David Wise, Shaun White earn Dew Tour gold at Breckenridge
BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — Saturday brought the sort of white gold that Breckenridge just can’t pay for, and it had very little to do with Shaun White’s megastar halfpipe win.
Beginning around 4 a.m., big, soft, fat flakes started falling across Summit County, covering everything in a blanket of four or five inches in time for the biggest day of Dew Tour finals, all packaged and televised for powder hounds across the globe. Nothing beats fresh pow on TV right before the holidays, even if it made life both interesting and frustrating for athletes.
And it just didn’t let up, snowing hard enough and early enough to postpone the women’s freeski slopestyle final until Sunday. Slow-running powder and 80-foot kickers hardly make good bedfellows, and the last thing anyone wants is an injury this early in the season. Just ask Breck’s Keri Herman, the defending slopestyle champ who missed the final after a training injury earlier this week.
Women’s snowboard halfpipe
But halfpipe is a different beast. Around 9:15 a.m., right after Breck crews painted bright-green lines to mark the difference between halfpipe walls and driving snow, the women’s snowboard superpipe got underway through the nastiest stretch of the storm.
The six finalists all took a few practice runs before the final, but the conditions were wildly unpredictable. Snow was falling fast enough to stick on the halfpipe walls before sloughing off into the bottom. This turned the transitions into something a bit like ungroomed chop, and just about every female in the final battled for speed on the middle hits of their first runs.
“It was a challenging day out there,” said Kelly Clark, a five-time Dew Tour champ and easily the oldest competitor in the final. “It’s difficult when you have so much snow because every mistake get amplified. You land low once and lose all your speed and that’s the end of your run.”
Clark squared off against the youngest field for a Dew Tour final: At 32 years old, the three-time Olympic medalist had nearly a decade on the second-oldest competitor, China’s Jiayu Liu at 23 years old.
Liu had a clean first run in the final yet still fell victim to the speed-killing powder. Clark fared slightly better, boosting at least 14 or 15 feet on her first-hit straight air, but admits that the small crowd saw a much different run than what she’d throw down on a powder day.
“I haven’t done a run like that in a final in a long time,” Clark laughed from the base of the pipe after her second run.
She had more amplitude than just about anyone — well, anyone aside from 22-year-old first-time Dew finalist Xuetong Cai — but fellow U.S. team member Chloe Kim had bigger spins. The 15-year-old phenom (last season she became the youngest female ever to win gold at X Games) bounced back from a sketchy first run with a stellar second, starting things off in show-stopping fashion with a huge 900 nose grab. Like Clark, she also opted for a smaller and less technical run, as if landing a 900 in powder counts as smaller and less technical.
“My run went from insane to mellow,” Kim said. “I was just stoked I could put one down. I think a lot of it has to do with mindset. You just forget about the snow. There was no wind, and that’s all I cared about.”
Kim earned an 89.60 on her first run and was eyeing the win until Liu dropped in again. The Dew Tour novice had an insane second run, mixing height and technicality with pure confidence to score a 91.00 and move into first, edging Kim into second and Clark into third with an 84.40.
Absent from the podium was Arielle Gold, the top qualifier at Wednesday’s semifinal and the only female with a first-hit Michalchuck (a rodeo, or somersault backflip, with a 540 off the heel-side wall). She ended up in fourth with an 82.20 and was noticeably disappointed with the result, but the 19-year-old’s performance this weekend and fun, bubbly personality are sure to draw attention. Before the final, she had an interview with Jack Mitrani at the bottom of the pipe and he asked her about the Volcom gear she was wearing.
“Is this a new kit?” Mitrani asked. “I’ve never seen you wear it before. Are they a sponsor?”
“No,” Gold said. “But if they’re listening, hit me up.”
Men’s snowboard halfpipe
The snow started to ease up by noon when the boys came out to play in the powdery pipe. White entered the final in first position after a bomber performance at the semifinal, followed by Arielle Gold’s brother, 22-year-old Taylor, and 20-year-old Ben Ferguson of Oregon, who also had a sibling in the pipe, 16-year-old Gabe Ferguson.
White, who has hardly competed since taking fourth at the Sochi Olympics, didn’t hardly seem to notice the snow. He went massive on the first hits of both runs, then followed them with double 1260s while just about everyone else stuck to 1080s.
When the final wrapped up, White sat on top with a 92.60, the only 90 of the men’s final. Japan’s Ayumu Hirano took second with an 89.40 — he was the only other competitor to land a clean double 1260 — and Olympic gold medalist Iouri Podlatchikov (aka I Pod) came in third with an 84.20. He barely edged out Taylor Gold, who scored 84.00 to end in fourth like his sister.
Just behind Gold in fifth was Breck local Brett Esser. It was the 23-year-old’s best finish at his hometown comp.
Truckee’s Danny Davis, a former champ at Breck, missed the finals with three falls in three runs.
Men’s ski halfpipe
David Wise had this one in the bag. At a cold freeski halfpipe final under the lights, the Olympic medalist from Reno bounced back from a ho-hum first run to score a whopping 91.60 in the final — nearly double his first score of 48.40.
His mix of double 1260s and 1080s with massive amplitude and off-kilter grabs was enough to bump him past Beau-James Wells, a young New Zealander (and Jossi Wells’ younger brother) who ended in second with a 90.40.
Third place went to Aspen local Alexander Ferreira. He went rounds with fourth-place finisher Kevin Rolland, scoring an 83.40 in the first round to sit in fourth before notching an 88.60 in the second, just barely one point more than Rolland who had an 87.40.
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The area’s top up-and-coming skiers and riders on Saturday opened the 2022 USA Snowboard and Freeski Association North Tahoe Series, dusting off their best tricks during a round of rail jam at Homewood Mountain Resort.