JF Houle Qualifies First at Euro X Slopestyle Prelims
Difficulty with weather doesn't even begin to describe the problems on the slopestyle course. Warm temperatures, snowfall, the flattest light ever and a slow course added up to quite the day on the course for the 23 competitors. The event staff decided to close off the third and final jump for the contest due to concerns of it being unsafe in these conditions, the right call. But at the end of the day, it was the Quebecois JF Houle who used his rail game to elevate his score to the top of the pack, with Gus Kenworthy and James Woods hot on his heels.
JF Houle's nose butter 180 to switch 450 on the flat-down was the highlight of his run, mixing in a rightside 720 and double cork 1260 to boot. Gus Kenworthy, making his first European X Games appearance, made the most of it. With tricks like switch 270, blind 360 switch up to 270 out, on the flat to gap down feature, Gus could casually mix in a double cork 1260 and switch right 900 to handily take second. And coming out of the UK swinging hard was James Woods, making his first X Games appearance, wowed the judges with 360 switch ups and double cork 1260s of his own.
Andreas Håtveit – Fifth place qualifier.
Mr. Slopestyle himself — Russ Henshaw — afterbanged his double cork 1080s on his way to qualifying in the fourth position. Andreas Håtveit's transfer off the snow box to the gap to down rail intrigued the judges. Add in his double cork 1080 double grab and rightside tricks (450 on the rail and 900 on the first jump) and the Norwegian is laughing. Alex Schlopy, the hottest freeskier on the circuit right now — landed himself in finals as well. A leftside 900, double cork 1260 and huge 630 off the flat rail gap put the bright eyed young man in sixth.
Live feed at the top of the course for the competitors.
Last year's European X Games silver medalist Teen Heartthrob Bobby Brown found himself on the outside looking in on his final run. But Young Brown put it down, including a rodeo onto the flat-down rail, rightside 720 and gigantic double cork 1080. Seventh place might not seem great for a skier the caliber of Bobby, but he's in and tomorrow is a different story. And today's Bubble Boy is the ever-stylish Phil Casabon. Phil's use of his stylish yet technical rail tricks and his signature switch 900 kept him in the fight for another day.
A number of heavy hitters didn't make it today, including last year's fifth place finisher Henrik Harlaut, whose forward 1080 wasn't enough today. Last year's gold medalist Tom Wallisch couldn't put down a clean run, ending his chances for a repeat. Jossi Wells' switch 630s and double cork 1260s couldn't pique the judges interest enough to move him further than 10th place, however the Boss Man still has pipe finals later in the evening. Elias Ambühl and PK Hunder both put forth valiant efforts (including Elias' double cork 1080 on the 25-foot first jump) but were ousted.
Here comes the sun… and Jacob Wester.
Due to the flat light and slow conditions, a number of rider sustained serious-looking crashes, but are luckily A-ok. Ian Cosco underrotated a switch left 900 and whipped down pretty good. Byron Wells got a little lost in his switch double 1080, putting a nice split in his helmet. Markus Eder was unsuccessfully attempting to misty 450 transfer the gap rail, but he escaped unscathed.
What will the weather hold for tomorrow's competition? Will Mother Nature spew more snow? Will the sun bust through and bask us in its warming effervescence? Will the race staff be able to open the third jump, changing the entire landscape of the contest? We shall see as the men take the field of battle at noon tomorrow (Thursday). Stay tuned.
2 Gus Kenworthy — 91.66
3 James Woods — 86.00
4 Russ Henshaw — 85.66
5 Andreas Hatveit — 85.00
6 Alex Schlopy — 84.00
7 Bobby Brown — 83.66
8 Phil Casabon — 83.00
10 Jossi Wells — 80.66
11 Elias Ambuhl — 78.33
12 PK Hunder — 75.00
13 Nick Goepper — 72.33
14 Tom Wallisch — 71.33
15 Joss Christensen — 69.66
16 Gaute Silseth — 67.66
17 Aleks Aurdal — 54.00
18 Julien Lange — 47.00
19 Jacob Wester — 38.33
20 Bene Mayr — 36.33
21 Byron Wells — 35.00
22 Ian Cosco — 28.33
23 Markus Eder — 27.66
About the author:
Shay Williams is the Managing Editor of Freeskier Magazine. He loves cheeseburgers, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Sweden. He's likely on a plane right now—first class only.