When: 10 January, 2009
Where: Davos, Switzerland
In another bitterly cold night where the scheisse heisse riding was the only thing preventing the assembled crowd from turning into the biggest collection of human ice poles (that's English for popsicle), these two Finnish geezers were literally head and shoulders above the rest, and Peetu's win means both the disciplines here at the O'Neill Evolution have been netted by the saunaphiles.
It was clear from kick off that the sub zero temperatures had turned the enormous 10.2m quarterpipe into one solid hunk of ice. You could see a large patch right in the middle and the solid 'thwunk' that would echo as the riders touched down left us in no doubt that there would be heavy, heavy consequences for anyone getting it wrong on this beasty. As a result, the riders were clearly hesitant to really let loose as - more than ever in these gnarly super Q-pipe gigs - the margin of error was so tight that a gnat's whisker would have a hard time squeezing in and we never saw the heady heights of 8m plus breached.
Nevertheless, while the early heats of 32 and then 16 men dragged on a tad, there was plenty of 'holy moly' hits, with soaring backside airs, monster backside 5s and backside rodeos the order of the day, and when proceedings started getting to the business end the riding stepped up and things got interesting. Last night (and the night before with the 2nd place finish of Belgian Seppe Smits) was a big night for the flatlanders as we saw Dimi De Jong, Rocco Van Straten and 17-year-old Steve Krijbolder all make it through to the last 16 with solid riding and airs potentially higher than their country's greatest elevation above sea level. Seriously, it was pretty inspiring watching these kids who can't be long out the snowdomes charge and more than hold their own with riders who grew up better endowed in the mountain department.
Down to the last 8 and it was, unsurprisingly, mainly the experienced quarter specialists who rose to the top of this particular batch of iced cream, the only major surprise being that last year's champ Kim Rune Hansen didn't get through. This is where things heated up, with Antti Autti putting down a front 10 and big front 7 Japan, Janne Korpi going for broke with a huge backside rodeo that he slightly over-rotated and paid the price by injuring his knee, Gian Simmen keeping it real with solid backside airs and 5s, and Chas Guldemond mixing up the backflip 180s and McTwists with equal amplitude. This was not, however, to be enough to see them through to the semis.
The semis kicked off and it was Arthur Longo vs Risto Mattila and Steve Krijbolder vs Peetu Piiroinen. Though Longo stepped up with big backside airs and a backside 5, he took a beating on one leaving the path to the final clear for Risto, who'd been on fire all day. Finn 1 to the Finnal. It was always going to be a tough task for Steve Krijbolder up against last year's Global Open Series winner, but he certainly gave it his best shot with his 6.9m backside air holding onto the highest air spot until the death. Peetu turned it on, though, ensuring an all-Finnish Finnal, and ended the young Dutchman's dreams, but it was an impressive first showing from him nonetheless.
The final was like the old master versus the young apprentice, Star Wars style, and this went fully down to the wire with both riders turning it up to 11. Risto's huge backside air - the biggest of the contest when all was said and done - was countered by one that must only have been a centimetre or so lower from Peetu. Then Risto, after getting away with knuckling a monster backside 5, put down an even bigger one clean and looked to be bagging the win, but Peetu had other ideas. Last hit of the contest and the 20-year-old threw down an equally beastly 5, with that huge travel he's become famed for, and edged out Mattila to take his first title of the season and fire him up to TTR number 5.
So, Peetu wins and is in with a good shout to be Onboard's favourite snowboarder in the world right now. The kid frickin' charges. Mad props both to P2 and Risto for a dramatic and thoroughly rad final. That's it from Davos for another year, then. Thanks to all the riders and organisers for a great show, and to you for reading. Off to Laax now for the BEO, so tune in tomorrow for Onboard's coverage from the 6Star TTR slopestyle and pipe shebang.