2016: The Year In Freeskiing
Switch it up
It's time to look back and reflect on some of the highlights of this past year in competitive freeskiing and beyond, starting with this mind-blower right here. What makes a man climb to the top of an abandoned 24-story ski tower in Michigan's Copper Peak, drop in, then hop a 180 just before takeoff to throw a switch 540 off and over its 364-foot vertical drop? It was just one of many moments documented in the 2016 Teton Gravity Research film, 'The Sammy C Project,' which propelled its star -- the reigning three-time X Games Real Ski Backcountry gold medalist, Sammy Carlson -- to take home the Best Air, Best Powder and Best Male Performance awards at the 18th annual Powder Awards.
Out with it
Three months after becoming the first action sports star to publicly announce that he is gay, 2014 Olympic slopestyle silver medalist Gus Kenworthy did what he'd been unable to pull off in his five previous years competing at X Games Aspen: He medaled. In fact, he medaled in two disciplines, taking home silver in both Ski SuperPipe and Ski Slopestyle, becoming the first skier to medal in two disciplines in the same X Games since Jon Olsson did it in 2005.
The future is now
Estonian skier Kelly Sildaru was just shy of her 14th birthday when she won the Women's Slopestyle gold at X Games Aspen 2016, making her the youngest Winter X gold medalist, and the second youngest X Games gold medalist ever. (Skateboarder Ryan Sheckler was four months younger when he won his first gold.) She's a teen technician in the rails and brings fireworks to the jumps. The future of women's ski slopestyle has arrived.
Take me out to the Big Air game
In February the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association brought Big Air competition to Fenway Park, home to the Boston Red Sox since 1912 and the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball. After suiting up in the locker room, Canadian skier Vincent Gagnier took the field to pitch some strikes in the form of a switch double rodeo 1080 Japan grab and take the championship.
Women step to Big Air
Norwegian skier Tiril Sjstad Christiansen christened Norway's first X Games event, and the first-ever X Games Women's Ski Big Air contest, with this switch 1080 opposite tail grab, winning gold. "I'm just so happy to win here in front of my whole family, my friends and the Norwegian people," she said afterwards. X Games Norway will return March 8-11, 2017, in a new location at the Hafjell Alpine Center, home of the alpine skiing events at the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics.
First in show
X Games debuted the first all-urban freeski Real Series video contest in 2016. Will Wesson, the inaugural gold medalist, had this to say of his winning philosophy: "First it was, just get to the end of the rail... Then it was, take your hardest trick from the park and do it on a handrail. We kind of maxed that out because it takes so much time to get that trick that you either get busted or get hurt," he says. "It's cooler to think: Okay, what can I do on this feature that, a. is possible, b. I can see myself doing in a cool way, and c. we can get it done before getting kicked out? Solving that puzzle is a really satisfying thing for me."
The new kid
Swiss X Games rookie Fabian Boesch surprised in Aspen's Ski Big Air throwdown with a left triple 1440, followed by a left triple 1620, edging ahead of perennial favorite Bobby Brown under heavy snow to secure the gold. He's the first Swiss skier to win gold at X Games and the first rookie to take down the Big Air contest since Alex Schlopy did it in 2011.
Four in a row
On her way to collecting her fourth consecutive gold medal at X Games Aspen, less than a year after a major knee surgery, Women's Ski SuperPipe dominator Maddie Bowman became the first woman to land a switch 900 in a competition run.
Angel Collinson took Best Female Performance honors at the 2016 Powder Awards for her third year in a row, this time on the strength of her part in the Teton Gravity Research film, 'Tight Loose.' "I'm stoked to be a part of this tidal wave of women coming into their own power in the mountains," she said in her acceptance speech, delivered on her behalf by her brother Johnny.
After years of winning silver medals in multiple disciplines, New Zealand's Jossi Wells came away with his first X Games gold, in Ski Slopestyle, at X Games Aspen 2016.