Mikkel Bang is a favorite. PHOTO: Frode Sandbech

Mikkel Bang is no slouch. PHOTO: Frode Sandbech

By Matt Barr

Terje’s TAC is the event that prides itself on being a ‘laboratory’ for snowboarding, the original ‘by riders, for riders’ contest, and so it was fitting that the first two days of pre-qualifications and practice were primarily taken up with making sure the course measured up to the exacting standards of the world’s best pro shreds.

Friday’s practice saw some familiar names and some not-so familiar names dominate the course. Standout for most spectators was definitely Norse ruler Torstein Horgmo, who rode with his usual mix of power and finesse. Horgmo’s backside 5 off the cannon, switch backside 9 on the first kicker and back 7 on the hip set the standard, although he was closely pushed by Mikkel Bang in second and newcomer Mark McMorris in third, who continued his name-making run of contest form following his recent third in Livigno’s River Jump meet.

TTR leader Peetu Piroinnen is kind of unstoppable this season. PHOTO: Frode Sandbech

TTR leader Peetu Piroinnen is unstoppable this season ... or is he? PHOTO: Frode Sandbech

Other riders to make the cut through Friday’s qualifiers included names such as Peetu Piiroinen, Chas Guldemond, France’s Arthur Longo and Air and Style victor Marko Grilc, who just sneaked through in twentieth spot.

But other fancied names did not make the cut, including Eero Ettala, Heikki Sorsa and Anti Autti, who were all pushed hard by some of the new dark horse names on the US and Euro scene such as Sage Kotsenburg, Eric Willet, Seppe Smits, and the impressive Roope Tonteri.

Ahh, the Arctic Challenge—newcomer Gjermund Braathen. PHOTO: Frode Sandbech

Ahh, the Arctic Challenge—newcomer Gjermund Braathen. PHOTO: Frode Sandbech

Saturday’s semis followed a simple format: two heats of ten, with each rider taking three runs and the best run counting. From these, the top five from each would go through to make up the ten finalists.

At Thursday’s pre-event press conference, Terje had explained to riders and press that this year’s event would see each of the five obstacles (one judge per obstacle) count equally towards each rider’s final score (15% each), which would also be augmented with an overall ‘flow’ score (25%). ‘People are gonna have to step up on rails, and not just be gnarly on jumps. We also want a system that can bring in style and the way people ride, not just tick off each trick when it is done’ Haakon had explained when asked for the thinking behind the tweaked system, and in practice it made for a clear and simple system that benefitted both riders and crowd, with each rider’s score was immediately displayed on screens at the bottom of the course.

The rider's tent. Heavies—every last one of 'em. PHOTO: Frode Sandbech

The rider's tent. Heavies—every last one of 'em. PHOTO: Frode Sandbech

With jump two, Thor’s Hammer, tweaked to the riders’ liking, Saturday’s first heat kicked off with more of the same insanely technical and stylish riding. Tricks of the day seemed to be backside double cork spins and the backside rodeo. Grilo didn’t make the cut from heat one, but his run featuring back 10 double cork and a sweet switch rodeo off the toes over the hip transfer was a typical case in point. Another casualty from heat one was Chas Guldemond, who couldn’t seem to dial in the same consistency as Friday and just missed out. With eventual first place qualifier Peetu throwing hammers (including the sickest indie floater off the bottom hip) and Sage Kotsenburg, fresh from his win at the Dew Tour Slopestyle, also impressing, any slip-ups were quickly punished.

Mark McMorris. PHOTO: Frode Sandbech

Mark McMorris. PHOTO: Frode Sandbech

Heat two was a similar story. Here, local hero Mikkel Bang and has the crowd frothing, with McMorris’s back 10 double cork, front 3 and huge backside rodeo over the bottom hip a highlight. Other heat two standouts included Seppe Smits, who finished in fifth, and the slick Vile Uotila.

Brandon Reis on course under sunny skies. PHOTO: Frode Sandbech

Brandon Reis on course under sunny skies. PHOTO: Frode Sandbech

So with the semis over, tomorrow’s final sees ten of the world’s best duke it out for the win. Should favourite Peetu Piiroinen take the win, he’ll also wrap up this year’s TTR World Champion crown for the second year running. Watch this space….

Check back to follow the tenth annual TAC. PHOTO: Frode Sandbech

Check back to follow the tenth annual TAC. PHOTO: Frode Sandbech