Sweden’s Pontus Staahlkloo (K2) and Italy’s Alessia Follador (Killer Loop) claimed the top spots in today’s qualifying round of the Swatch Boardercross World Tour at Snowmass, Colorado.

In the only timed portion of the event, the top 48 men and 24 women advance into the six-rider main based on the best of two runs. Following behind Pontus in the men’s race were Austrian Harald Putz-second by only a hundredth-and the consistantly fast Philippe Conte of France. Follador was chased by leading ladies Ine Poetzl and Line Oestvald, who came across in second and third places respectively.

The third stop on the Swatch Boardercross World Tour(first in the U.S.) kicked off under partly sunny skies on Coney Glade run at Snowmass. The course, which Oxygen rider Harry Putz called one of the “easier courses of the season” because of the smaller-sized jumps, worked its way over varied pitches. After a Wu-Tang kicker at the start, riders had to carry speed across a long flat section before dropping into the steep and gnarly second half of the course.

A week of new snow in the Aspen area made racing, and getting to the event, all the more challenging. The soft top layer of snow was scraped off and piled up by the end of the first run, creating some bumpy ass berms and even some bare spots.

Despite low registration numbers, most of the world’s top boardercrossers showed up for a stab at the $10,000 first-place prize money ($5,000 for women) that’ll be awarded tomorrow, and ISF points. And anyway, regardless of whether or not there were 100 or 200 men in the field, it only takes 48 good riders to end up out of the main event.

The men’s time trial was typically tight. The Santa Cruz/Blue Windows team had a good showing; guys like Conte, Bruserud, Maierhofer, and Denervaud, all railed their way into the top ten. On top of the heap was Pontus Staahlkloo (62.18 secs.) who, after going through the finish fakie on his first run and still taking fourth, put it together to edge out Putz by one one-hundredth of a second. Who the hell is Pontus whatever? The Euros must already know, because none of them really seemed too surprised by his riding.

Canadian Drew Neilson, who just won the Gravity Games at Mammoth, finished a competitively pissed fourth. “I always like to try and win the time trials,” he said. The top U.S. rider was Palmer-sponsored Mark Schultz from Oregon.

A coming on strong Alessia Follador from Portnone, Italy secured the top time on the women’s side of things in her first run with a time of 70.11 seconds. Alessia, who’s currently ranked 12 in the world, beat out second-ranked Catherine “Ine” Poetzl by only sixth hundredths. Line Oestvald, winner of the Swatch tour’s first stop in Solden, wrapped up third a second and a half behind Poetzl.

Follador mentioned the importance of a good wax, especially on the flat sections of the course, and said she hopes that tomorrow’s race will finish earlier. “The second run was pretty icy.”

Boardercross starts at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow (Saturday) and should be finished by around 1:30. Party tonight at the Double Diamond in Aspen.

Hoy’s Picks

Fastest guy I’ve never heard of: Quincey Kimbrell (No idea how he hung on.)

Most dynamic riding: Nicolas Conte (Unfortunately, Nico went down near the finish on his second run and had to be carted out.)

Most consistent: Berti Denervaud (His two runs were within five tenths.)

Sure to go faster tomorrow: Marguerite Cossettini (The right wax will make a difference.)

Hottest Euro babe: Sorry, can’t do it.