After a rough go of it with blustery conditions during training, the 2023 FIS World Championship slopestyle finals went down today in Bakuriani, Georgia with more forgiving weather.
What exactly is a FIS World Championship? As far as I can tell, it’s not much more than a glorified World Cup event that’s held every two years—with the big difference that the winner gets to call themselves the “world champ” afterwards.
Bakuriani was an off-the-beaten-path choice for this year’s World Champs. It was the site of a World Cup event last year that was nearly thwarted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. With flights canceled and everyone on high alert, only a handful of competitors showed up. Still, it’s cool to see Georgia on the come-up in the international scene, even if it might not be everyone’s first choice to host a world-class slopestyle event.
Windy conditions prevailed throughout training. Luckily, the weather broke right in time for finals. Photo: Miha Matavz/FIS
The slopestyle course designed by Schneestern featured a top rail section, then three jumps leading into two bottom rail tiers. Photo: Miha Matavz/FIS
GONE WITH THE WIND: WOMEN’S SLOPE FINALS
The day dawned bright and sunny in Bakuriani, but a persistent headwind put a damper on the women’s slopestyle finals, which ran in the morning before the men. The unpredictable wind added an extra challenge to this already tricky slopestyle course: go straight and risk overshooting, or check speed and risk coming up short.
In these conditions, experience paid off. Mathilde Gremaud, no stranger to contest pressure, was able to put down a clean run in Run 1 that ended up winning the day by just a hair. It featured a right 270 on, 270 out into a switch 270 on, 270 out in the top rail section, followed by a left double cork 1080 safety, right bio 900 safety and switch left 720 mute in the jumps, with a switch on, 450 mute out on the up rail, a 50-50 on the tube and a left lip 270 on, 270 out to round things out.
When she's on, she's on. Mathilde's squeaky-clean run helped her eek out the win just ahead of Megan Oldham's challenge. Photo: Miha Matavz/FIS
“We had the worst training I’ve ever had in my life—we probably wouldn’t have been skiing at all if it wasn’t World Champs,” said Mathilde. “It was exhausting to be like, ‘It’s on, it’s off, it’s on, it’s off.’”
“In these moments I just try to stop everything so I can save my energy, and I think it paid off,” she added.
Nipping on Mathilde’s heels was Canadian up-and-comer Megan Oldham. Fresh off her Big Air win at the X Games a few weeks ago, Megan showed off her air prowess with the only linked double corks of the contest, a switch left double 900 japan into a left double cork 1080 mute. However, her rail section wasn’t quite as technical as Mathilde’s, and left her trailing on the scoreboard by just two tenths of a point.
Megan Oldham is turning into a real contest threat. Watch out for this one. Photo: Miha Matavz/FIS
Third place went to Johanne Killi. The ever-consistent Norwegian lined up a blind swap to front 270 out and a switch 270 on, 270 in the top rails followed by a left 900 tail, switch left 720 safety and a switch right double cork 1080 japan in the jumps. In the lower section, she finished out with a switch on, front 630 out of the up rail and a clean left 270 to switch.
A notable podium miss came from French slopestyle heavyweight. Two times Tess looked to bolster her double cork 1260 mute with an audacious switch double cork 1260, but crashed on both attempts.
Switzerland’s Sarah Hoefflin was also gunning for the podium, and looked to put together back to back switch double 10s in her second run, but went a bit too big on the first one and couldn’t hang on to the run.
A surprising number of female rookies turned up at this world championship finals, with names like Ruyi Yang (China), Muriel Mohr (Germany), Yuna Koga (Japan) and Ruby Star Andrews (New Zealand) all in the mix. While it was great to see fresh faces in the crowd, it was unfortunate that they were there largely due to the absence of some of the sports’ heaviest hitters, like Kelly Sildaru and Eileen Gu—both out with knee injuries. Still, it was great to see some strong up-and-coming performances like the strong skiing of Ruby Star Andrews.
1st place – Mathilde Gremaud
2nd place – Megan Oldham
3rd place – Johanne Killi
NORWEGIAN WOOD: MEN’S SLOPE FINALS
By the time the women’s contest wrapped up, the wind had died down somewhat, setting the stage for an action-packed, if somewhat rough-and-tumble contest that tested the limits of this Georgian slopestyle course.
Run 1 got off to a rocky start, with many of the competitors scrubbing or crashing on their runs. Max Moffatt got off to a strong early start, landing a huge run that included a right double cork 1620 stale off the narrow side takeoff of the second jump, straight into a switch right triple cork 1620 safety, one of the days only landed triples. However, Max’s run was just a big more chill in the rails, and he ended up in a benchmark position, guarding the path to the podium but ultimately stuck in fourth place.
Cody LaPlante came packing with one of the day's biggest tricks, a triple cork 1620 safety. Photo: Mateusz Kielpinski/FIS
Andri Ragettli led the pack after the first run, mostly on the strength of two forward double 1620s (with a safety grab to the right and a tail grab to the left), plus smooth operating in the rail section. But a Norwegian storm was brewing in Run 2. First Christian Nummedal, rocking some serious hood steeze a la Jossi Wells, came rolling in hot with a 1260, 1440, 1620 combo in the jumps, sealing the deal in the bottom rails with a switch 270 on, back 630 out followed by a 450 onto the tube that no one had any business 450ing onto and a right 270 pretzel 270 to cap things off.
For a moment it looked like Nummedal, a slopestyle veteran with over a decade in the game, was going to clinch the world champ title after dodging big runs from Ben Barclay, Hunter Henderson, Evan McEachran and Sebastian Schjerve. But on the last run of the day, his teammate Birk Ruud stole the show. Birk unleashed a switch right 270, pretzel 450 into a right 450 on, 450 out in the top rails, followed by a switch left double cork 1620 mute, a right double cork 1440 tail and his signature left double bio 1800 mute in the jumps. Then a front 880 tail out of the up rail, a switch left 270 into the tub, and a ballsy lip 450 to switch on the final rail—signed, sealed and delivered, Birk Ruud claimed the title with a score of 90.75, bumping his buddy into second and Ragettl into 3rd.
Andri Ragettli carves out a cork on the second jump's unique angled side hits. Photo: Chad Buchholz/FIS
“Obviously I would like Nummi to win the world champs, but I had to think about just putting down the best that I could do, and I managed to do that,” Birk said after the contest. “So I’m very thankful and grateful that it’s happening here. It’s been windy and tough with training, but we got it—skiers and snowboarders—so I’m very thankful.”
“It feels nice to have a world champ title,” he added. “Now I can say that I’m the world’s best, at least I was today. And that feels great, yes sir!”
As in the women’s contest, the men’s field was also missing a few big names like Alex Hall and Colby Stevenson, who’d apparently decided that the Dew Tour in Colorado was more important to them than the FIS World Championships. Actually, that speaks loads in and of itself…
Men’s 1st Place – Birk Ruud
Men’s 2nd Place – Christian Nummedal
Men’s 3rd Place – Andri Ragettli
Final Results: Bakuriani Slopestyle
Women's Bakuriani podium: Mathilde Gremaud, Megan Oldham, Johanne Killi. Photo: Miha Matavz/FIS
1. Mathilde Gremaud
2. Megan Oldham
3. Johanne Killi
4. Sarah Hoefflin
5. Anni Karava
6. Ruby Star Andrews
7. Sandra Eie
8. Ruyi Yang
9. Yuna Koga
10. Giulia Tanno
11. Muriel Mohr
12. Tess Ledeux
Men's Bakuriani podium: Birk Ruud, Christian Nummedal and Andri Ragettli. Photo: Miha Matavz/FIS
1. Birk Ruud
2. Christian Nummedal
3. Andri Ragettli
4. Max Moffatt
5. Sebastian Schjerve
6. Hunter Henderson
7. Evan McEachran
8. Fabian Bösch
9. Ben Barclay
10. Noah Porter MacLennan
11. Elias Syrjä
12. Valentin Morel
13. Cody LaPlante
14. Jesper Tjäder
15. Tormod Frostad
16. Hugo Burvall
For complete results including qualifications visit the FIS website.