Just like that, France's Kevin Rolland kicked off the 2011/2012 season right where he left off in 2011 -- on top of the superpipe podium. Not only did Rolland crush the field at the first stop of the Winter Dew Tour in Breckenridge in mid-December, but he also became the first skier to land three doubles in a row: double flair to double flair to double cork 1260. And that was after dropping in with a switch 900 to switch 720. At the final Dew Tour of the season, Rolland took second place and secured his second Dew Cup in Superpipe.
At Winter X Games Aspen in January, Rolland just missed the podium, finishing in fourth place in the men's Ski SuperPipe finals.
So, is Rolland is on-point for a superpipe three-peat at Winter X Tignes 2012, taking place March 14-16 in Tignes, France, where he's taken gold the past two years? Even Rolland admits the task won't be easy.
"This year is going to be really difficult. Every year it is more difficult and now we also have the Olympics, so every rider is really hungry," says Rolland, who won Winter X and Winter X Europe in 2010 and 2011. "I think everyone is going to be close on the tricks, so it's important for me to work on the details."
Luckily, Rolland is the master of details. In Breckenridge, Rolland's third double (and final trick of the run) was bigger than his first hit. His ability to maintain his amplitude down the pipe is something that has separated him from his competitors the last few seasons. He also has a knack for landing perfectly in the trannies and holding his grabs all the way through.
"Every year I have more pressure and that is the sport," says Rolland. "I have a lot of pressure before the event, but once I start to ride, I think about how I have to ski, not how I have to win."
As Rolland told ESPN in a previous interview, he also recently signed with a new ski sponsor, the French company Coreupt. "I think at this time in my career, it is good to be invested in this project," says Rolland, who earned his Winter X hardware on Rossignol. "It's a small brand, so if I need to change something, I just call the boss. We can change things quickly. It was harder to be heard with Rossignol."
Rolland certainly will be ready at Winter X Tignes, where he'll be the heavy favorite for another superpipe gold. And if he wraps up his third straight, Rolland -- famous for his passionate, intense reactions at the bottom of the pipe -- definitely will be heard.