The best way to describe the X games is always with a circus analogy because nothing better conveys this made-for-TV herding of riders and the audience. For the weekend of January 12-17, 1999, Crested Butte, Colorado is transformed into a television fest that barely represents any of the sports its promoting, yet gets more teens amped on snowboarding than any other sports show.
With the exception of the snollerbladers, it’s difficult to visualize any of these sports in their true form. Snowboarders jib their way through flat, icy skateboard-style street courses complete with trashcans and rails. Freeriding skiers battle it out in an icy BoarderCross course, and snowmobilers rage around the barely snow-covered mountains full throttle spewing five times the pollution of a car but the media is here in full force.
Cameras are everywhere, following Palmer, following Terje (who, if the rumors are true, may have broken his nose today in the halfpipe) and leaving no professionally extreme athlete unfilmed. It’s quite the production. And now, for the third year in a row, Snowboarding Online is here to cover every juicy detail of the snowboarding and work our hardest to ignore the rest (no offense to the skiers because they were actually going off this morning on the big air jump with their snowboard inspired ski tricks).
The whole high flying act will kick off with the women’s halfpipe on Thursday, that is unless the women boycott due to the crappy, flat pipe that was offered up to the pipe riders today. Pipe builder extraordinaire Frank Wells was on the scene to witness the carnage in the pipe. After taking one two-hit run he promptly straight lined it for snowboard organizer Don Bostick and offered his building expertise. This means Wells and a handful of other riders will probably stay up half the night rebuilding the pipe (for the second year in a row) to save ESPN’s TV show and make it safe for the riders.
After one of the most epic halfpipe contests ever in North America last week at the Copper Mountain Grand Prix, it will be hard to match the enthusiasm and skill level that was displayed last Sunday without a nearly perfect pipe. Today’s pipe session was more of a non-session with riders bailing right and left with the “over it” call out everywhere. From Keir Dillon to Shannon Dunn, riders seemed to give the pipe the thumbs down, with Dunn even stating at the top of the pipe, “If the X Games are in Crested Butte again next year I think I am going to have to miss it.”
Dunn was pulling sick McTwists of course and smiling throughout the day: riding this ditch took some serious work. The bottom of the pipe offered up an “extreme” additive in a large box and a mailbox, which must have pleased the Utah kids because they began sessioning the box right away and ignored the rest of the pipe.
BJ Leines, Utah Jeremy Jones, and J.P Walker were among the new kids on the extreme block at the bottom of the pipe and to top off the one hitter session Peter Line, Todd Richards, and Cara-Beth Burnside spent some time slapping tail and grinding rail for the cameras. A majority of the riders bailed for the slopestyle practice, also known as the deathstyle, especially for the women. In today’s practice Katrina Warnick and Corie Rudishauser messed up their knees; Tara Dakides jacked her back somewhere along the way; and Jennie Waara is most likely out after breaking her elbow. Waara was just coming back from a broken ankle last summer.
So after the pipe cleared out and only a handful of women and a guy or two remained Terje Haakonsen made his guest appearance at the pipe, hucking a few runs with traditional Terje-style. While definitely lofting it on his straight airs, Terje’s runs were surprisingly tame and seemed to lack the technicality that has been shown in the last few contests in North America. He did throw in a Haakon flip at the top of one run, but basically seemed pretty indifferent to the whole circus. Rumor has it that Terje is at the X Games this year for one reason: to kick Palmer’s ass in BoarderCross. This is also the reason the legendary Andy Hetzel is here and without a doubt some of the motivation for Utah’s Jason Brown to be here as well.
Tomorrow stay tuned for coverage of the women’s halfpipe and more practice sessions for the slopestyle and BoarderCross.