The 2013 X Games Aspen big air wrapped up nearly two hours ago, and as I’m sitting down to write this—back at the Limelight Hotel in downtown Aspen—I’m still shaking. Tonight’s big air competition will go down in skiing’s history books as one of the most talked about events ever, with 21-year-old Henrik Harlaut stealing the show—stomping the first ever nose butter triple cork 1620, securing an X Games gold medal in the process. The noise was deafening. The scene was spectacular. The air was electric.
The show kicked off at 7:00 p.m. this evening with two fifteen-minute jam sessions—five skiers per, in a best-two-runs-count format. In the allotted time, athletes dropped in, threw down on the 80-foot booter, hopped on a snowmobile, zoomed up the hill, rushed up the steps of the towering scaffolding atop the course, clicked in, and dropped in all over again. Every second counts.
Eliminated via the qualifying rounds were Alex Schlopy, Jossi Wells, Andreas Håtveit and Vincent Gagnier. Advancing to the final were Henrik Harlaut, Bobby Brown, PK Hunder, Gus Kenworthy, Elias Ambühl and Kai Mahler. In the 18-minute-long final, those six put on a show that skiers across the globe won’t soon forget.
There was much anticipation for tonight’s event—as there had been talk all week of athletes preparing to throw the first triple corks in X Games skiing history. Sure enough, many a triple were thrown. We saw a switch triple rodeo Japan from Gus Kenworthy, and triple cork 1440s from Ambühl, Brown and Mahler—each stunt impressive in its own right.
Harlaut cruised through the elimination round and the early portion of the final throwing nose butter double cork 10s and 12s—stunts we’ve seen from him before. While familiar, Henrik performed the stunts better than ever, grabbing tail throughout, and rotating slowly and fluidly.
Then, in one fell swoop, all of those triples, all of Henrik’s nose butter doubles… they were practically erased from memory, as Harlaut pulled the nose butter triple cork 16 out of nowhere. It was completely unexpected. The crowd went berserk.
Henrik Harlaut stomps the first ever nose butter triple cork 1620
“I had that trick in my mind for the past month,” said Harlaut. “I felt [the idea] for the first time at Dew Tour big air in Breckenridge—it was the biggest jump I had ever nose butter doubled. I wasn’t planning on doing it tonight unless I really had to.”
“I had Tanner Hall, Taylor Seaton and Vincent Gagnier up top,” Henrik explained. “They were the ones that motivated me. Tanner came to me and said, ‘Do the triple. You got it. You know it. Just make history.’ So I tried it. And it went well.”
And what did Henrik feel when he put his feet to the ground? “A lot of happiness,” he said. “It was awesome.” Harlaut was awarded a perfect 50 for the maneuver, bringing his total score to a 97—enough for the win, and his first X Games medal.
“Tonight was just absolutely insane,” said AFP head judge Mike Atkinson. “The reaction in the judges booth when Henrik threw the triple… people were screaming, clipboards went flying… I mean, we’ve handed out perfect scores like that, but that was just really a glimpse into the future. It was by far a perfect score. It was just so exciting to be a part of here tonight, it was history in the making.”
Joining Henrik on the podium tonight were Swiss skiers Kai Mahler in second—earning his second straight X Games big air silver medal—and Elias Ambühl in third. Mahler only took three jumps during the final, as he tweaked his knee and was forced to sit out a while; he stomped a pair of switch double misty 1440s, however—enough to seal the deal on his second place finish. Ambühl stomped a handful of clean triples en route to his bronze.
Despite feeling overjoyed with his performance, Henrik admitted he’s not fully into the idea of triples. “I’m not sure if triples is the way I want freeskiing to go, but, why wouldn’t a guy?” he joked. Kai Mahler also noted he’s not too fond of the triples, but explained X Games has a way of pushing people to do tricks they might not ever do otherwise.
“I kind of like triples,” rebutted Ambühl. “It gets my heart, like, so crazy. It really gets my heart going. It’s what I love to do.” Ambühl also noted he’d like to see big air become an Olympic sport.
(L-R) Kai Mahler, Henrik Harlaut and Elias Ambühl
Many of you can remember when Tanner Hall stepped to the X Games podium one decade ago, with a troop of friends in tow, each one hoisting an Armada ski. ‘Twas an unforgettable moment.
“Growing up, I always saw my favorite skier of all time, Tanner Hall, win X Games year after year,” said Henrik following tonight’s big air. “And that was who I wanted to be like when I grew up.”
As Henrik strolled up to the podium today with a group of youngsters trailing behind him, each one holding an Armada ski, it seemed his dream had come true. And today, Henrik inspires a new generation. Tonight, the kids out there are saying to themselves, “I’m going to be like Henrik Harlaut when I grow up.”
2013 X Games Aspen Big Air Results
1. Henrik Harlaut — 97.00
2. Kai Mahler — 91.00
3. Elias Ambühl — 89.00
4. Bobby Brown — 86.00
5. Gus Kenworthy — 81.00
6. PK Hunder — 79.00