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Thursday, March 17, 2011
Houle wins WXE Men's Ski Slopestyle

By Megan Michelson
ESPN Action Sports

We'll be the first to admit when we're wrong: We were sure an American skier was going to land on top of the podium at Men's Ski Slopestyle at 2011 Winter X Europe. But, during a snowy, low-visibility finals on Thursday in Tignes, France, there were no Americans even on the podium. Instead, Canadian JF Houle took first, followed by Norway's Andreas Hatveit in second, and England's James Woods in third.

Houle, the top scorer from the Slope qualifiers and who at 25 was the oldest competitor in the men's Slopestyle field, scored a whopping 94.33 on his first run, which included a leftside double cork 1080 Japan grab. "I was super happy to land such a high score on my first run," Houle said. "It feels so good."

The stormy weather conditions definitely played a part in Thursday's contest -- visibility was poor and in-runs were slow. The Men's Snowboard Slopestyle eliminations, scheduled for earlier in the day, were canceled after the snowboarders collectively decided they didn't want to compete in the stormy conditions. But the skiers dealt with the weather the best they could.

"The conditions were definitely difficult," said 2008 Winter X Slope gold medalist Hatveit, whose second run -- which included a right 1080 mute and a left double cork 1080 mute -- got a 92.33 and earned him the silver medal. "But I'm a heavier guy so it worked for me."

In his first appearance at a Winter X event, Woods said he was having a really tough time during practice, but all that changed on his second run, which included a rightside double 1260 mute and earned a 89.66 and a bronze medal. "During practice, I was pretty much to my breaking point. I was having a really bad day," Woods said. "But then I thought there's no time like the present to shut up and get it done."

Despite the conditions, perhaps the best trick of the day came from Alex Schlopy, who landed the first double 1620 in a Slopestyle contest. Schlopy won Big Air at Winter X 15 with that same trick. "It was snowing all day and was totally whiteout," said Schlopy, who ended up sixth."I didn't land my whole run here, but I think landing a new trick like that will go a lot further."

Winter X 2010 Slopestyle and Big Air gold medalist Bobby Brown, a favorite going into this contest, didn't cleanly land one of his three runs and finished in eighth place. "Coming to Europe, I have a whole different mindset," Brown said earlier this week. "I'm getting out in the backcountry and trying to get out of the contest scene ... I'm just trying to come here with a good attitude and have a great time."

Check out the complete Men's Ski Slopestyle results.