsenburg, though he finished outside of the top three, also offered up heavy style by taking a characteristically unique approach to various hits, including a real nice back 360 to layback under the closeout.
The ranks of Scandinavian destroyers were further bolstered on Saturday as Norwegian National Team rider Mons Roisland made his X Games slope debut. At only 19-years-old, Mons possesses a distinctly thorough style and a composure that belies his rookie status. After having landing difficulties on the first jump during runs one and two, Mons annihilated his third attempt, staying solid in the rails as well as landing a perfect switch backside triple sixteen to a front triple fourteen, resulting in an 86.33 and his first X Games medal for what’s sure to be a weighty collection.
Hot on the heels of dropping his All 8 video in which Sebastien Toutant’s ability to effortlessly link all eight variations of 270s was made very clear, the Quebecois snowboarder brought a succinct consistency and fluidity to the SPT-created slope course. One of only two riders to land his first run, Seb would take a 90.00 for a string of tricks that included two hardway 270s and a backside triple 1440.
As he dropped into his second go at the course, Mark McMorris was sitting in last place after his sloughed first run. But this enterprising Canadian had not earned five gold medals at the Aspen event by not being able to come through in the clutch. As jump tricks have elevated so quickly over the past two seasons, a strong rail game is paramount to earning top scores. Mark began his second run with a cab 270 hardway, followed by a half cab to frontlip 270 out and finished the rail plazas with a back 270 on 270 off. McMorris followed up his performance in the upper section by sending switch backside triple cork twelve, frontside triple cork fourteen, and backside triple fourteen on the three-jump line. Mark was awarded a 92.66 from the judging panel and would not look back. Norwegian phenom Stale Sandbech dropped second-to-last for the day and nailed 270’s and a 450 on in the rail section, then hit a flawless front twelve and matching frontside triple cork fourteen, but he couldn’t fully engage the landing gear on the final backside triple fourteen, leaving his friend a victory lap to close out the contest.
Congratulations to Mark, Seb and Mons, and much appreciation to all of the riders who competed on Saturday.
First – Mark McMorris
Second – Seb Toots
Third – Mons Roisland
Fourth – Eric Willet
Fifth – Alek Oestreng
Sixth – Darcy Sharpe
Seventh – Stale Sandbech
Eighth – Sven Thorgren
Ninth – Max Parrot
Tenth – Sage Kotsenburg
Eleventh – Torstein Horgmo
Twelfth – Yuki Kadono
Read the full Mark McMorris wins back-to-back gold in slopestyle at X Games Aspen 2016 article on Snowboarder Magazine.