It wasn’t the most exciting X Games Big Air ever due to difficult conditions, but Swiss youngster Bösch managed to unpack the triples anyway.
Let’s face it—last night’s X Games Big Air wasn’t the best ski big air final ever, but it had nothing to do with the riders, who did an amazing job considering the conditions. Persistent snowfall throughout the evening regulated the action on the big air jump, turning visibility and especially speed into major challenges.
With the snowboard pipe final running late, finally the livestream switched to the ski side, showing a 21-meter Big Air jump covered in snow, with a narrow ski track through the fresh snow created by the riders as an inrun, and eight riders in the start gate—a record four of them representing Switzerland.
Given the conditions, it would have been no surprise if the skiers kept their tricks simple—Swiss coach Misra Noto even resorted to pushing his athletes out of the start gate for an extra boost of speed. But as speed on the inrun improved, in no time the double flips started to get unpacked by some motivated riders, while Jossi Wells preferred to keep it simple and stylish for his first few hits, impressing the crowd with a perfect rodeo 5 safety and a classic Jossi zero spin shifty.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the contest might have kept on at this level—but when Swiss X Games rookie Fabian Bösch unpacked the first triple of the night, a forward triple cork 14 safety, it was evident that the both the speed and the motivation were there to make this contest work. A wide variety of interesting tricks followed: Henrik Harlaut dropped a beautiful double cork 12 tweaked safety, but was stymied while trying to show off his brand-new rodeo 180 rotation (how he took that second attempt to 540 is a mystery). Vincent Gagnier was back with his screamin’ seamen antics, dropping bio 12 and 14s with a genie grab, Bobby Brown put down a clean triple 14 mute, and both Elias Ambühl and Bösch put down clean triple cork 16s—showing the insanely high level shared by this Swiss squad.
Bobby Brown on his way to another podium finish. Photo: Flip McCririck/ESPN Images
Then, tragedy struck—Ambühl went for the switch double misty 12, just bringing the rotation around, but landing awkwardly, his left knee buckling under the pressure. Ambühl went down hard into the piles of fresh snow on the side of the landing, clutching his knee in pain, and was promptly carted off to the medical center for evaluation.
While Ambühl was being helped off the landing, the snow continued to pile up on the inrun and lip, slowing things down again and holding the the riders to straight airs, knuckle tricks and knuckled landings for the rest of the evening. Kai Mahler got creative with a banner wallride at the bottom of the course, Luca Schuler tossed a nice rodeo off the knuckle, and Henrik and Vincent made last-ditch attempts to make the podium—but as time ran out on the 25-minute session, it was Fabian Bösch who had the night’s top scores, followed by Bobby Brown in second and Elias Ambühl in third; almost the same podium as last year’s Big Air, but with Bösch replacing Vinnie on the top rung.
What else can we say—congratulations to the riders who had to fight against the weather, and we send best wishes to Elias and hope your injury is nothing serious. Congratulations again to the Swiss Freeski Team, who managed to get two riders on the podium with a little push in the back from their coach.
The podium and highest-scoring tricks:
Fabian Bösch : triple cork 1440 safety / triple cork 1620 safety
Bobby Brown : Triple cork 1440 mute / Double misty 1080 double japan
Elias Ambühl : Triple cork 1440 safety / Triple cork 1620 safety