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Sunday, January 28, 2007
Updated: May 1, 2:21 PM ET
French Collection

By Jeff Foss

He's a puzzle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in baggy Quiksilver garb, and on Sunday he added yet another layer to his complex freeskiing legacy. Candide Thovex, the soft-spoken ski prodigy who somehow, every season, manages to be both everywhere and nowhere in the wide world of skiing, is your 2007 X Games Slopestyle champ. His winning run was incredible, and for that he'll take home the gold. That's it. Roll credits, fade to black. What's left to say?

Quite a bit, actually, considering the fact that it may have been a farewell performance.

X-Man Candide Thovex sails sideways to slopestyle victory. How do you say "switch cork 900" in frog talk?

"A lot of people say I shouldn't do contests any more," the Frenchman admits, adjusting his mirrored goggles and looking up as yet another X Games newcomer takes to the course. "I just want to get a really good result here and show them that I can win, and after that, maybe be done with it."

Excusez moi? Quick—what's "say it aint so" in French? Candide has been a major player on the competition circuit since the dawn of freeskiing's resurgence. In 1999, while most of the athletes here were still asking mom for help with their boots, Candide was winning the first-ever X Games Big Air. He was here before Tanner. He was here before Jon. Let's be frank: He was here before anybody.

Flash forward eight years and the Las Clusaz Kid is still teaching the kids how to ride. From the 360 switch-up he laid down on the top rail to the right-side 720 he stomped in the middle of the course to the switch 1080 he finished off with, his winning Slopestyle run was textbook. It was enough to vest Sammy Carlson and Colby West, two guys who probably learned how to ski switch by watching Candide back in the day. And if he's still at the top of his game, why would he want out?

"My goals have changed," he says. "I used to put too much pressure on myself to prove that I can win, but that's not the way to do it. It's better to just have fun. Sometimes you do good, sometimes you do bad."

Window of opportunity: 18-year-old Sammy Carlson in a decidedly critical stage of his triple switch-up on the urban scare-case.

Back in 2003, Candide laid down the best Superpipe run that anybody had ever seen. He went big, spun hard, and in a matter of 30 seconds completely changed the way skiers approach the pipe. But then he blew out his knee. The same thing happened after he won in 2000, and after two major surgeries, many people didn't think he'd ever make it back to the podium.

"It took me a long time to come back—about one year each time—and then it would again be time for X Games. It was too much pressure."

Candide may have fallen off for a while, but this Slopestyle medal should silence his critics. The mystery man who looks, acts, and skis differently than anybody else is back in the saddle, and he may ride it out, gracefully, into the sunset. Call it the Tiki Barber effect. What's wrong with going out on top? Or ... he may not retire at all.

"When I do stop, whenever that is, it's going to be hard," says Candide. "I may keep doing it. Good spots in movies and magazines sometimes come with training and competition. Also I just like winning a lot. So I don't know. Let me get back to you on that one."