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What to watch for: Winter X Tignes

3/14/2012

Winter X Games returns to Tignes, France, for its third year this week. From Wednesday through Friday, the world's top skiers and snowboarders will compete in Slopestyle and SuperPipe for a chance at gold in the Alps. If you're watching from the U.S., tune in on ESPN2 and ESPN3, and if you're on the ground in France check out the competition schedule. Here's what you won't want to miss this week.

Wednesday, March 14

Women's Ski Slopestyle (8:30 a.m. ET on ESPN3.com)
Canada's Kaya Turski has been almost unstoppable this season, winning Winter X Games Aspen, the overall Winter Dew Cup and the recent Mammoth U.S. Grand Prix. But there are plenty of other contenders who could give her a run for her money this week in Tignes, like Devin Logan and Keri Herman from the U.S and Australia's Anna Segal. "I have no predictions for who will win in Europe," Segal said. "All the girls are skiing so well that I think the podium could be anyone's for the taking." The slopestyle course in Tignes is considered a challenge for many of the athletes. "I am predicting that we will have an extra-long slopestyle course to tackle, which is always a challenge when trying to put a run together," Segal said.

Women's Snowboard SuperPipe (1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN3.com)
For the past two years, the question in women's pipe has been: Can anyone beat Kelly Clark? Going into last week's U.S. Open, Clark had won 16 of the past 17 contests she'd entered. (Her only "loss" came from having to opt out of the finals at the Burton Canadian Open because of a hard fall taken in practice.) But it seems Clark may have finally met her match. On Saturday, Elena Hight nailed her run with a combo of back-to-back 900s, while Clark failed to land her now-trademark 1080 and had to settle for her first second-place finish since 2010. "Kelly's been inspiring for the last two years, to all of us, and it's definitely been something to strive for," Hight said after her Open win. "Kelly is the level that we've all been trying to reach." If Clark lands her 1080, she's hard to beat, but she's no longer the only woman with the trick. Spain's Queralt Castellet landed a 1080 at the Canadian Open finals and at the Mammoth U.S. Grand Prix.

Thursday, March 15

Men's Ski Slopestyle (8:30 a.m. ET on ESPN3.com; 12 p.m. on ESPN2)
There's really one name you need to know if you're watching Men's Ski Slopestyle in Tignes, and that's Tom Wallisch. The American has been on fire this year, winning Winter X Games Aspen, the Winter Dew Cup, the Mammoth U.S. Grand Prix and even a recent rail jam. That said, the field is stacked with talent and the contest is still anyone's game. American young gun Nick Goepper, who will turn 18 in Tignes, has been neck and neck with Wallisch at several big contests this year. "I love Wallisch -- he's a great guy, and at every contest we kind of bicker back and forth, just poke at each other at the bottom of the course," Goepper said. Other top contenders: Bobby Brown, Jossi Wells, Gus Kenworthy and Elias Ambuhl.

Men's Snowboard SuperPipe (1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com)
After Shaun White finished his first run at the U.S. Open on Saturday, the contest was a battle for second place. White's 20-foot first-hit backside air, double cork 1260 combo run feels like it's impossible to top, but Iouri Podladtchikov still has that switch double cork 1260 up his sleeve. Will he throw it in Tignes? "Aspen was kind of an early contest for me. I didn't get that much riding in before, so it was early for the trick as well," Podladtchikov said. "The first thing I did yesterday was to go out and find out if it's possible, and I'm kind of confident about this contest. It was pretty much impossible at the U.S. Open, but I was hoping to get this moment to put all my best tricks together, and I think Tignes is the best place for it." If I-Pod can land the trick here, he just might give White a run for his money. Another highlight of the SuperPipe event will be Danny Davis, who is back to his ultra-stylish form, and just came in second at the Burton European Open -- his first podium since his 2010 back injury.

Friday, March 16

Men's Snowboard Slopestyle ( 5:30 a.m. ET ESPN3; 12-3 p.m. ET ESPN 2)

With virtually all the top names in snowboarding having stood atop a podium at some point this season, Men's Slopestyle continues to be impossible to call. Chas Guldemond and Sebastien Toutant, Winter X Tignes 2011's gold and silver medalists, and Winter X Aspen 2012 Slopestyle gold medalist Mark McMorris, each have two slopestyle wins under their belts. But Eric Willett and Norwegian newcomers Gjermund Braaten and Alexsander Ostreng have all stood solidly atop hard-to-win podiums this season, as well. TTR Big Air champ Seppe Smits is claiming that the course in Tignes is "one of the best slopestyle courses all season. The course is fast, and it's sunny and warm. It's going to be a great contest." Sebastien Toutant, who is coming in hot off a U.S. Open slopestyle win, added: "Last year the jumps were so tiny you were really limited in what you could do, but it still turned out to be a great show. This year the jumps are bigger and everyone has been riding really well, so everyone has a chance to win. It's all about who lands, really. Whoever does it perfect." As of press time, Shaun White is confirmed to compete in Slopestyle. However, he hasn't been seen at practice yet, so whether or not he'll ride in Wednesday's Elims remains to be seen.

Women's Snowboard Slopestyle (8 a.m. ET ESPN3; 12-3 p.m. ET ESPN 2)
A sponsored snowboarder since age 9, Jamie Anderson has been the lady to beat in Slopestyle since 2006. She has been on the podium every time she has appeared at a Winter X Games event, and she has nods for being the youngest female medalist at Winter X (15, in 2006) and the youngest female and snowboard gold medalist at Winter X (16, in 2007). Now 21, she is the most decorated female rider in the history of the discipline, with two Burton Global Open Series overall titles, three overall Winter Dew Tour titles and two overall TTR titles to her name. As solid and consistent as she is in her contest runs, Spencer O'Brien, Cheryl Maas or Enni Rukajarvi have the potential to put the pressure on with technical, difficult tricks, like Maas' backside 900 that she landed in Tignes in 2011. Jenny Jones, 31, of Great Britian, hasn't competed in a contest yet this year, but the respite could be just what the three-time WX Slope winner needs to make a comeback in Tignes.

Women's Ski SuperPipe (1 p.m. ET on ESPN3.com; 12-3 p.m. on ESPN2)
Rosalind Groenwoud from Canada took the win in Women's Ski SuperPipe at Winter X Games Aspen, and she'll be the favorite in Tignes. "I'm pretty excited. I'm skiing well this year," said Groenwoud, who's working on some new tricks for a different run in France. But even Groenwoud admits that the young up-and-comers will be ones to watch in Tignes. "My teammates Megan Gunning and Keltie Hansen, I enjoy watching them ski," she said. Also look out for France's own Anais Cardeux and Americans Devin Logan and Brita Sigourney.

Men's Ski SuperPipe (3 p.m. ET on ESPN3.com; 12-3 p.m. on ESPN2)
With last year's Winter X Tignes SuperPipe gold medalist and hometown favorite Kevin Rolland and longtime favorite Simon Dumont both out with knee injuries, the door is wide open for this stacked roster of men's halfpipe skiers. American David Wise won in Aspen, the Dew Tour finale and the U.S. Grand Prix, and he's been working on a double cork 1440, which had never been landed in a ski halfpipe competition before. "[Wise] thinks the best skiers out there shouldn't be the ones copying other people; the best skiers should be the ones inventing tricks," said halfpipe coach Andy Woods. Wise's American teammate, Torin Yater-Wallace, also has huge tricks up his sleeve -- he recently landed the first switch 1800 in a slopestyle comp. And don't rule out Canadians Justin Dorey and Mike Riddle or France's Thomas Krief and Xavier Bertoni.