Gatorade Free Flow Tour @ Vail – Men’s Halfpipe Recap

Comments by Henrik Lampert/

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Day two of the Gatorade Free Flow Tour in Vail was witness to another spectacular show. The athletes threw down hard, with hopes that a strong performance might lead them to the top of that shiny-metallic podium.

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Sunday Funday at the Vail Halfpipe

The morning kicked off with the Junior Jam Rail Jam. Under cloudy skies and amidst some light snowfall, the 13-and-unders attacked the jib features with that sort of ferocious energy that only 13-and-unders possess. With an assortment of spins and switchups, Jackson Wells, Birk Irving, and Felix Coudouy distinguished themselves from the masses. The jam lasted for an hour and a half, and when the final whistle blew the focus quickly shifted up to the halfpipe.

Although the turnout was not quite as strong as it was for Saturday's Slopestyle, two talented qualifying heats took the stunt-ditch. The atmosphere was both fun-filled and competitive. A strong contingency from the Vail Valley Ski Club was present amongst the field which contained athletes who'd come from as far away as the UK, and New Zealand.

The weather remained unchanged, and the competitors relied on each other for motivation to push through the inclement weather. The camaraderie was strong; everyone was hootin' and a-hollerin', cheering on their pals.

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Vail Valley Ski Club In The House

The skiers in the first heat set the tone for others to follow. Highlight runs came from Aaron Blunck with his back to back 900's, Mikey Schumacher who continued to shred after dislocating his shoulder earlier in the morning, James Machon who went huge and executed some serious switch trickery, and Brian Kish who's style was as smooth as Gretzky in the slot. 

Noteworthy runs in the second heat came from Matt Evans, who spun both ways like a champ, Broby Leeds who's switch tricks made all the girls scream, Alex Ferreira who stomped back to back 9's and a mega-nice 1080 tail, and John Leonard who's amplitude was simply outstanding.

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900 Tail Grab? Sure, No Problem.

When the qualifying runs ended, the grommets dropped in for the Junior Jam. Eleven-year-old Felix Coudouy sent straight airs into the Stratosphere, Jackson Wells did what the Wells brothers do best (crush it), and Birk Irving proved that he's equally skilled in the pipe as he is in the rail-department.

When the youngsters wrapped up, the Finals kicked off. The heat was on as everyone gave their all. In the end, however, only three would be crowned. Coming in third was Aaron Blunck; he executed a solid first run, and then felt so good that on his 2nd go, he launched a massive 1260 on his first hit (which he backslapped a tad, but who cares? It was awesome).

Landing in the 2nd place spot was James Machon. He too performed well throughout the entire day, and his technicality combined with his solid amplitude was most impressive.

Taking top honors was 19-year-old Brian Kish. Needless to say, his tricks were good… real good. But what distinguished Kish from the rest of the competitors today was his effortless style. He was cool, calm and relaxed throughout the day, and it seems his genuine enjoyment on the hill transcends into his riding.

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John Leonard Shows You How To 540

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Brian Kish On His Way To The Top Of The Podium

And that's a wrap for the Gatorade Free Flow Tour at Vail. It was exciting to see some serious raw talent in this group of up and comers. It seemed that nearly every athlete was spinning both ways, and performing mid-run switch tricks; it was a clear reflection of the wild progression that has been taking place at the highest level of the sport.

I look forward to seeing how these guys progress over the next few years. Keep your eyes peeled, because there is no doubt in my mind that many of these rippers will one day be doing big, big things in freeskiing.

Brian Kish Interview

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Jackson Wells Interview

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Halfpipe Results:

1. Brian Kish – 89

2. James Machon – 78.25

3. Aaron Blunck – 72

4. Broby Leeds – 70

5. John Leonard – 69

6. Alex Ferreira – 68.75

7. Robert Machon – 60.75

8. Jake Cummings – 58

9. Cass Sheridan – 53

10. Matt Evans – 50.5

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Junior Jam Halfpipe Results:

1. Jackson Wells

2. Birk Irving

3. Felix Coudouy

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Junior Jam Rail Jam Results:

1. Jackson Wells

2. Birk Irving

3. Felix Coudouy 

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