The dynamic duo Charles and Vincent nab first and third, while Gus Kenworthy picks up second at the unconventional Austrian slopestyle event
North American freeskiers cleaned up tonight at the Red Bull Playstreets event in Bad Gastein, Austria, where for once style ruled the day and the double corks were left behind. Innovator Vincent Gagnier picked up third place with his inimitable grabs on jumps and jibs alike, while Gus Kenworthy nabbed second with some huge 900s. But the night belonged to Charles Gagnier, who reclaimed the top spot here in Bad Gastein a solid six years after winning the inaugural Playstreets event in 2007.
“It’s awesome to be on the podium with my brother,” said Charles, whose wife and newborn daughter were also in attendance. “It gave me extra power to have my family here with me.”
With three jump features and a rooftop box feature all tightly spaced straight through the middle of this hillside Austrian resort town, the Playstreets course demands precise skiing with little room for error. The size and tightness of the features means that riders have to rely on style rather than huge tricks to get the judges’ attention (although this didn’t stop a few skiers from hucking doubles on a jump not much longer than 20 feet). In other words, it was the perfect venue for the Gagnier brothers to shine.
“The Gagniers were my favorite riders,” said 18-year-old Swedish competitor Jesper Tjäder, who narrowly missed the finals despite his awesome switch backflip off the box feature. “They did a lot of creative stuff that no one else did.”
After a qualifying round slimmed the field of 22 skiers down to the top eight (knocking out heavy hitters like Nick Goepper, Bobby Brown, PK Hunder and TJ Schiller in the process), the finalists went head-to-head in a best-of-two runs format. In one of the more contested decisions of the night, Elias Ambühl and his double cork 10 got the nod from the judges over a spectacular run by Italian shredder Markus Eder which included left and rightside switch 7s and a switch 270 on, misty 450 off the box. Vincent Gagnier’s huge 540 screamin’ seamen grabs on the hip and a mind-boggling nose-grab blind surface swap, octograb out of the box (yep, octograb out) knocked out top qualifier Luca Tribondeau, who couldn’t put his double cork to his feet. Gus Kenworthy bested Finnish styler Antti Ollila with a pair of 900s and a polished front swap, backside 630 out of the box, and Charles Gagnier cruised past Austrian Tobi Tritscher, who took a nasty fall that sent him into the safety fences lining the course.
As the four remaining skiers were rallied to the top on the backs of quads racing through the crowded streets of Bad Gastein, the event staff struggled to clear the course of new snow, which was making speed difficult on the second kicker. Then it was time for the semis.
Charles once again cruised ahead, this time past Elias Ambühl, who somewhat inexplicably fell on his first trick in both runs. Meanwhile, Kenworthy narrowly bested Vincent Gagnier with a huge alley-oop cork 900 tail on the hip and a switch 900 on the step-down.
In the finals, Gus pulled out all the stops with a monster cork 1080 on the hip, but landed so deep he couldn’t pull it together in time to hit the next kicker. He creatively rodeoed over the knuckle and finished his run with a switch 5 and a front swap to rodeo 450 out of the box. Charles then knuckled the kicker on a 540, giving Gus the early lead. But in the second and final run it was Gus who fell, and Charles stomped his run clean: rightside cork 900 reverse mute, leftside 540 tail, switch backflip 180, and a dreamy one-footed 270 on, 270 off the box. Game, set, match. In the consolation round, Vincent Gagnier nailed his run clean to the beat of A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It?” while Ambühl still couldn’t put down his flatspin 7.
All in all, it was a treat to see two Gagnier brothers on one podium, a refreshing sight to see style take the spotlight in a slopestyle comp, and an unforgettable experience watching top freeskiers blast through the middle of an Austrian village packed with thousands of screaming spectators. Playstreets is truly an event in a league of its own.
“Six years ago, nobody believed that this event was possible,” said Playstreets organizer Heli Putz. “Everyone said it was crazy, that it wouldn’t work.” But Putz, a former carpenter, was able to visualize the structures that would make the urban slopestyle contest a reality. “I knew we could build something that would work,” he said.
2013 Red Bull Playstreets Results
1. Charles Gagnier
2. Gus Kenworthy
3. Vincent Gagnier
4. Elias Ambühl