When: 14 January, 2009

Where: Laax, Switzerland

White, Pearce and Clark qualify for Friday's pipe final in pole positions.

After a day of competitive hiatus that saw the Onboard crew tackling the minishred with ardent fervour, proceedings resumed here in Laax today with the halfpipe semis and gave us a chance to see the big guns throw down for the first time.

The pipe, as ever, looked in good shape and even the milky clouds burnt off by the time we rolled our merry way up, where the likes of Shaun White, Kevin Pearce, Mathieu Crepel, Risto Mattila and co were showing what was possible, and were up against the riders who made it through the qualifiers with thoughts of taking a big scalp in the forefront of their minds. 6 men from each heat and 8 women from their one heat would advance to the final, so with a mix of today's super stars, old-time legends and up-and-coming grommits the stage was set for some serious U-jumping.

Heat 1 had the ginger whirlybird in it and unsurprisingly he took the bull by the horns and dutifully ensured safe passage to Friday's finals without a hiccup. Here's some White gossip. Apparently he was in the bar last night with a bodyguard. What the hell? We don't know if the bodyguard was at the top of the pipe batting away the lesser mortals, but whatever. Though we're sure he didn't let it all out the bag, he still laid down a solid run but you can bet there's more to come from that duder. Young Swiss kid Christian Haller put down a stormer to qualify second with Finn Markus Malin in third.

Heat 2 gave us the first chance to get a look at last year's winner Kevin Pearce, and boy he did not disappoint. Posting a higher score than Shaun, Pearce mixed up beefy straight stales with equally solid hyper spins and lofty McTwists to post a score of 95 points out of 100. The talk is that Shaun, the competitive scamp that he is, wants revenge for being beaten to first last year and is confident he can do so, but with Pearce on fire right now that might not be on the cards. Our Bavarian brother Christophe Schmidt slicked his way into second and guitar hero Iouri Podladtchikov got third.

The women's was just the one heat and although the field was strong most of us were super amped to see that Nicola Thost was riding the pipe again. After several years out the limelight she still can more than hold her own. She qualified 4th and put in the Thost patented alley-oop and front 7 amongst the straight airs. Nicola's heir to the pipe queen crown is doubtless Kelly Clark and she set about redefining the boundaries of women's pipe riding once more by going almost twice as big as her rivals, with some hefty spins too like a monster front 7 on the penultimate hit. Young Norwegian Linn Haug hotted her way down with a stellar second run nailing proper McTwists and Cilke Sadar eased ahead of Thost to qualify in third.

Slopestyle semis tomorrow and we're sure it will be a spin fest. The rider list looks epic, another bluebird day is forecast so all the signs point towards a semi final of extraordinary magnitude.

Here's the full list of results:

Men's Heat 1 1-White Shaun Carlsbad BURTONUSA331 91.831986 2-Haller Christian Zernez BURTONSUI42 89.331989 3-Malin Markus Lahti 32 FIN103 84.171987 4-Piiroinen Peetu Hyvinkää BURTONFIN234 77.671988 5-Crepel Mathieu Anglet QUIKSILVERFRA165 72.831984 6-Davis Danny Highland BURTONUSA346 72.171988 ------------------- Stewart Ben Whaangamata ONEILLNZL97 70.501992 Hast Miikka Rovaniemi PROTESTFIN2488 68.831981 Hoffmann Xaver Garmisch- NITROGER1139 65.171974 Autti Antti Rovaniemi FLOWFIN310 63.331985 Laari Ilkka-Eemeli Siilinjärvi BURTONFIN23911 61.671989 Hamilton James Albany - Auckland FLOWNZL22612 56.001989 Lipsanen Janne Mikkeli RIPCURLFIN20413 54.171989 Guldemond Chas Truckee DCUSA3814 53.001987 Pietropoli Manuel Lonato BURTONITA1915 50.831990 Ruokanen Pekka RovaniemiFIN24216 49.831986 Mueller Nicolas Beckenried BURTONSUI4117 48.831982 Necas Jan Lom RIDECZE5318 46.501984 Maurer Stephan Zizers BURTONSUI719 43.001985 Friberg Daniel Brigels BURTONSUI1520 42.671989 Feldmann Rolf Thun NIDECKERSUI21121 33.331979

Men's Heat 2 1-Pearce Kevin Norwich BURTONUSA471 95.001987 2-Schmidt Christophe Schliersee HEADGER52 80.671983 3-Podladtchikov Iouri Zürich VOLCOMSUI373 77.501988 4-Burgener Patrick Crans Montana NITROSUI14 76.501994 5-Kleivdal Roger Geilo SWEET NOR25 73.831988 6-Aguirre Mason Bishop BURTONUSA506 73.001987 ------------------ Koski Markku Helsinki 32 FIN227 72.501981 Simmen Gian Krattigen ONEILLSUI188 70.501977 Mattila Risto Helsinki BILLABONGFIN249 67.171981 Gittler Olivier Corenc/Isere BURTONFRA1310 64.671990 Tarasov Sergey St.Petersburg ANONRUS11211 63.331988 Krijbolder Steve Zoetermeer O'NEILLNED17112 59.501991 Sandbech Stale Oslo OAKLEYNOR12413 59.331993 Imhof Rafael Bettmeralp ELEVENSUI19714 56.331991 Hansen Kim Rune Hamar BURTONNOR3915 50.001988 Reid Charles Mont-Tremblant BURTONCAN4816 48.831990 Koskinen Antti Sotkamo CENTRUMFIN7317 48.001984 Oesch Adrian Balgach FTWOSUI5718 47.831990 Mitrani Jack Mammoth Lakes BURTONUSA1119 33.171988 Kotsenburg Sage Park City QUIKSILVERUSA9420 31.171993 Motoki Takahashi Sapporo/Hokkaido SALOMONJPN24421 13.501991

Women's Heat 1-Clark Kelly West Dover BURTONUSA3141 91.171983 2-Haug Linn Trondheim BURTONNOR3192 82.331990 3-Sadar Cilka Ljubljana BURTONSLO3233 79.501991 4-Thost Nicola München BURTONGER3154 74.671977 5-Pancochova Sarka Uh.Brod BERN CZE3095 72.501990 6-Ligocka Paulina Cieszyn ROXYPOL3076 68.501984 7-Wiik Lisa Trondheim ROXYNOR3417 68.331979 8-Oestgaard Buaas Kjersti Trondheim ROXYNOR3168 66.671982 --------------- Miwa Akiko Saitama ALLIANJPN3519 66.001973 McKenna Lesley Aviemore ROXYGBR39010 65.331974 Norendal Silje Kongsberg ROXYNOR33411 64.171993 Candrian Sina Flims BURTONSUI30312 60.501988 Nadig Helen Chur ZIMTSTERNSUI34613 60.331982 Meusburger Pia Dornbirn STATICAUT35514 57.001989 Maas Cheryl Biarritz NITRONED30415 56.171984 Anderson Jamie South Lake Tahoe BILLABONGUSA31816 54.331990 Aubry Emilie Ipsach ROXYSUI35817 53.171990 Purtschert Nadja Rickenbach ONEILLSUI36818 47.671989 Bleicher Conny Innsbruck 686GER34319 47.001979 Mittermueller Silvia München OAKLEYGER31020 38.171983 Haller Ursina Zernez K2SUI33121 30.171985

More tomorrow...

- Copsey.