Alex Ferreira and Eileen Gu at the 2024 Calgary Snow Rodeo holding their Crystal GLobes
Alex Ferreira and Eilenn Gu claim their Crystal Globes at the end of a historic World Cup season for both of them. Chad Buchholz/FIS

Event News


Two (almost) perfect seasons

Alex Ferreira and Eileen Gu make halfpipe history in Calgary

By: Ethan Stone February 19, 2024

For the past three years, the Winter Olympic Park in Calgary, Canada has hosted back-to-back World Cup halfpipe events. Beyond raising Calgary’s standing as a power hub in halfpipe, this double contest helping is a reflection of Canada’s historic strength in the discipline. This year the Calgary Snow Rodeo came at the end of the contest schedule, a one-two punch of contest skiing to end the World Cup season on a high note.

What exactly is the sense in running two contests back to back in the same halfpipe? At first, it seems a bit odd and repetitive. But watching the two events that went down on 15 and 17 February, it all started to make sense. Every competitor gets two chances at landing their best run. And almost every competitor skis better in the second contest in the first. Purely in terms of giving athletes the best chance at performing at their highest level, this seems to be the way to do it. At least, that’s what happened in Calgary last week, with some of the highest-level pipe skiing seen all winter.

Women’s Contest #1 – 15 February

As expected, Eileen Gu dominated the women’s contest from the first run. On her home turf, Canada’s Amy Fraser did her best to unseat Gu. She put down a solid run featuring her signature switch 900 on the first hit, but was punished by the judges for a lack of grabs. Fraser revised her run to improve on that aspect, adding back to back flairs and eventually jumping up into second place on her final run.

Over two finals in Calgary, Eileen Gu delivered five out of six runs flawlessly. Buchholz/FIS

Third place went to Zoe Atkin, who put down three clean runs and improved her score each time with her patented mix of spins in all directions and clean grabs, but with low amplitude (besides her massive first hit) that kept her from climbing the leaderboard.

Other than that, it was clearly the Eileen Gu show with the run we’ve become familiar with, plus an improvement: right cork 900 buick, left cork 900 japan, right 720 tail, a new switch left 720 japan, a left alley-oop flatspin 540 mute, and a final alley-oop tail air. With the win, Gu extended her streak of wins in Calgary to seven.

“Calgary is such a special place,” said Gu after the contest. “Being seven-for-seven here is insane. This is the place I won my first halfpipe World Cup ever, exactly four years ago, and so I’m really really grateful to be back here. It’s such an incredible crowd.”

Overall the energy is just incredible. I love the double-up format.
Eileen Gu

Men’s Contest #1 – 15 February

For a brief moment, it looked like Alex Ferreira’s perfect season was in jeopardy. That brief moment lasted for about half an hour: right after Brendan Mackay landed a big first run (switch left alley-oop double cork 900 critical, switch left double cork 1080 safety, right double cork 1260 safety, left double cork 1260 tail) to move into first place with an impressive 94.25.

However, that brief moment of uncertainty ended the next time that Ferreira dropped in, stomping his monstrously technical run clean (switch left cork 1080 tail, right double cork 1620 safety, left cork 1080 tail, switch right double cork 1080 japan, left double cork 1620 safety) for a high score of 96.50 that easily held out for the win.

Alex Ferreira at the 2024 Calgary Snow Rodeo
With monster left and right double 1620s, Alex Ferreira has proven impossible to unseat from the top of the podium. Buchholz/FIS

After those two big scores it was mostly a fight for third place, which was occupied first by South Korea’s Seung Hun Lee, then Hunter Hess, and finally Jon Sallinen.

Seung Hun Lee put on an impressive performance, putting us all on notice: Korea is officially on the map for pipe skiing. His run featured a flawless switch left double 1080 safety, a right double 12 safety, left double 16 safety—one of the only competitors to land the 1620 clean besides Ferreira—and a right 900 tail.

Hunter Hess gave his best to get on the podium, adding a switch right 1080 to his stylish run on his third attempt and earning a score in the 90s, but it was only good enough for fifth place tonight.

Hunter Hess at the 2024 Calgary Snow Rodeo
Hunter Hess earning style points with his beautiful first-hit switch 540 safety. Buchholz/FIS

The final podium spot ended up with Finland’s Jon Sallinen, the only European in the contest, on the strength of his second run. Sallinen linked a switch left double 1080 japan, right dub 12 double japan, left cork 1080 cuban, switch right 1080 double japan and a left double cork 1260 safety to japan—a huge run with perfect grabs that earned him a 92.

Although everyone ended up around the place that they should have been, the judging seemed a bit wacky at times—particularly when Brendan Mackay’s massive first-run score of 94.25 came in. Sure, it was a huge, sick run, but it crucially lacked a switch right hit. Part of me wonders if the judges mistook Mackay’s first switch alley-oop left double for a switch right spin, because otherwise, his score of 94.25 doesn’t make a lot of sense.

In the second run, it seems as if the judges wanted to correct their error, boosting Ferreira’s score by a whomping four points (from 92.5 to 96.50) for what was, for all intents and purposes, the exact same halfpipe run as before. No biggie, they got it right in the end, but this little bout of score-bouncing stood out to this observer.

Confronted by the fact that he’d just set a new record by winning four straight World Cup contests, Alex Ferreira said, “I’m amazed! I didn’t even know that. I have a wonderful team around me: Matt Hobbs, Elena Chase, Taylor Seaton, Dano Bruno, the list goes on and on. Griffin Glendinning. I cannot thank you all enough.”

Thank you FIS for hosting a great event, thank you Calgary for an amazing atmosphere. What a great city to compete in front of.
Alex Ferreira

Women’s Contest #2 – 17 February

As usual, this was Eileen’s contest from the very first run. She improved her score on every run thereafter, even adding her alley-oop right flatspin 540 on the final hit for what’s certainly the most technical halfpipe run ever landed by a woman. Her score topped out at a massive 97.00 as she tied Birk Ruud’s record for the most freeski gold medals in World Cup competition, with 14 wins.

Meanwhile, Zoe Atkin put down what must have been some of the best halfpipe runs of her life, with a mix of clean spins and grabs that earned her a score of 92.00 and second place.

Svea Irving shook up the podium on her last run, bumping Amy Fraser out of third place with a stellar run that kicked off with a massive alley-oop flat 540 and ended with a left 900 safety, with solid grabs throughout the whole run. It was the best World Cup finish yet for the American young gun.

Svea Irving Calgary Snow Rodeo
Svea Irving delivered on her final run to score her best World Cup finish yet. Buchholz/FIS

Men’s Contest #2 – 17 February

Alex Ferreira was again dominant in the second contest, securing an unprecedented fifth straight World Cup victory for a clean sweep of this year’s pipe contests. Adding in his recent X Games gold medal, there’s no contest this year that Ferreira hasn’t won. It’s a Herculean feat that will not be repeated anytime soon. Ferreira even tried to add a switch left double to his run. Although it didn’t quite work out, it shows there’s still a bit of room for improvement in what’s been the halfpipe run to beat this season.

Underneath Ferreira, a hungry pack of riders jostled for the podium with some of the best pipe riding of the season. First it was young New Zealand rookie Finley Melville Ives nipping at Ferreira’s heels with the help his impressive alley-oop double flat 900 mute. Then it was Seung Hun Lee with his triple pack of clean double corks, including the left dub 16 that we saw on Thursday. But finally, it was Jon Sallinen who overtook the silver medal position on the final run of the night with all four doubles in his highly technical run: switch left double 1080 japan, right double 12 double japan, left cork 10 cuban, switch right double 10 japan and left double 12 safety.

Jon Sallinen's highly technical run landed him in second place. Bucholz/FIS

With five scores in the 90s, it was truly a high level contest. Nick Goepper busted out a switch right double 1080 to add a third double cork to his own run, landing in fifth overall, while Aaron Blunck showed he’s still in the game with a strong showing, unique doubles in all four directions and a sixth-place finish.

Once again, the judging seemed a bit shaky, although the order seemed right in the end. Brendan Mackay landed his run from Thursday better than ever, but only scored an 84.50—almost a full ten points lower than the score he received in the first contest. This seems to clearly indicate that that first score of 94.25 was in error.

Seung Hun Lee’s score also jumped around oddly. He landed essentially the same run twice in a row on Runs 1 and 2, but was scored 7 points higher on the second run, jumping from 87 to 94. I invite any curious fan to rewatch the contest and tell me where the seven points of difference between these two runs were. Again, the order seems right in the end, but it took a curious amount of shuffling to get there as judges took the chance to revise their ordering.

So ends the 2023/24 World Cup halfpipe season with two spectacular showings from Eileen Gu and Alex Ferreira, and a level of dominance rarely seen in any sport.

There’s still one more major pipe contest coming up this season: the Winter Dew Tour in March.

Kathryn Gray at the 2024 Calgary Snow Rodeo
Kathryn Gray delivered some nice skiing in both finals to make a name for herself as a young rookie to keep an eye on. Buchholz/FIS
Nick Goepper Calgary World Cup halfpipe
Nick Goepper skiing in jeans is everything. I love this man. Buchholz/FIS
Aaron Blunck Calgary Snow Rodeo
If anyone wants to get mad at the judges, it might be Aaron Blunck, who stomped dubs in all four directions and only got sixth place. Buchholz/FIS
Huge amplitude, clean grabs and wow factor: Brendan Mackay's skiing had it all. But did he get overscored in the first contest? Buchholz/FIS