Thursday, January 25, 2007
Updated: May 11, 2:43 PM ET
By Jeff Foss
If you've never had the pleasure of mingling at the bottom of the X Games slopestyle course during a spirited practice session, allow us to enlighten you with a tip: wear goggles. Competitors couldn't help but blast the entire Buttermilk base area with snow as they slammed on the brakes directly below the Money Booter. Come Sunday, this is where medals will be won and lost.
But according to the twin-tipped masses, there's a bleep-load of work to be done to the course before that happens. "It's flat," said TJ Schiller, a competitor who relies heavily on his jumping prowess (and therefore requires speed like a drug). "You can't get over the first two hits. I have to go off the small side of the first jump in order to have enough speed for the second." If the course isn't modified, however will last year's Best Trick champ manage? "Well, the step-up is fine and so are the rails. As far as those other jumps go, sometimes you just gotta shotgun a monster and give 'er."
Newly-crowned U.S. Open Slopestyle champ Jon Olsson expressed similar sentiments, even though he probably wouldn't have understood TJ's bizarre Canada-speak (I mean honestly, could you?). "With the way it is now," said Jon, "if we get even a half inch of snow, this is going to turn into a big-air contest again. You just can't get enough speed." (The Swede is of course referring to last year's debacle-turned-crowd pleaser when poor conditions forced a round-robin jump-off.)
"That first jump is ridiculous-it's like a cliff!" said Simon Dumont. "You don't think you're going to clear it and then you drop, like, 70 feet out of the sky."
Norway's Andreas Hatveit took things a step further: "I'm over it," he stated matter-of-factly, and skied towards the athlete's tent.
But at least disappointed riders like TJ, Jon, Simon, and Andreas had a chance to form an opinion-Pep Fujas landed sideways off a rail on one of his first runs, exploding the heelpiece clear off his ski. He was spotted at the base, cradling the damaged goods like an injured kitten. "We're trying to fix it," he said, "but we couldn't find any heelie coils in Aspen." Ever the positive thinker, Fujas still managed to look at the bright side: "Well, at least I got to wax my skis at the shop."
Despite his less-than-favorable opinion on the course, Jon Olsson probably took more laps than anybody. He was one of the last guys to leave, and even his bombshell girlfriend couldn't tear him away from his precious rails and jumps. Colby West was right behind him, and combined the two probably took three-dozen sled rides up to the start gate.
In the end, even Dumont was a good sport, and in terms of total laps logged he couldn't have been too far behind. Inquired one young spectator of his Red Bull-helmeted hero: "I thought he'd be a lot shorter in real life."