Recap: Vincent Gagnier wins 2015 X Games big air

Recap: Vincent Gagnier wins 2015 X Games big air

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Tonight, under the lights on Buttermilk Mountain, ten of the world’s premier skiing big air competitors battled for X Games glory. After two full elimination rounds and approximately 100 total jumps (by my count) over a massive, pristinely scultped 70-foot booter, it was Quebec’s own Vincent Gagnier who walked away with some fancy new gold-plated hardware. The win comes eight months after Gagnier broke his back while skiing at Grand Targhee. It’s his follow-up to a silver medal performance in big air in 2014. And he did it all in style.

Tonight’s format was as follows:

Two heats. The top three competitors from each heat would advance to finals. Skiers perform as many stunts as possible during a 15-minute jam session. Judges score each trick on a scale of 0-50, and the top two scores for each skier count towards a combined, final score. Example 50 + 50 = score of 100.

Heat 1 consisted of Jesper Tjäder, PK Hunder, Noah Morrison, Bobby Brown and Vincent Gagnier, while Heat 2 saw the likes of Gus Kenworthy and Jossi Wells—both of whom were big air “alternates” just a few days ago (more on that below)—and also Alex Schlopy, Kai Mahler and Elias Ambühl.

Unable to compete tonight were Alex Beaulieu-Marchand, injured earlier this week, and Henrik Harlaut, who would have been defending his back-to-back wins in this event. Harlaut was a no-go this evening after suffering an injury in today’s slopestyle finals; it is reported that Harlaut was treated for a concussion and a fractured clavicle.


Advancing from Heat 1 were Gagnier, Brown and Tjäder. Gagnier logged the highest score of the bunch, with a 42 and a 44 combining for an 86. His standout stunt was perhaps a double bio 12 modified screamin’ seamen (known to many as the Genie), and Twitter went nuts:

Advancing from Heat 2 were Schlopy, Mahler and Ambühl. Highlights included a switch 1800 from Schlopy, massive switch double misty 1440s from Mahler and a stomped triple cork 16 by Ambühl. Despite not advancing to finals, Jossi Wells and his stylish stunts earned high praise from the peanut gallery:

Yet, Wells suffered an apparent injury on what looked to be a botched switch triple attempt. We haven’t received word regarding the nature of the injury; we wish him well.


Tonight’s final consisted of an 18 minute jam session. And just in case you skipped all of the above, the finalists were: Schlopy, Mahler, Ambühl, Gagnier, Brown and Tjäder. And holy cow, what a show it was…

Triple cork 1620s and an attempted switch triple cork 1800 from Ambühl; switch triple cork 1260 Japans and double cork 1620 mutes for Tjäder; switch double misty 1440s and “reverse carve” double cork 1260s for Mahler; an attempted switch 1980 for Schlopy, who was injured on the play; and a nice ol’ switch double misty 12 for Brown.

The story of the night, though, was Vincent Gagnier, affectionately known to the skiing community as Vinni Cash. While many opted for triple flips, Gagnier refused, opting for style and a unique approach. That’s not to say he lacked technicality. His two high scores came with a double bio 1620 double Genie-to-safety, and then, a double bio 1620 double Genie-to-Octo grab. I can’t stress enough how challenging this combination of grabs is with that particular axis of rotation (not that I know from experience).

Watch: Vincent Gagnier’s winning run.
Vincent Gagnier on his big win.

Gagnier sat in the lead for most of the contest. He felt so comfortable in the lead, in fact, that he opted to pass on a few of his turns to drop in, opting instead to let the others chase him.

While outstanding, stomped stunts were a fantastic part of the show, the aerial antics didn’t come without a price tonight. As aforementioned, Schlopy was forced to pull out of the contest on account of injury. Bobby Brown, too, cracked his helmet in half on a switch triple attempt. Despite Brown’s brutal slam, he continued to ski. Ambühl too took some gut-wrenching blows, as did Tjäder. Skiers were attempting never-before-done-tricks. The lure to win drove them to the brink.

In fact, as I write this, here in the media tent at the base of Buttermilk, the athletes are just flowing in through two swinging doors: the standard protocol for medalists here at X. They’ve got to sit before the media and answer all of our Qs. Ambühl walked in first, limping. Gagnier came next, clutching his gut and literally wincing in pain. “My ribs!” he said. Brown came third, with glossed-over eyes and appearing somewhat dazed.

I spoke with Gagnier just moments ago, who, despite the pain, is elated. “I’ve been dreaming about this since I was six years old. I can’t believe it, I’m so happy,” he said. He insists the Genie-to-Octo is easy. “It was the first time I ever tried it.” And he said, “How’s that for a comeback?!” referring, of course, to the injury he sustained in late April. And then he said, “I now have the same amount of X Games medals as my brother, [Charles], and they’re all the same color.” His admiration for his older sibling is clear.

Cody Townsend joked on Twitter:

Body-slams aside, the performance was exciting. The crowd (48,500 people attended X Games today, a new record for single day attendance) loved it. And skiing fans everywhere are in awe tonight. The high level of skiing prompted Simon Dumont to comment on the overall progression of the sport. He wrote on Twitter, “It’s crazy how far skiing has come. I’m proud to have been a part of transforming this sport. Fastest progression ever.”

What’s next for skiing big air? I don’t know. But if Alex Schlopy keeps spinning like he did tonight, he might just have the answer for us. #futurespins

Listen: Bobby Brown re: 2015 X Games big air

Action from Buttermilk continues (and concludes) tomorrow with men’s superpipe finals. For a full event & television schedule, click here.

For the latest from X Games, be sure to click on the “X Games” tag below. Additionally, follow @FREESKIERLive on Twitter for up-to-the-minute coverage of each freeskiing event, plus @FREESKIERmagazine on Instagram and @FREESKIER_mag on Snapchat, for more.

P.s. Forgive any & all typos—the after party is calling.

2015 X Games big air final, official results

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Related: See the 2015 Winter X Games event & television schedule

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