No medals were on the line in the Jeep Snowboard Slopestyle elimination round at X Games Aspen, but that didn't diminish the statement made by Mark McMorris ahead of Shaun White.
With months of anticipation finally playing out Thursday under gray skies on Buttermilk Mountain, McMorris posted the No. 1 qualifying score -- 88.66 on his first of two runs -- while White struggled to land his jumps cleanly and finished seventh (67.33). Neither rider attempted a triple cork, which has fast become snowboarding's most technical and electrifying trick and likely will determine Saturday's champion. Eight of the 16 competitors moved on to the final, with a number of big names missing the cut.
Mark McMorris on his way to his first-place finish in the Men's Slopestyle qualification round. The finals are on Saturday.
"I am just so glad I got the first run out of the way," said McMorris, the defending champion, after coasting through a subdued but stylish second run. "Now I can just build on that. X Games is so anticipated. I had more to bring, but it was pretty tough light today. I stuck with my game plan and did the run I wanted to do."
That run included an impressive rail sequence up top with switch and forward tricks, then a jump sequence that featured a cab double 900, frontside double 1080, double wildcat and backside double 1080.
White, a five-time X Games Slopestyle champion who last won in 2009, began his rail section with the same trick as McMorris, a cab 270 on the down rail, and landed a switch backside 1080 on his first jump, but he hand-touched on two of his landings and later said it "was not my best run."
On his second run, he hip-checked a landing on the third of four jumps and skipped the final jump, possibly saving his energy for the SuperPipe elimination round Thursday evening. He is the five-time defending champ in that event.
Peetu Piiroinen qualified second with an 81.33, while X Games rookie Max Parrot was third (75.66). Torstein Horgmo's struggles in Aspen continued as the dominant Slopestyle rider now has made six appearances with no medals. Sebastien Toutant, a gold medalist in 2011, and last year's silver medalist, Sage Kotsenburg, also were eliminated.
"Not our day, man," Horgmo said to Kotsenburg in the finish corral.