This week, Utah held it’s biggest snowboard event to date. The Swatch Boardercross World Tour made its final stop in the U.S. at Solitude Ski Resort with such flare, professionalism, and cool, blow-up red logo starting gates, that it was an event worthy of duplication by the Utah Olympic organizing committee come the Year 2002. This event was loaded with world-class athletes, a high-action, challenging course that the racers loved and the spectators even more, heeps of healthy pasta, solid announcers, and Swatch watches for the media that acted as electronic lift ticket devices that activated the turnstile for 10 runs. Since most press only use it once to get on course, this means we’ve got 9 runs waiting at Solitude this weekend. (They claim time does not deactivate a Swatch.) Two days of training and qualifying timed runs down a minute-plus course narrowed the field of 200 competitors to 24 women and 48 men by the final day. The course itself offered up major challenges with a monster, two-hit ollie out of the gate, that launched you way too fast into a corkscrew, over rollers, backside turns, berms, and ending with a jump that riders nicknamed, “space shuttle” due to it’s “lift-off” potential before crossing the finish.

Although in the beginning of the final day, it looked as though Aussie, Marguerite Cossettini, would sweep the women’s race, most people were stoked to see the hyped-up Winter X Games’ queen, April Lawyer, from Bear Mountain, and local favorite, Cammy Potter. In the men’s division, Laurent Besse from France had similar, fast first rounds as Cossettini, sweeping every heat up until the finals, but since it was his first-ever boardercross event, no one knew who the guy was. Fans and the announcer seemed way more stoked to see overall World Cup snowboard leader, Bertrand Denervaud, from Switzerland, and mountain bike/snowboard kingpin, Shaun Palmer, who by the final round, was in third place.

By 1 p.m., clouds and wind swept swiftly through blue sky and made the course even harder and faster than the morning runs. A wipe-out qualified for severe bruises and I for one, was having a tough time just slipping down the damn course. But for the women at the starting gate on the final heat, they could have cared less. Tension was high, but so was the camaraderie, as other women competitors showed up at the top to cheer on their fellow female riders.

“Riders Ready!, Attention!, Drop!” announced the starter, and with a resonating thud, the start gate hit snowpack and six women busted out like race horses, catching major speed down the smooth, icy course within seconds. Cossettini planned her exit strategy perfectly, avoiding the mess in the middle by riding down the right side, then skying the entire first double, which landed her up front by the first corkscrew. Unlike earlier in the day, it was a tight pack and no one was willing to let the other ahead. Tucked low and riding super aggressively, the pack corkscrewed together like a team of Clydesdales, popping up over the first roller synchronized, hair flying, legs strong, running wild.

Coming into the technical section, Cossettini checked her speed just a little too long and lost the lead to Nillard Pilivakis, from the U.S., who barely held on to the very end, which ended in a full, “layback slash” as Cossettini called it, between first and second place between the two women through the finish line.

“I never thought I had it,” explained Pilivakis at the finish. “These women were fast and we gunned it the whole wayI’ve always been the coach in snowboarding, but boardercross has allowed me to compete.”

For Cossettini, she was bummed, but didn’t show it on the stand or in the press room or among the milieu of racers, spectators, and camera people snapping pictures in her beautiful face. She was sick, having not fully recovered from a cold weeks before when we rode together in the Utah backcountry. She was just a little bummed because a lot of racers look to her for advice about the course, even though they’re competing against one another.

“I get a little tired of it,” Cossettini explained about her role as course adviser. “I don’t understand why they ask me. But I give them the truth when they ask, I can’t lie. That’s just how I am.”

Still, she said, she was doing “OK” and was stoked about the next Swatch Boardercross in Switzerland next month, where she would have the opportunity to win a Harley Davidson. “I’ve always wanted a motorbike,” she said, smiling again.

But before I could ask her if she had given advice to today’s winner, Pilivakis, the men’s finals had started.

Obviously, I wasn’t at the top. But according to sources, the 6 men finalists were in a dead heat until the bottom section at the rollerturn that funneled into the tunnel, which I could see. The tunnel was where aggression played the winning hand. Too close to the end to pass, riders lined up two abreast and out popped Besse and Denervaud, with Palmer a close half-board behind. It was balls-out through the finish with everyone leaning forward to cross the line, almost pearling over the their tips, but when the hands of Besse went up in victory, we knew the underdog had claimed his first boardercross trophy.

“It was my first World Cup event. I never thought this would be possible,” explained Besse to the crowd in his French-accent. “It has been a hard year of transition. I race the GS for it is an Olympic discipline. But I thought with boardercross, I could do well.”

Denervaud was very stoked on his second place finish, but when I asked if the competitors and organizers thought boardercross would become an Olympic discipline back here again for our Olympics in 2002, Denervaud grabbed the mic from the Swatch organizers.

“I would like to answer this question, too. Boardercross, it will be killed by the Olympics. Everyone enjoys boardercross, it is fun, there are festivals and parties and camaraderie. The Olympics have ruined other aspects of snowboarding. They will do the same if they get boardercross. I can say this: Fuck that!”

The Swatch master of ceremonies was hoping to pass on the mic quickly to third place winner, Shaun Palmer. But since the Palm had a mountain competition to fly to in Phoenix that afternoon, his chair was empty. Which meant all eyes went back to Denervaud’s flashing eyes, which were scoping the crowd. And slowly, very slowly, we all began to clap. Maybe because we felt foolish, maybe because we didn’t know what to say back to one of the world’s best snowboarders, maybe, like the other competitors listening to Denervaud’s speech in the background, we didn’t want this great event ruined by anything. Even the Olympics. It’s just too cool. Women’s Results:

1. Nillard Pilivakis, USA
2. Marguerite Cossettini, Australia
3. April Lawyer, USA
4. Leigh Coates, USA
5. Cammy Potter, USA
6. Kyre Bryam, USA

Men’s Results:

1. Laurent Besse, France
2. Bertrand Denervaud, Switzerland
3. Shaun Palmer, USA
4. Jason Brown, USA
5. Tor Bruserud, Norway
6. Ernst Thue, Norway 6. Kyre Bryam, USA

Men’s Results:

1. Laurent Besse, France
2. Bertrand Denervaud, Switzerland
3. Shaun Palmer, USA
4. Jason Brown, USA
5. Tor Bruserud, Norway
6. Ernst Thue, Norway