All Photos: Daniel Tengs
Terje Haakonsen has long upheld the values of snowboarding, most recently through interviews and events like The Arctic Challenge. This season he's been vocal about the standardization of halfpipes and competition formats, saying that the current formula has weakened interest in pipe riding. Enter The Arctic Challenge, now in its 15th year. In an effort to address the problems in pipe contests Terje worked with riders and organizers to develop a format that allowed creativity and progression to mix. Instead of the two-run FIS format, or three-run format found at events like the Dew Tour and X Games, The Arctic Challenge 2014 was framed around two hour-long jams where riders could focus on hitting whichever feature they liked. And instead of the standard 22-foot Superpipe, the walls were modified to include hips at the top, followed by extensions, wallrides, and jibs the whole way down.
But no sooner had the experimental approach got underway on March 15 when winds picked up, causing plans to change. Rather than forcing things, riders opted to hold the free-for-all jam first, followed by the full runs later. That’s one of the benefits of having a rider-driven event—the contest can be adapted to give competitors the chance ride their best given the conditions. The result was an event with room for both technical tricks like double corks and creative, style driven moves as competitors were able to hit features multiple times, instead of having only two or three attempts to land like in a traditional contest.
When it was all said and done, judges Ingemar Backman, Dani Sappa, and Greg Johnston gave the top spot to Danny Davis who linked lines like a switch backside 720 to McTwist over the mailbox. Iouri Podlatchikov came in second, and Kent Callister third. Best trick went to Markus Keller for an Elguerial handplant on the mailbox.
While The Arctic Challenge 2014 was successful as a standalone event, it also showcased an alternate pipe competition format that's much less predictable and draws on a larger rider skillset. This serves the dual purpose of keeping things fresh and challenging for the riders, while creating a much more spontaneous, interesting show for spectators. The question now is whether other events that reach larger audiences like the X Games and Dew Tour will embrace this new direction for pipe riding.