FREESKIER’s Senior Contributor, Nate Abbott, comments on 2015 X Games, from bed, on drugs, following ACL surgery.
DING, was how Emma Dahlström’s winning run started. It was incidentally, the first run of the women’s slopestyle final that I saw. You see, again, ESPN decided to push women’s skiing aside, this time by skipping their first run. My thoughts on that are clear, and the skiing here was something that was must-see-tv.
From that first sound, made by Dahlström’s ski catching the top of the first rail in the course, the run got better and better. The ski slipped past the rail and Dahlström nailed the 270 on. Her next rail was a mellow spin off, then a big and impressive switch 270 gap onto the long rail garden jib. Spinning corked and upright, left and right and with three different grabs, she deserved her win. Yet for the remaining 11 runs by other women over the rest of the contest, she never could have felt safe in that spot.
Skiing began as a way to get from one place to another. It evolved from the Scandinavian utilitarian to include competitive disciplines, judged quite simply by being the fastest. Freeskiing came from the expressive and artistic desires of humanity. Art evolves in waves and so too has freeskiing: innovation, imitation, progression, variation, plateau, re-imagination. Women’s slopestyle seems to me to be at the level of variation right now. The ladies are picking and choosing their favorite tricks from a bigger variety than they had two years ago. As such, each one is expressing their view of skiing.
Devin Logan, to take one example, chose a rail line that showed diverse skills. Wallride, lipslide, spin out. Maybe she would have scored better by doing a spin onto one of the rails but I loved that she didn’t just do the obvious. The multi-discipline Logan is due for a breakout year and hopefully this will be a springboard for her.
Last year’s Olympic gold medalist (at the Olympics) Dara Howell was, in the absence of the three X medalists of 2014, the highest skier placed from 2014 to compete this year. In only moving up one place and with a similar score, it showed that the judges remained fairly consistent year over year. Howell is a very precise and controlled skier, and her rodeo with a bow-and-arrow grab is a banger. On-air, Luke Van Valin mentioned a “huge” new trick that Dara was holding onto. As with the men’s contest, the flat light appears to have taken its toll—I can’t wait to see it.
The slopestyle course for 2015 was perhaps a bit mellower than in years past. By removing one jump, the spread of scores certainly changes. With the tighter course, the slightest bobble denied a skier the chance for the following feature. So, maybe more mid-range scores were available. At the top of the scale, it seemed like there was actually more freedom to go wild without the added pressure of the fourth jump.
Still, it would have been interesting to see what Keri Herman had on a fourth jump. Executed flawlessly, her run perhaps lacked the progression factor to get a score in the 90s, especially with three jumps similar in style. Keri, though, is best defined by her intensity of energy, by the yolo-face she showed on ESPN before dropping in to grab silver. Style like that is not coachable and I’d guess she’s pretty stoked with the day and with the course. And so am I.