Patriots in the park

Have you watched a halfpipe contest lately? For the last three years, nearly every big pipe event has ended with a podium topped by a guy waving a French or Canadian flag. On the bright side, the Good Ol' US of A is home to some of the world's best slopestyle skiers. So even if France takes pipe again this week at the second-ever Winter X Europe, slope will go to the mighty red, white and blue — not the French kind, the American kind.

After making that claim, I might as well start off with the one American who won't be taking slope for the States. Sammy Carlson recently made it public that he won't be competing this week in Tignes, despite having just won his first Winter X Slope gold medal this January in Aspen.

"It's hard passing it up," said Carlson, who would have been an obvious favorite in Tignes. "But I always told myself that when I won X I would go out and put together best pow segment [to] show people I got this any way they want it."

Carlson has given film projects high priority throughout his career. It turns out that conditions in Whistler, where Carlson is currently filming with Poor Boyz Productions, were too good to pass up. "If I were Sammy, I probably wouldn't have left either," said Ian Cosco, a Canadian competing in Euro X Slope. "The snow in Whistler is all-time right now."

For slope skiers in Tignes, Carlson's absence is big news, and not bad news, of course. According to Cosco, "It definitely has everyone thinking the chances for a podium got a bit easier."

A bit easier for, say, Alex Schlopy? The 18-year-old Park City skier has been hotter than a ten-dollar Rolex this season with wins at Winter X Big Air, FIS World Championships Slope and the Winter Dew Tour final, all in the last six weeks. If Schlopy keeps winning like this, he may have to submit to a psychiatric evaluation, or at least freeze his Twitter account.

"I'm not sure how I'll do," Schlopy said last week in a telephone interview. "I still have a lot of tricks to work on." Something besides a rock-solid 1620?

Given the roll he's on, it defies logic somewhat that Schlopy's pick for Euro X slope wouldn't be himself. At least it's one of his countrymen. "Overall domination status would have to go to Bobby Brown," said Schlopy. "He's pretty ridiculous."

Remember Bobby Brown? A year ago, Bobby brought out tricks that he invented to become the first skier to win two gold medals at one Winter X Games. A year later at Winter X 15, Bobby battled through hobbling hip and lower back pain to become the first 19-year-old in Winter X history to be disappointed with silver in Big Air and fourth in Slope.

"I definitely let a lot of stuff get to my head during Winter X," Brown said. "I'm stoked to go into [Euro X] with a whole new mindset. Have a clear mind and go out and ski and have a good time."

When Bobby Brown is having a good time, he's winning. Besides that, ahem, disappointing fourth-place slope finish at Winter X 15, Brown has a win at the Killington Winter Dew Tour and a second-place finish at the Breckenridge Winter Dew Tour this season. While other competitors run last-minute cram sessions to learn new tricks for Euro X, Brown says his biggest concern is "coming up with a different grab with all those tricks. I've been struggling with that a little bit. I don't know, we'll see how it goes."

Brown said that minor soreness in his knee has kept him from tweaking mutes the way he'd like to, forcing him to experiment with adding different grabs to his extensive trick repertoire. That's it. Grabs. That's everything working against Bobby Brown at Euro X.

Reigning Euro X Slopestyle champ Tom Wallisch, who had a shoulder blade fracture sustained in early January that forced him to withdraw from Winter X slope, failed to qualify for finals.