Photography by Frode Sandbech / Words by Jason Horton
There’s something reassuringly old-fashioned about a quarterpipe. While slopestyle and halfpipe riding continues to rapidly evolve, QP remains largely unchanged. Sure, double corks are a new option, but the bottom line with a QP contest is that style takes precedent over technical difficulty, and amplitude beats all. Halfpipe judges could learn a lot from these simple values.
Quarters aren’t just a huge challenge to ride, they are incredibly hard to build. Terje has built a few, and you get the feeling that this has become something of an obsession for him. He set a new world record with a 9.8 meter air back in 2007 at his own Arctic Challenge, and you just know that nobody wants that Oakley gold watch that’s on the line more than him.
The quarter created for last night’s show was a beast. Elliptical transition, 10 meters high and costing a cool half million. Terje was happy with the quarter, but he wasn’t so impressed with some of the riders’ reluctance to step up. Or, as he put it, “when did pro snowboarders become pussies?” Fact is, quarterpipes are scary, and dangerous. You try riding up a vertical wall at 50 mile-per-hour. The tiniest pieces of loose snow become boulders that can upset your balance just enough to make a long, long drop to vicious hangup to bounce to flat a reality, and a season-ender. But, as Terje reassured the riders who did show up to training, the introduction of a custom-made airbag has made things a whole lot safer… as Terje himself demonstrated when he decked from 6 meters and slid straight past the lip, landing harmlessly into the transition.
Contest night: 5000 Norwegians gathered in the Holmenkollen stadium, an amazing structure on a historic site that has seen snow jumping records being broken since 1892.
The show kicked off with 20 snowboarders taking a qualifying run, with the top eight going through to the night-time final. There were three categories: best overall, best trick, and highest air.
Highest Air: Terje was a sure-fire bet for highest air, and his loyal fan base of staggeringly pretty blondes and rowdy Vikings weren’t disappointed. Terje delivered an absolutely classic Method air at a very respectable 7.7 meters, just ahead of Jack Mitrani’s equally smooth 7.3 meter backside air.
Best Trick: This went to fellow Norwegian Kim Rune Hansen, who pulled the heaviest move of the night, a very clean double Chuck that clocked in at a respectable 5.5 meters. But it was to be Olivier Gittler who would take the overall honors, with a performance that was all about style, consistency and of course, amplitude. The 21-year-old French rider, who has been making a slow return to form after obliterating his femur two years ago, started out with a 6.4 meter Mctwist. When you consider that height is judged by the position of the head, that’s pretty impressive when you’re inverted at the peak of the trick. Gittler followed that up with a couple of very smooth straight airs, and sealed the deal with another extremely stylish Mctwist to take home the $30,000 top prize. Olivier, who is French but was born and raised in Boston, said “Terje is my idol and actually taught me how to do Mctwists, so to have won tonight and stand next to him on the podium spraying champagne in his face is the best feeling ever!”