Some sort of history was made at the Vail Session Slopestyle event on the evening of Saturday, January 15. I believe Shaun White became the first rider ever to pull out what people refer to as “all four nines, meaning backside 900, frontside 900, Cab 900, and switch backside 900 (not necessarily in that order) in a pro competition run. Now, not only did he manage to accomplish this ridiculous feat on the giant Pat Melandoski-made jumps (ranging in size from 35 to 65 feet and built way up tall to ensure steep landings), but he did it his second run of the night—and he did the very first time he tried.
“I don’t think he’s even real, said women’s Rail Jam second-place-finisher Leanne Pelosi about Shaun as we watched the men’s Slopestyle Finals unfold. And seriously, she might be right. He’s like some sort of strange shred robot. Which might be why he was able to then go down, do three nines, and crank the last jump up to 1080. Unfortunately, he was so fired up on electric 1080 juice that he fell into the channel on the rail feature at the bottom of the course. His all-four-nines run scored 97, though, so he was all good. The prize for first place was 30,000 dollars, by the way. If you didn’t hate him before, maybe you do now (I don’t even want to talk about what percentage of my yearly salary 30 Gs takes care of). But at the same time, you sort of have to love him, too, don’t ya?
However, it was pretty amazing to see the other riders step up and give little Shaun a run for his money. Can you imagine being at the top of the course having to follow a run like his? But riders like Andreas Wiig and Rahm Klampert weren’t afraid. Wiig pulled out a run of all four sevens—one of them being his signature inverted “Wiig flip. Then he did two nines along with a Wiig flip, as well as settling the rail feature at the end of each run. Rahm Klampert really seemed like he might be able to put together the four nines—I think he got three of them. But there’s probably one way he can’t spin 900—must be switch backside. He anted up for sure, though.
Chad Otterstrom also rode well—he’s got good style, that guy. So smooth. He floated a giant no-grab backside 180 that looked way, way more fun than trying to crank around a 1080. Josh Dirksen really shredded it, too, starting off each run with a big backflip over the first jump (always a crowd pleaser).
Anyhow, a lot of women were noticeably absent from The Session this year—several of whom were protesting the fact that there was no women’s Slopestyle event. Head-judge Greg Johnson, who admitted to the brunt of responsibility for that decision, said that organizers really wanted to go all out and make the jumps as big and exciting as possible for the men. Having two take offs on jumps (smaller and larger options) makes each ramp that much narrower and each sweet spot for taking off that much smaller. Course-builder Pat Melandoski agreed. Johnson also mentioned safety as a factor, and it’s true that a few female competitors did complain about the jumps being too big last year. So that’s that. And when all was said and done, the men’s event was quite a show—so in that respect, I think organizers and the crowd got exactly what they wanted.
1. Shaun White $30,000
2. Andreas Wiig $20,000
3. Rahm Klampert $15,000
4. Mikka Hast $10,000
5. Nate Sheehan $5,000