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Saturday, January 27, 2007
Updated: May 1, 2:22 PM ET
Judgement Night

By Jeff Foss

If you caught the X Games Ski Superpipe Finals on ESPN last night, you may have woken up this morning with a funny taste in your mouth. Or perhaps your mouth tasted just fine. But either way, assuming you know enough about skiing to form an opinion about the results, you probably fall into one of two camps: Either you agree wholeheartedly with the judges' decision to award Tanner Hall the gold medal, or you wholeheartedly believe that it should have gone to Simon Dumont. Here's why both camps are right:

Tanner Hall possesses what might very well be the most technical run in halfpipe skiing: A Switch Cork 7 to alley-oop flatspin 540 to cork 900 tailgrab to right-side 540 to 540 to alley-oop to 1080. It's perfect. It's the Adriana Lima of halfpipe runs. The only thing he could possibly do to make it more perfect, in fact, would be to change things up and lead off with a switch cork 1080, thus raising the risk factor 100-fold (because if Tanner crashes this early, his entire run is shot. He is essentially putting it all on the line).

And a switch cork 1080 on top is exactly what freeskiing's warrior-poet did during his second run-perfectly.

Simon Dumont, on the other hand, possesses what might very well be the biggest run in halfpipe skiing. He gets so ridonkulously high off the deck on his first hit, in fact, that spectators gazing up from the base of the pipe quite literally lose him in the lights. He does a double-grab truck driver to mute-grab 540, a right-side 540, a cork 900 tailgrab, an alley-oop flatspin 540, a 1260 (read that again), an alley-oop 720 and a switch 720. He does every one of these tricks bigger than anybody, and needless to say, they all add up to a Superpipe run as perfect as Gisele Bundchen.

But here's the kicker: Tanner went pretty damn big in this contest, and Simon was pretty damn technical. In other words, the two best pipe riders in the known universe borrowed from each other's skill-sets. They put on one of the best shows in X Games history, and in doing so they basically rendered the contest un-callable.

This is a story as old as sports: the irresistible force of style against the immovable object of technical ability. Think Hosoi versus Hawk. Think Slater versus Irons. Hell, think Magic versus Bird. Anytime those two elements in their purest form face off on a field of play, a clear-cut victory is simply impossible. Add tonight to the chapter that explains this in the Divine Rule Book of Sport.

Hall and Dumont. The two best pipe skiers in the world, shaping and reshaping history in consecutive attempts. Our point? That on this historic evening, under the blinding lights of Buttermilk Mountain, there's only one place we wouldn't have wanted to be: In the judges' booth, holding a clipboard.