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Friday, January 11, 2013
Updated: January 19, 4:05 PM ET
2013 FIS U.S. Grand Prix at Copper

By Colin Bane
XGames.com

Snowboard coverage Ski coverage

Freeski Slopestyle Finals:

British skier James Woods clinched the men's slopestyle win at the U.S. Grand Prix Freeskiing event at Copper Mountain, Colo. on Saturday, dropping in last as the first-place qualifier to beat out Australian Russ Henshaw and Canadian Alex Beaulieu-Marchand and bump American Bobby Brown off the podium in the FIS World Cup event.

Woods, who won the first FIS World Cup slopestyle contest of the season in Argentina in September, is the current overall leader in the FIS World Cup series; Saturday's win also puts him in second place overall on the Association of Freeskiing Professionals'  2013 AFP World Tour, behind Henshaw.

"This was a nerve-wracking event," Woods said, after the podium presentation. "Certainly the pressure is tough: freeskiing is on a whole 'nother level right now."

Woods' run read like a dissertation on the state of tricks in freeskiing, circa 2013: switch tails over 450 on the rail and a 450 off the pole jam in the upper section of the course, followed by a switch right-side 900 mute tweak, double cork 1080 safety grab to Japan poke, and right-side double cork 1260 truck driver in the triple jump set.

The stakes are higher this season, Woods says, with Olympic qualification points on the line for freeskiing's debut in Sochi, Russia in 2014, but he's trying not to get too caught up in it.

"Olympics this, Olympics that," Woods said. "It's going to be fantastic to go to Russia and show the world what we've got, but at the end of the day we're all the same kids we started out as and we just love this sport so much that it's more than just a sport. I'm trying to keep some perspective, but it's all very exciting."

American skier Keri Herman won the women's slopestyle finals, ahead of Canadian Dara Howell and Australian Anna Segal, holding her lead in the FIS World Cup rankings. Herman also came in first at the FIS World Cup in Argentina.

"It feels amazing: this is by far, hands down, the biggest turnout for women ever," Herman said, after the competition. "Fifty girls competing in slopestyle? It's intimidating showing up and not knowing everybody and how they ski, and seeing how high the level is. I was just blown away by everybody today and I don't know how I came out on top. It's really an honor."

Herman opened her winning run with a lipslide on the first rail, slid a bus stop feature to switch, then went switch right-side 720 safety grab, switch right-side 540 Japan tweak, and right-side 540 tail grab in the jumps.

Mike Riddle, Aaron Blunck and David Wise on the men's ski halfpipe podium at Grand Prix.

Freeski Halfpipe Finals:

FIS World Cup halfpipe competitors in the 2013 Visa U.S. Grand Prix Freeskiing finals at Copper Mountain got a classic Colorado welcome on Friday, waking up to a whiteout and several inches of new snow, but then finding bluebird conditions once the event was underway.

In the women's ski halfpipe finals, American Maddie Bowman took first, followed by Canadian Roz Groenewoud and American Brita Sigourney in second and third, respectively.

"The pipe was pretty slow this morning and I didn't land one practice run, so to come out and win with my last run was pretty exciting," Bowman said after winning. "It was tough, but I don't have it in me to complain about new snow and I just love skiing with these girls. I'm super happy, because I really wanted this one."

Bowman, like all of the women competing in finals this week, was sporting a "Sarah" sticker in memory of women's freeskiing pioneer Sarah Burke, whose death one year ago rattled the action sports community. The new Sarah Burke Foundation, formally announced earlier this week, has been promoting #celebratesarah this week as both a social media meme and a rallying cry for the athletes she inspired.

"Sarah's definitely always on our minds, and she came out and brought the sun out for us today," said Bowman, whose winning run featured a right 900, a left 540 mute grab, a lofty straight air with a safety grab, a left 900, a right 720, and a switch 540.

In men's ski halfpipe, after qualifying in 12th place to narrowly make the cut for finals, Canadian Mike Riddle came to win on Friday, dropping in first and posting a huge score of 90.2. He improved to 91.2 in his second run with a left double cork 1260 mute grab, a right 900 tail gran, a left 900 opposite Japan grab, an alley-oop flatspin 360 with a "bow and arrow" double grab, and a switch left 900 mute grab.

"Today we had tough conditions with fresh snow, wind, and clouds, so dropping in first I just wanted to put down a good safe run, and managed to put it down pretty much as good as I could," Riddle said. "I was feeling really good so in my second run I thought I'd try to step it up some more."

Aaron Blunck, a 16-year-old rookie on the U.S. Freeskiing team, made a big statement in his second run, bumping into second place with a run that included a massive double cork 1260 mute grab. American David Wise rounded out the podium in third place, picking up a $1,000 bonus for Sprint Unlimited Air honors for his right 900.

Riddle, who was also rocking "Sarah" stickers in memory of his fallen Canadian teammate, said he's happy to leave 2012 behind him.

"Last year wasn't a very good year for me or anybody in the industry, and we've had a lot of hardships," he said. "I'd been looking forward to a fresh start in 2013 and moving forward, and this is a great first step."

FIS U.S. Grand Prix at Copper 2013, Freeski Results:

Men's Ski Slopestyle Results:
1. James Woods (GBR) 93.4
2. Russ Henshaw (AUS) 92.2
3. Alex Beaulieu-Marchand (CAN) 90.4
4. Bobby Brown (USA) 89.4
5. Nicolas Goepper (USA) 89.0
6. Johan Berg (NOR) 85.4
7. Alex Schlopy (USA) 84.2
8. Sammy Carlson (USA) 83.6
9. Per Kristian Hunder (NOR) 83.2
10. Lauri Kivari (FIN) 78.4

Women's Ski Slopestyle Results:
1. Keri Herman (USA) 87.0
2. Dara Howell (CAN) 85.8
3. Anna Segal (AUS) 85.0
4. Tiril Sjaastad Christiansen (NOR) 83.4
5. Kaya Turski (CAN) 81.2
6. Ashley Battersby (USA) 76.6
7. Yuki Tsubota (CAN) 74.8
8. Jamie Crane-Mauzy (USA) 73.4
9. Jessica Breda (USA) 70.8
10. Reiko Oka (JPN) 65.6

Men's Ski Halfpipe Results
1. Mike Riddle, 91.2
2. Aaron Blunck, 87.0
3. David Wise, 83.6
4. Joffrey Pollet-Villard, 79.8
5. Thomas, Krief, 77.8
6. Alex Ferreira, 73.6
7. Simon Dumont, 70.0
8. Kevin Rolland, 68.8
9. Matt Margetts, 54.6
10. Gus Kenworthy, 35.8

Women's Ski Halfpipe Results
1. Maddie Bowman, 84.6
2. Roz Groenewoud, 79.2
3. Brita Sigourney, 79.0
4. Virginie Faivre, 78.4
5. Megan Gunning, 75.0
6. Ayana Onozuka, 73.0
7. Annalisa Drew, 71.8
8. Marie Martinod, 64.6
9. Mirjam Jaeger, 64.2
10. Katrien Aerts, 63.4