Who should have won?

X Games Real Ski: Athlete + Judge Reactions

By: Ethan Stone March 08, 2019

The annual bonanza of 90-second street edits known as X Games Real Ski wrapped up last weekend, with Phil Casabon taking his second consecutive gold medal.

In case you missed it, here´s Phil´s 2019 Real Ski cut.

Joining Casabon on the podium were two Real Ski newcomers: Per “Peyben” Hägglund from the Swedish crew The Bunch in second, and Quebec’s own Alex Beaulieu-Marchand aka ABM in third.

Though all of the finalists brought serious heat to the contest, the question on many people’s minds hearing the results was: where’s Jake Mageau? The Real Ski darkhorse from Bend, Oregon known as Mango came knocking with a mind-bending, outside-the-box edit that, for many viewers, had “surprise winner” written all over it. Mango ended up winning the Fan Favorite vote by a considerable margin, but his fans were left asking, what’s the deal?

Any freeski fan already knows that judged events invite controversy. That’s true for halfpipe, slopestyle, big air and freeride contests, and any other kind of skiing that doesn’t include race gates and a timer. Real Ski might be the hardest of all of them to judge — especially when six top skiers deliver six complete edits, each one unique and remarkable in its own way, which is what happened this year. Cue the Internet drama.

With public opinion swinging between praise for the winning edits and outrage over the judging, I wanted to know what the skiers and judges themselves had to say. So I hit them all up, and asked them to share their thoughts on both the contest and the results.

The short take is that Real Ski is one of the sport’s toughest challenges, and that anyone who throws down nonstop in the streets for two months to complete a segment and not get sidelined is worthy of a medal. And the long take? Well, read on.

Per “Peyben” Hägglund

"I’m so happy with how it turned out! It was such a great year to be in, because everyone was stoked on their own videos and any three on the podium would have made sense!

The one thing all the riders and filmers agreed on was that none of us would have wanted to be a judge."

Peyben. Photo: Jens Nilsson/courtesy X Games

Kim Boberg

"Real Ski is very special. Think about it: six people competing in something you usually don’t compete in. It provides us all with six amazing and game-changing video parts in the middle of the season every year to feed off for the rest of the season. It must be the toughest thing to judge, since street skiing is so diverse from each skier and style.

It brings out the best out of everyone, and the worst sometimes, but you always have in mind that you are trying to put together your best piece in a very short amount of time and that everyone else is doing the same thing. It keeps you going and going and going. Despite the struggles we went through and how difficult things were at times, I would love to to it every year if I could. It was a wild ride.

It could have gone either way with the results. I thought all videos were amazing in their own way and style, and any of them could have been top three. We all know the work we put in to make the videos, and how satisfying it is at the end. Everyone wants to win a medal of course, especially when you don’t really get a second chance if you don’t win.

It will always be a debate on whose was the best video, but that’s how it should be — otherwise we would have a formula on what you should do to win, and it would lose its soul. Everyone should have different opinions on who their favorite is. Real Ski is a beautiful thing. Thank you X Games for making this happen."

Kim and filmer Andreas Olofsson. Photo: Courtesy X Games

Josh Berman (judge)

"Judging a video contest like Real Ski is equal parts art and science and there’s rarely a result that will please everyone. Each judge brings their unique perspective and ideals for what they want to see, and we all work together to come up a podium that everyone on the panel can live with.

It goes without saying that Mango deserved to be on the podium, but so did the other three that ended up with medals. In my opinion on first watch Mango’s edit stood out more than any of the others and I’d say its the freshest of all the entries this year.

The job of the judges isn’t an easy one, and we’re forced to dig in a lot deeper than the casual observer and fan, and when you put five knowledgeable and opinionated judges in a room to sort out the details there’s always give and take. If the podium had worked out differently I’m sure there still would be an uproar from the fans and it’s not the first year nor the last that there will be some controversy and disagreement over the podium placement for a contest like this.

I really hope Mango takes the Fan Favorite poll and comes back again next year."

Level 1 Productions founder and Real Ski judge Josh Berman. Photo: Courtesy X Games

Alex Beaulieu-Marchand

"I am super stoked to have been part of the Real Ski to begin with. Growing up skiing urban it was always a dream of mine to compete in Real Ski! Filming a Real Ski part is so challenging in so many ways that I am just stoked I was able to come out of the filming period with no serious injuries and a video I was proud of! That was my main goal, to make a video I was going to be proud to show everyone. It was definitely the most stressful and intense contest that I have ever been a part of.

The results to me don’t matter, everyone killed it! Six insane video parts that should all be rewarded. I am just glad people like and enjoyed watching the video we made. Props to the other five guys who competed for their insane videos. Everyone stayed true to their style and provided complete segments that blow my mind!"

ABM and filmer Antoine Caron. Photo: Jocelyn Cadieux/courtesy X Games

LJ Strenio (judge)

“This isn’t the first time there's been controversy in Real Ski or contests as a whole, we've all been there, welcome to a subjective sport. This year's was tough because they literally all could have won. All five judges had different podiums. Most of the angry comments asked how we could come to a consensus on this podium, but we weren't in agreement, the results are a compromise of five people who disagreed with one another. It’s an average of different opinions and podiums that we all wanted.

To win Real Ski you need to do it all. in a contest that encompasses all of urban skiing, to win you should transcend your niche and show you can do it all (the creative guys going big, the go-big guys being creative). Everyone at home gets to vote for their “favorite” but we don't get that luxury. We have to try to ignore our biases and decide who did it all the best. You can't win with one or two really good shots, if people are only talking about a couple of shots in someones edit then there was probably filler. For my part, I strongly believe that Phil fit this the best, by a close margin to Mango's as well as a few others. I was his second biggest advocate on the panel. We all loved his edit. The gap between first and last this year was closer than other years’ gap between first and second. Watch your favorite and least favorite edits from 2019 and then do the same with another year’s, it’s crazy.

I was bummed Mango didn't podium, Jake's strengths were rooted in his creativity, but a valid critique brought up about all the edits was that going back to often-hit spots was going to hurt them, unless they were hitting the feature completely differently. Just as an example, Jake’s nataspin—which was one of the best tricks in the contest—is the exact same trick on the same rail as Jesse Paul's Real Snow from two seasons ago. I still thought it was insane, but do you think it’s fair to give it 100% for originality when a snowboarder did it already? (we all still gave him a lot of credit for it.) There were much more aggressive critiques of some of the other edits too, but I was asked to address Mango's. Our job was to pick the videos apart and the process sucked. We also had to consider balancing the podium, we didn't want to set a precedent that one type of skiing was better than another, thankfully things like style are universal and made comparing the athletes one to one easier.

I want to add that it’s painful to work as hard as all these athletes did and see the negativity on the Internet, I know its crushed me in the past. These edits are lifelong accomplishments, the athletes read your comments and they have sold their souls to make these parts for you.

It's a shame that the ranking of these edits garners more attention than the tricks themselves, but such is contests. But the passion is good, the year no one is mad at results is the year urban skiing is dead. Real Ski is clearly a good thing for the sport, it’s generating game changing-edits and X Games is giving out thousands of dollars in acknowledgement of what you think in the form of the fan favorite vote, which used to be the goal, get the masses stoked on your skiing. I also respond to all my DMs on Instagram so if you wanna say what's up, or didn't read this and want to say ‘FUCK YOU,’ give me a shout!”

LJ Strenio

Judge and former Fan Favorite winner LJ Strenio. Photo: Courtesy X Games

Phil Casabon

The most important part of the contest is the journey that goes with it — the time sharing with friends, and the particular circumstances pushing me to better myself. That’s why I enter it — for the personal growth and experience. At first I wasn’t sure about doing it again, and having to re-up what I did last year. In the end I just forgot about last year and went with it, and it was worth it.

As far as the results, I’m happy and humbled that they crowned us. I didn’t know what to think when I saw all the other edits. I definitely saw Jake/Oliver on the podium. When I first saw their cut, I thought, “This could be a winning video”—it made me feel that way instinctually based out of personal preferences. Could have gone multiple ways, none right, none wrong.

It's a well rounded panel of judges with most knowledgeable people. But in the end it’s still a judging system, they have criteria and they have to look at it in a certain way. There’s always going to be controversy. Especially in a digital era where the clueless and the educated have as loud of an opinion. Everybody put out their best for this. For our piece, if this was one of the first video that Brady and I had ever made, I think it would be looked at differently by the masses. That’s where I’m at, after the past ten plus years of putting segments together. But looking at our video objectively, we did it accurately. I'm satisfied with what we did for the culture and can see it aging well. I wish that everyone could get that gold, but that’s not what the game is. Most importantly skiing was well represented and as a better look then ever.

Phil Casabon, photo Alexandre Casabon

Phil Casabon. Photo: Alexandre Casabon/courtesy X Games