Photo: Mark Kohlman/ESPN
Though it suffers from a host of its own issues (constantly differing contest formats and mysterious qualification processes to name but two), the Winter X Games are usually snowboarding's Blue Ribbon event of the season - it's the one contest with the media momentum to guarantee that people will give a fuck who wins. Not only that, but in this Olympic year, it's a decent barometer for who's got what tricks going into PyeonChang's five-ringed circus.
But still, with today's social media algorithms dictating the news you see, it's easy to miss exactly what went down, especially if, like us, you're at a trade show in a different timezone to Aspen. Even we couldn't muster the energy to get up at god-knows-how-early to watch the big air and halfpipe happenings. So, as you wake up to the week and reach for the coffee, here are all the medal runs from the Winter X Games 2018:
"With today's social media algorithms dictating the news you see, it's easy to miss exactly what went down"
First up was slopestyle. Say what you like about the 'Lympics, at least the TV schedule adapts to the contest - here at the ESPN show, things definitely lie the other way around. A 25-minute slot allowed for only eight finalists, three of which had already pre-qualified, meaning that the fifteen riders in the qualifiers were having a brutal battle for only five spots. Red Gerard made the cut in first place but failed to follow up with a podium finish in the finals, but even with heavyweights like Ståle Sandbech and Maxence Parrot crashing out in qualis, the final looked pretty strong in terms of big names on the board.
Mark McMorris added a bronze to his already bulging X-rated collection of medals, locking in especially strong to his rail tricks in the very technical jib section. He and the other two medalists opted for the straight three jump line rather than the transition take-off on the second, with our pick of the kicker tricks going to Darcy Sharpe, who nailed a frontside 1440 off the toes. When added to the rest of his run it was enough to pip his fellow Canuck into silver.
Gold went to Marcus Kleveland because, d'uh. It really looks like the kid is unstoppable at this time, casually getting inverted in the rail section and then going switch back 12, cab triple 16 and back triple 14. Folks, we're a long way from Andreas Wiig's 720's ten years ago.
MEN'S BRONZE - Mark McMorris
Men's Silver - Darcy Sharpe
Men's Gold - Marcus Kleveland
Though there were somehow only five women in their slopestyle final (how is that possible in 2018?), the podium was largely familiar. Jamie Anderson and Julia Marino had almost identical jump sections, but the reigning Olympic champ was looking far more comfortable and breezed to her first X Games gold since 2013. Enni Rukajärvi brought up the rear with front and back 720s, adding another chunk of metal to an extensive collection without showing any signs of slowing down.
"The reigning Olympic champ looking far more comfortable and breezed to her first X Games gold since 2013"
Women's Bronze - Enni Rukajärvi
Women's Silver - Julia Marino
Women's Gold - Jamie Anderson
There was a slight change (an almost annual happening) to the big air format in Aspen. Although it's been taken as read as part of the judging criteria, this year riders officially had to spin both ways. Scores popped up for 'right' and 'left' tricks, not that that makes much sense for snowboarding, but in amongst the 'cabs' and 'switch backsides' it probably helped an audience that needs Craig McMorris to explain what 'backwards' means every other run.
"The mind melter came courtesy of a cab triple 1800, something we don't think anyone else currently has"
Yer man Yuki Kadono went all in with two triples - backside 16 and switch backside 16, or 'left' and 'backwards right' if that makes it any clearer - though we reckon he's got more in his cannon for Pyeongchang. Marcus Kleveland claimed his second of two X Games medals so far this year with a frickin' quad cork 1800, as well as a switch back triple 1440, though once again that was only enough for a silver as Maxence Parrot steamrollered his way into a gold. He secured it with a frontside triple 1440, but the mind melter came courtesy of a cab triple 1800, something we don't think anyone else currently has. The podium tricks actually had some variety amongst them this year, a useful stick with which to beat the 'floaty backside 180' brigade.
Men's Bronze - Yuki Kadono
Men's Silver - Marcus Kleveland
Men's Gold - Maxence Parrot
Yo, X Games. What the fuck? Where's the women's big air highlights at? Not on your Youtube that's for damn sure. Yup, it's on the ESPN player, but now we've retired our own video player it's offically the shittiest on the web. For those that don't want the headache here's the full show, but again it's sort of unbelievable to see the women's side of the sport getting sidelined by a major media organisation in this day and age.
Not least because this might have been the event to put a serious milestone in women's big air history - all three riders on the podium went double dipping, with second-placed Reira Iwabuchi from Japan putting down maybe the best female back double 1080 we've ever seen. Grab held and landed bolts, we want more of this, though without a second real banger in her bag she could only reach the silver by backing it up with a frontside 720.
Jamie Anderson claimed her first X Games big air bling, coming in third with a slightly sketched frontside 10 and the same cab dub 9 as in her slopestyle run - with a bit of tidying up and by bringing in her dub 10 she could definitely compete with Anna Gasser who this time round breezed it. Her cab double 10 and frontside double underflip put her way ahead of the pack and in a prime spot for taking the initiative in Korea next month. Absent through sickness was Hailey Langland who we've had pegged for success for a while, though she probably could have done with a touch more valuable experince coming into the 'Limpdicks.
Women's Bronze - Jamie Anderson
Women's Silver -Reira Iwabuchi
Women's Gold - Anna Gasser
And finally, the halfpipe. We clocked Ben Ferguson's insane run - more video part than contest standard - on Instagram as we woke up this morning and couldn't comprehend how anyone had managed to beat that bunch of tricks strung together between the scariest drop in ever and a frontside eurocarve ender, but we'd forgotten about Scotty James and Ayumu Hirano.
In a White/Pearce level of escalation, the two had spent the evening going mano-a-mano on each other, the Aussie appropriately attired in boxing gloves. Remember when back-to-back 720s was a thing people talked about? Ayumu went with - and landed - back-to-back double 1440s, slowing down a gear and going frontside 1260 to backside 1260 on the final two hits for a score of 99.00. James' front 12, back 12, switch back 12 was right up there in terms of insanity, but whereas he threw some slower, smoother tricks into the mix for 98.00, the judges clearly valued the extra big banger from the Japanese rider.
Amongst the big names missing from the podium, The Artist Formerly Known As The Flying Tomato was most conspicuous by his absence, citing a need to rest before Pyeongchang. Iouri Podladchikov came out on a high from his victory at Laax, but suffered a nasty-sounding nasal fracture in a crash - rest up iPod!
Men's Bronze - Ben Ferguson
Men's Silver - Scotty James
Men's Gold - Ayumu Hirano
Whilst we're not oblivious to the reason's behind the X Games' success - a good story will always trump trick technicalities to a more mainstream audience - we did have some head scratching to do after the women's pipe finals. Chloe Kim's back-to-back 10s was a feat in itself as she continues to step up the female game, but her grabs still leave a lot to be desired. Yes, she deserved the win by a mile, but with those scores consistently tight in the 90s, the judging looks more like a Hollywood script and less like a serious contest each year.
"Scores coming in so consistently tight in the 90s look more and more like a Hollywood script each year and less like a serious contest"
Maddie Mastro and Arielle Gold rounded out an all-American podium in third and second respectively, and with all three representing Team USA in Korea next month - and Australia's Torah Bright absent – it looks like it will be the same story at the Olympics. The only question is whether veteran Kelly Clark can come back from the knee injury she suffered on her second run. She might be wishing she'd pulled a White and stayed home for this one, but we're wishing her a speedy recovery and record-breaking fifth Games!
Women's Bronze - Maddie Mastro
Women's Silver - Arielle Gold
Women's Gold - Chloe Kim
And that's it for X Games 2018 – apart from this: the answer to the question 'what could be stupider than snowmobile long jump?'