When: Wed 16th of January 2008
Where: Laax, Switzerland
The weather closed in again here in Laax, but although the light snow meant the pipe was running a little slow the visibility was good enough to run the semis without a hitch.
Ladies first, as any gentleman worth his salt knows, and Kelly Clark was showing that in terms of women's pipe riding she's simply on another level. Contstantly boosting huge straight airs and almost as huge spins, Clark easily qualified for the finals in first place. Second place today went to the USA's Claire Bidez who killed it in her first run, only to take the gnarliest slam I've seen all week. Going huge on the first hit and going for what looked like a fs 9, she hit the deck on her heels, got the coping in the back and flipped over to slide down the trannie using her face as a brake. She's a tough girl though, and dusted herself down and will be game again when the finals roll round come Friday. Third placed went to Cheryl Maas who again was going big and even had a flip or two in her runs to show that you can't rule this Dutch dame out.
In the men's, the usual suspects were getting freaky-gnarly. Well, actually, one wasn't. In a scene reminiscent of his Olympics qualifier, Shaun White, to the amazement of all, dropped in, did a solid straight air and then *shock/horror* lost his edge on the second hit and slid up the wall on his arse. What? We thought that kid never falls, but I guess he's only human after all. Or maybe just not all machine. Yeah, half man-half machine maybe, kinda like a ginger Darth Vader. The pressure was certainly on the White Lightning for his second run but he showed his mastery of the force and put down a run good enough for seventh place and a shot at the title come Friday.
As ever, the Finnish duo of Risto Mattila and Antti Autti were on fire and showed of their patented brand of consistency, amplitude and techness to see them easily through in 2nd and 3rd respectively, but the run of the day went to another Finn - Markus Malin. This kid has the craziest lazy style while still linking big back to back rotations and a score of 88.5 saw him top the pile at the close of play today. The final is a tough one to call as a bunch of other guys were killing it, but at the same time looking like they were holding back a little. We're well looking forward to Friday as it promises to be a banger. Now let's just hope the weather plays ball.
But all that pipe riding played second fiddle to the REAL contest of today: the second annual BEO Media Minishred. Bragging rights were up for grabs and the fragile egos of the snowboard media were in the firing line. Onboard, as reigning champions, had been putting in the effort to secure a repeat performance, but a certain unnamed pro claimed he had 'real' work to do with TV people and stuff so our trump card vanished and left us at a disadvantage being one man down. Burrows and Vermeulen did the Onboard Scatologists proud though but it was not meant to be. The Minishred was a blast though and everyone was hooting and hollering everyone else, with some pretty good shredding going down, and not just from the recruited pros. In the end of the 1 run gig, third place went to the TTR crew, 2nd to the Burton/Forum and this year's crown went to the dudes from Swiss mag Whiteout. For sure these guys deserved the win, and having Nico Müller on the team didn't do any harm, so they're all off to Valencia to rag Suzukis round. Nice.
Right. Riders' party tonight so we're sure there'll be some sore heads tomorrow for the slopestyle finals.
Results (top 16 Men and top 8 women advance to Friday's final.)
Women's Halfpipe Semi-Finals 1 Kelly Clark 2 Clair Bidez 3 Cheryl Maas 4 Linn Haug 5 Manuela Pesko 6 Torah Bright 7 Sina Candrian 8 Hannah Teter
Men's Halfpipe Semi-Finals Rank Competitor Nation 1 Markus Malin FIN 2 Risto Mattila FIN 3 Antti Autti FIN 4 Markus Keller SUI 5 Ben Stewart NZE 6 Kevin Pearce USA 7 Shaun White USA 8 Iouri Podladtchikov SUI 9 Roger Kleivdal NOR 10 Peetu Piiroinen FIN 11 Markku Koski FIN 12 Mason Aguirre USA 13 Olivier Gittler FRA 14 Fredrik Austbo NOR 15 Keir Dillon USA 16 Andy Finch USA 17 Ben Watts USA 18 Elijah Teter USA 19 Chas Guldemond USA 20 Janne Korpi FIN 21 Jean-Jacques Roux FRA 22 Gian Simmen SUI 23 Xaver Hoffmann GER 24 Nicolas Mueller SUI 25 Luke Wynen USA 26 Jeremy Thompson USA 27 James Hamilton NZE 28 Stephan Maurer SUI 29 Sergio Berger SUI 30 Miikka Hast FIN 31 Drew Brighton USA 32 Charles Reid CAN 33 Stefano Munari ITA 34 Bryan Shuey USA 35 Arthur Longo FRA 36 Crispin Lipscomb CAN 37 Janne Lipsanen FIN 38 Manuel Pietropoli ITA 39 Harrison Gray CAN 40 Dylan Bidez USA 40 Stef Zeestraten NZE 40 Danny Davis