December 21, the winter solstice and the second day of the Vans Triple Crown, began as a crystal-clear mountain day. But by the second heat of the Big Air semifinals, the wind was swirling and the sky was filling in like a freshly poured Guinness.

The competition started off around noon with two heats of twenty men–a field to be cut in half for the afternoon’s finals. The kicker seemed to be in good condition, and riders like Abe Teter, Todd Richards, Charlie Morace, and local-boy Chad Otterstrom were seriously throwing down with fakie 720s, cab nines, and multiple variations of the rodeo.

The judges watched on through plummeting temperatures and the crackle of flags in the wind. It was no surprise when event coordinators opted to ditch the best-of-three-runs format for the finals, giving riders one last run and taking the best score out of that and their jumps in the semifinals.

Confused and frozen competitors were quickly ushered to the top for their one-run crapshoot. Watching from the finish area, I honestly witnessed five riders in a row eat shit on what had somehow become the slowest jump in the history of Big Air. A combination of falling temperatures and new snow had turned the kicker?s run in into Velcro, and unsuspecting jumpers were caught by surprise.

Despite the difficulties of the afternoon, the level of snowboarding was still at an impressive height. No less than five cab nines were thrown by the likes of Todd Richards, Jason Borgstede, Preston Strout, and Rahm Klampert. Ben Hinkley managed to take the show, however, with a crazy invert the likes of which only he could pull off. Hinkley went home for the holidays thousands of dollars richer with a prestigious Triple Crown title.