The North Face Freeski Open Slopestyle qualifiers set the bar high on Thursday at Snow Park, NZ and yesterday’s finalists reached over and beyond that mark. The exhibition featured some awe-inspiring tricks by the strong international lineup, including Gus Kenworthy’s switch double cork 1260 in the semis.
Russ Henshaw of Australia won first place with a fantastic score of 84.80 out of 100. The X-games medalist went home with NZ$6000 after he showed off his athletic ability in his run with a front 450 off the close out rail, a lip 270 on 270 out of the down rail followed by a switch 540 tap over the bonk feature. On the jumps he performed with a right double cork 1260 mute backed up with a switch left double rodeo 900 Japan. Finishing up with a 450 off the infamous ‘Rock N’ Roll Horns’.
“I am super stoked to be able to compete at The North Face Freeski Open of New Zealand this year, after missing out through injury last year,” said Henshaw. “Getting first here in New Zealand is just the best feeling I have had in a long time!”
Jesper Tjader of Sweden came in at second but all the while keeping close with Henshaw over the kickers, meeting him trick for trick. He even pulled off a sick 270 to front flip off the knuckle on the ‘Horns’ feature. Jules Bonnaire of France made third place and wowed the judges with a style filled run, including a technical switch right bio 900 and a left rodeo 1080 tail grab.
Beau-James Wells claimed a 78.40 in the semis becoming the only male Kiwi to make it to finals. He finished off in 8th place with one of the most flawless switch double rodeos the judges had ever seen.
As for the ladies’ final, American Freeski Team member, Emilia Wint, won first place. Her run was more than impressive with a left 540, to switch left rodeo 540 critical and ending with a giant 720 tweaked mute grab. She was awarded a score of 84.50 and a NZ$3000 prize-cheque. “This is a great way for me to set my pace for the season,” said Wint, “especially with the Argentina World Cup taking place next week.”
Canadian Dara Howell came in second place with a run that included a 540, switch 540 and a massive 900. Rose Battersby of New Zealand made third place for the second year in a row, nailing a styled out left 900 to finish her run. She was thrilled with her first result of a competitive season after finishing 4th in the overall AFP World Tour standings last season. “I am so happy to get third again,” said Rose. “This third place is way more rewarding than last year, as the field was far more competitive this year!”
Today the Halfpipe Finals commence with an even more competitive field than yesterday. Next week the Big Mountain competition kicks off at the Remarkables, so there’s plenty more action to come at The North Face Freeski Open of New Zealand.