Henshaw, Kenworthy, and double corks galore lead men’s slopestyle
You can’t blame him. At Wednesday night’s official press event to kick off Winter X 15, Colorado-bred freeski prodigy Bobby Brown showed up late. Instead of sitting for an hour among a panel of eight top X Games competitors to answer questions from a packed house of press (mostly directly to Shaun White), Brown was out training for the next day’s slopestyle elimination at 10 a.m. Hence, come 4 p.m. on Wednesday, once the lifts stopped spinning, in came Brown still decked in ski gear and visibly tunnel-visioned on his three runs Thursday morning.
“This is the best course I’ve ever skiied,” said Brown, 19, who hails from Breckenridge. “And you see someone do something real sick, it get you ready.”
Brown was out perfecting his new trick for Winter X 15, an unnatural (read: right-side spinning) double cork 1080. Most competitors will be throwing such variations—a trick where they spin three times around the vertical axis while completing two inversions—and indeed, to walk away from X these days with a medal, you essentially need double corks.
“I’ll bring it out tommorow at qualifying,” he added.
Qualifying? Yep, it’s got to that level. Australian Russ Henshaw, Thursday morning’s first skier on the course, did three double corks in a row on the last three hits, including a right-side double cork 1260 on the final 70-foot Money Booter. Considering it was only last August in New Zealand when back-to-back doubles were done for the first time in a slopestyle competition, seeing three in a row—in qualifying—was truly a level up.
“The gauntlet has been thrown down,” said ESPN analyst Chris Ernst.
Henshaw went on to qualify first, with Americans Gus Kenworthy and Sammy Carlson in second and third. Homestate hero Brown pulled off a solid final run of three to qualify in fifth, while Norwegian Andreas Hatveit landed a double cork octograb 1080, where he crosses his skis and grabs one tip with a hand and one tail with a hand, to qualify in fourth behind Carlson. Quebecois Phil Casabon had the most creative run of the morning with a butter to tail press on the down rail right out of the gates, and a solid overall run good for eighth in qualifying.
Casabon’s dad, watching from up top, described the last week as a blur. The family drove from Quebec to Killington and after being delayed one day due to snow, arrived in Aspen at midnight on Monday. Practice for slopestyle was Tuesday.
“I’m just as nervous as the other parents out here,” he said.
But as skiing’s level rises again, the excitement is there too.
WINTER X GAMES 15: SKIING SLOPESTYLE MEN’S ELIMINATION RESULTS (Top eight advance to final)
1. Russ Henshaw 94.00
2. Gus Kenworthy 92.66
3. Sammy Carlson 91.00
4. Andreas Hatveit 90.00
5. Bobby Brown 87.33
6. Henrik Harluat 84.33
7. Elias Ambuhl 84.00
8. Phil Casabon 83.33
9. Jossi Wells 83.00
10. JF Houle 80.00
11. Ian Cosco 79.00
12. Jacob Wester 75.00
13. Alex Schlopy 72.00
14. Chris Logan 68.66
15. Colby West 64.00
Nick Cunkelman is a senior at Colby College in Waterville, ME who grew up skiing at Vermont’s Mad River Glen, a mere three-hour drive from his home in Acton, MA. His writing has appeared in The Colby Echo, The Jackson Hole News and Guide, and The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. For more photos, go to sport-write-shoot.tumblr.com.