Winter X Europe 2011: What to watch for

If you thought Winter X Games was done for the season, think again. The biggest event in freeskiing and snowboarding is moving overseas, with the second installment of Winter X Europe happening in Tignes, France, from Wednesday to Friday. You'll find more 540s, energy drinks and international rivalries than there are baguettes in Paris. Tune in beginning Wednesday afternoon for all the action from Europe -- here's what to watch for in France this time around.

Wednesday, March 16

8-9 a.m. ET, ESPN3.com: Women's Ski Slopestyle
There's really only one name you need to know in women's Ski Slopestyle: Kaya Turski. The former pro inline skater from Montreal won the past two Winter X Games, last year's Winter X Europe and the final stop of this year's Dew Tour. Her style on the rails and her smooth cab 9 make her a consistent favorite with the judges. Can anyone beat Turski? We asked her. "There are a few girls that I consider major competition -- Keri Herman, Ashley Battersby and Devin Logan," Turski says. "Devin is someone who's going to kill it in the next few years." There's also Anna Segal, who topped Turski on the podium at the FIS Freestyle World Championships in February. Perennial contender Grete Eliassen won't be competing this year (she's competing in Red Bull Cold Rush in Silverton instead).
Dark horse: Ashley Battersby won Slopestyle at the first stop of the Winter Dew Tour (Turski didn't compete), and she'll be putting up a good fight in France.

1-2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2: Men's Ski SuperPipe
Frenchman Kevin Rolland will be going for the double repeat, having taken the SuperPipe title at WX Aspen in 2010 and 2011 and last year at WX Europe. Rolland says he plans to add a sixth hit to his run, which normally includes five, and he may add a switch double "only if I'm in danger of not winning," he says. Another advantage: He and fellow Frenchman Xavier Bertoni, Thomas Krief and Benoit Valentin -- who all stand a good chance at the podium -- have been training on trampolines, air bags and in the Euro X pipe. If anyone can beat Rolland, it's probably American Simon Dumont, who may still be reeling from his third-place finish at WX15 and wants to come back to defend his former glory. Beyond that, there's a stacked field of possible medal winners, including Mike Riddle, Justin Dorey and Jossi Wells.
Dark horse: Keep a close eye on the consistently massive amplitude of 15-year-old Torin Yater-Wallace.

Thursday, March 17

2-3 p.m., ESPN2: Men's Ski Slopestyle
WX15 gold medalist Sammy Carlson made a last-minute decision not to compete at WXE. But Carlson's fellow United Statesmen will be out in full force: 2010 WX Slopestyle champ Bobby Brown and Euro X rookie Alex Schlopy, whose winning streak this year includes WX15 Big Air, FIS Freestyle Worlds and the Snowbasin Dew Tour. And don't forget Tom Wallisch, the 2010 WXE gold medalist, who was recovering from a broken left scapula during WX15 but now is back. "I'm definitely excited to go out and try to defend the title and have fun," says Wallisch. Amongst the international competitors to watch: Australia's Russ Henshaw (who came in a close second to Carlson in Aspen), Switzerland's Elias Ambühl (who just won the European Freeski Open) and Norway's Andreas Håtveit (who just won the Austria Freeski Open).
Dark horse: Euro X rookie Gus Kenworthy put on a good show during the WX15 Slopestyle qualifiers but choked during finals. If he can stay in the game, he has a chance of dominating it.

3-4 p.m., ESPN2: Women's Snowboard SuperPipe

Welcome to the Kelly Clark show. The 2002 Olympic gold medalist is on fire this season -- with wins at WX15, two Dew Tour stops, the O'Neil Evolution, Burton European Open, the Grand Prix at Mammoth and the U.S. Open. She's landing 15-foot 1080s that could all but guarantee her another gold in Europe. "I thought I'd start the season at a higher level than I did, but for whatever reason, it just took me a little longer to get going," Clark says about her early-season sixth- and second-place finishes at two events. Clark has to watch out for WX15 runner-up and last year's Euro X champion Kaitlyn Farrington, who has a solid backside 9 and frontside inverted 720. Vancouver Olympic gold medalist Torah Bright isn't planning to compete.
Dark horse: Never rule out Gretchen Bleiler, who took a hard hit on her home pipe in Aspen at WX15, but ended up second at the last Grand Prix.

Friday, March 18

12-1 p.m., ESPN2: Women's Snowboard Slopestyle
Almost every women's Slopestyle contest over the past two years has been won by either Jenny Jones, 30, or Jamie Anderson, 20. Until January's Winter X, that is, when Finnish newcomer Enni Rukajarvi defeated both Jones, a two-time WX gold medalist and the WXE defending champion, and Anderson, also a two-time WX gold medalist. "I'm looking forward to going to France and throwing down," Anderson said. "After [the U.S. Open] and Winter X, I need to have a rematch with Enni [Rukajärvi] too." All eyes will be on Rukajarvi to see if she can keep up the momentum. Veteran Janna Meyen-Weatherby, who won the final stop of the Dew Tour, will not be competing in France.
Dark horse: Spencer O'Brien finished fourth at Euro X, but she had a disappointing finish in Aspen in January. This year, she's added a rodeo 540 and switch backside 720 to her repertoire.

1-2:45 p.m., ESPN2: Men's Snowboard Slopestyle
In what is arguably the most rapidly progressing discipline at the event, 10 riders in the field aren't old enough to order a beer in the U.S. Many of these 20-and-under snowboarders come with their own signature tricks, personalized variations of a double cork 12. Earlier this month, WX15 silver medalist Mark McMorris, 17, landed the first-ever backside triple cork 1440. Not that we'll be seeing any of those in Tignes: According to Seppe Smits, the flat cab 1440 spinner who has been standing on TTR podiums all season and who will be making his Winter X debut here, the tricks they've all been pulling this year are "not tricks you can do on whichever jump. It has to be a decent-sized jump with big air time. They're more big-air tricks than Slopestyle." Besides McMorris and Smits, top podium contenders include WX15 gold medalist Sebastien Toutant, 18, and last year's WXE champ Eric Willet, 23, who ended up eighth in Aspen but bounced back to win the last stop of the Dew Tour and the U.S. Open.
Dark horse: Sage Kotsenburg got silver last year at WXE, but then ended up 10th at January's WX. But he's on the upswing again: He landed the first-ever cab double cork 1440 at Air & Style Innsbruck in February. "It's so awesome to see snowboarding be one of, if not the most progressive sport in the world right now," says Kotsenburg.

2:45-3:45 p.m., ESPN2: Women's Ski SuperPipe
At WX15, we saw the return to No. 1 of longtime favorite Sarah Burke, who now has four WX SuperPipe gold medals to her name. She'll be hungry to stay at the top at WXE, but she'll have to battle defending WXE champ Jen Hudak, who nearly landed the first 1080 in a women's ski pipe contest at WX15 and who's planning to go for another 10 in France. "Assuming I land my first run well, I hope to do a 1080 in both my second and third runs," Hudak says. "I think that the showing at Euro X will be just as stunning as what we saw in Aspen -- higher amplitude, more corked and inverted tricks, bigger spins." Canadian Roz Groenewoud had collarbone surgery a few weeks ago and she's just been cleared by her doctor to compete in Europe -- it'll be the first time she's dropped into a pipe since her injury.
Dark horses: Don't rule out Euro X rookies Brita Sigourney, who won pipe in the final stop of the Dew Tour, and youngster Devin Logan, 18.

9-10:30 p.m., ESPN2: Men's Snowboard SuperPipe
The top two from WX15 -- Shaun White and Scotty Lago -- won't be competing at WXE. But Louie Vito, who got third in Aspen and who won the overall Dew Cup, will be dropping into the pipe in France with a rumored 1440. The trick would be the first in a pipe comp. Last year's defending WXE champ Iouri Podladtchikov, who injured his left shoulder during WX15 practice and couldn't compete in Aspen, will be here with a run that will likely include White's signature double McTwist 1260. "I've got to defend my gold there," says Podladtchikov. "I'm looking forward to the pipe ... the one in Tignes really came to [a high] level of expectation and excitement last year, so now everybody is looking forward to it."
Dark horse: Luke Mitrani didn't make the pipe finals in Aspen, but he won the last stop of the Dew Tour with a run that scored a whopping 97.00, the highest SuperPipe score in the Winter Dew Tour's three-year history.