Thirty competitors squared off on the Dew Tour slopestyle course today, each gunning for one of 16 spots in Sunday’s final. Athletes had two runs each—best run counts—and with blue skies prevailing and barely a hint of wind, the boys put on a great show.
The day kicked off with an early morning practice session. Taking advantage of the ultra-spectacular conditions, the competitors didn’t waste any time before stepping up to some heavy stunts. While standing in the start gate, watching the guys drop in rapid-fire style, I thought to myself, “This is absolutely ridiculous,” in regards to the level of skiing I was witnessing at that hour of the day. Just a few seconds later, moments before dropping in, Russ Henshaw exclaimed, “That was retarded,” as Jesper Tjader stomped a smooth 630 on, 270 out of the flat-down rail, part of the second feature station. It’s safe to say we were all on the same wavelength.
At 9:30, after an hour+ of training, the qualifier kicked off; the contest ran for the next two and half hours.
“The course is actually, probably the best it’s been for Dew Tour.” – Sammy Carlson
Finishing in the top spot today was 19-year-old Nick Goepper—no surprises there. Coming off of an incredible 2012/13 season—a highlight of which was a gold medal performance at X Games Aspen—Goepper began his 2013/14 competition season with two wins Down Under, at the Freeski Open of New Zealand and the New Zealand Winter Games. And despite competing with a screw in his left hand, the result of surgery to repair a broken bone, and wearing a brace for protection—which prevented Nick from competing with his ski poles—Nick stomped a heck of a run:
Switch left 270 on, pretzel 270 out of the down rail up top; a switch right 270 on, pretzel 270 out of the flat-down; a left double 1080 Japan on jump one; switch right double 900 Japan on jump two; a 180 on, switch corked 540 out of the Chicken Coop feature; front swap, 270 off the rainbow; rightside double cork 10 mute on jump three and a left double 1080 tail to close.
“This is the best day I’ve ever seen for a contest at Breckenridge, there’s no wind, it’s super sunny, it’s pretty sweet,” Nick said after the contest. In regards to his plan for Sunday’s finals, Nick told us, “I just like to get a little creative… I have a couple of things I want to do, but for the most part I’m just trying to stick to the same run.”
Watch: Nick Goepper scores a 93.20 on his first run at Dew Tour
Finishing second was 2012 Dew Tour slopestyle champion, Russ Henshaw. Henshaw went down on run one, and with the pressure on, managed to stick a clean run on his second go-round.
“That’s probably the most nerve-racking feeling before you drop,” Russ said post-run, “but once you land it, it’s the best feeling in the world.”
Henshaw will try his darndest to defend his title on Sunday, but first, he’s got some resting up to do. “I tweaked my knee about a week ago and it’s still a little sore,” he said. “So, after training this afternoon I’m just going to cruise and get ready.”
Behind Russ, in third, was Utah’s Joss Christensen, who was one of the only athletes who opted to utilize the iconic Mountain Dew wall ride in his run. Rounding out the top five were Bobby Brown, in fourth, and Norway’s Øystein Bråten, in fifth.
Following the contest, we spoke with Sammy Carlson, who managed to qualify for finals with a second run score of 81.80.
“It feels good, for sure,” Sammy said about making the cut. “I wanted to put my run down clean today—definitely just trying to ‘do me,’ just ski and enjoy myself out there. A lot of people are putting a lot of pressure on this year, but I’m still just trying to keep it real and have fun with what I do, and not overdo it, you know?”
Sammy, of course, refers to the fact that Dew Tour is serving as an Olympic qualifier for the U.S. Freeskiing Team this year. The U.S. Team selections, which will be announced on January 22, will hinge upon results here at Dew, along with the upcoming Grand Prix events at Copper, Northstar-at-Tahoe and Park City.
Sammy spins onto the second feature in the course
Sammy also spoke to the quality of this year’s slopestyle course. “Today we got really lucky with beautiful weather,” he said. “The course is actually, probably the best it’s been for Dew Tour. They blew a lot of snow, and it’s a week earlier than normal this year, so big ups to the Breck Park Crew, they did a great job—jumps are money, rails are pretty cool, I’m definitely having a good time riding out here.”
We also caught up with Gus Kenworthy, who, after falling on his first run, managed to hang on to a second run, despite a couple of bobbles. With a 74.40, Gus finished 16th, in the bubble spot, and was relieved to make it through to the final round.
Fantasy Freeride players were also relived to see Gus advance, as Gus is a double threat at Dew Tour, competing in both slopestyle and halfpipe, putting him in a position to rack up valuable points. Token Fantasy interjection aside, here’s what Gus had to say:
Listen to all of our sound bites from qualifiers: click here
Coverage continues from the Dew Tour through Sunday, December 15. See the full event schedule here.
Advancing to slopestyle finals are:
1. Nick Goepper (USA) 93.20
2. Russ Henshaw (AUS) 89.60
3. Joss Christensen (USA) 88.80
4. Oystein Braten (NOR) 88.20
5. Bobby Brown (USA) 88.00
6. Alex Beaulieu-Marchand (CAN) 87.40
7. James Woods (GBR) 86.20
8. Robert Franco (USA) 85.80
9. Tom Wallisch (USA) 84.80
10. Alex Schlopy (USA) 82.80
11. Sammy Carlson (USA) 81.80
12. McRae Williams (USA) 81.20
13. Antti Ollila (FIN) 79.00
14. Noah Wallace (USA) 76.60
15. Kolby Ward (USA) 75.00
16. Gus Kenworthy (USA) 74.40