Video/Editing: Justin Gunson
Photos: Chris Wellhausen
Words: AH

Shaun White once again stands atop the leaderboard at the Winter X Games, but don’t start saying that he’s “back”. The newly-fashioned Dark Knight didn’t leave his game for a minute, picking up right where he left off in Vancouver. Showcasing another impressive pair of Superpipe runs, Shaun cruised en route to securing the top position heading into Sunday’s Superpipe Final.

The buzz surrounding tonight’s pipe action received a welcomed boost around noon, when none other than Danny Davis rose above his infamous back injuries to announce that he would be competing in Men’s Superpipe here at Aspen/Snowmass, Colorado. But Danny wasn’t just dropping in for the effort points. Going for Gold from the earliest practice, DD spent the afternoon and evening launching several double corks and overhead spins that had both the crowd and the riders cheering like old times. “I kept telling Gunny [SPT's Chris Gunnarson] to hold me a spot. I told him I’d work as hard as I could to be ready. And … here I am!” Sadly, not all comeback stories can end in flashing lights, as the elimination rounds proved to be a bit tougher for the Michigan native. Finishing in a respectable 12th, it’s nothing short of a miracle to see Danny back so soon and feeling so well. Expect to see much, much more in the coming months.

Back from the back, Danny Davis flies high once again at X. PHOTO: Chris Wellhausen

Back from the back, Danny Davis once again flies high at X. PHOTO: Chris Wellhausen

As one star regained his form, another was forced to leave the comp early due to injury. The much-anticipated match between Olympic Gold Medalist Shaun White and fast-rising 4th-Place finisher Iouri Podladtchikov has been put back on hold for another few months, as I-Pod went down hard during practice and was unable to continue. In his stead, Breckenridge’s Brett Esser was given the chance to compete with the big boys, actually holding onto the final 8th-Place transfer spot ’til almost the very end. The Cinderella story would end up being cut just a few minutes short however, as young pipe demon Matt Ladley would sneak in at the last second to secure his spot in the Finals and send Brett back to the pack. But that isn’t to say that Esser wasn’t hanging with some surprisingly elite company—many big names and recurring X Games heavies were also left wanting when the prelims came to an end. JJ Thomas, Greg Bretz, Danny Davis, Mason Aguirre, and Luke Mitrani were all wondering what could have been by night’s end, unable to post a score in the top eight. Now … we’re not usually anyone to go after judges, etc, but Luke Mitrani killed it. Double Michalchuk? Clean landings? Big, lofty airs and sticking an unreal cab 7 to the flats to end things out? Not to start anything here, but … OK, screw it—Squid got robbed!

You could say that before ol' metal-mouth Lago dropped, the crowd "braced" themselves for what would happen next. Ha... PHOTO: Chris Wellhausen

You could say that before ol' metal-mouth Lago dropped, the crowd "braced" themselves for what would happen next. Ha... PHOTO: Chris Wellhausen

You know who didn’t get robbed? Scotty Lago’s dentist—dude got paid. Coming back from a broken jaw and facial reconstruction, New Hampshire’s favorite son returned to competition with a face full of metal and elastic bands holding his mouth closed—yet was still talking shit and smiling like ever before. It was apparent from the first practice run that Scotty was no longer feeling the effects from the recent crash, and with teeth clenched, rode strong and high into second place. Following Lago and rounding out the eight qualifiers were Peetu Piiroinen, Louie Vito, Markus Malin, Kazuhiro Kokubo, Matt Ladley, and Mathieu Crepel.

22-foot pipe, 3,000 fixated pairs of eyes, one questionable Ramones costume. Shaun "Dark Knight" White leads the way to Sunday. PHOTO: Chris Wellhausen

22-foot pipe, 3,000 fixated pairs of eyes, one questionable Ramones costume. Shaun "Dark Knight" White leads the way to Sunday. PHOTO: Chris Wellhausen

In the end, Shaun White would need only his first run score of 90.33 to cruise into Sunday’s Final in the top position. His riding was on-point from the start, floating “relaxed” doubles and consistently airing 2-3 feet higher than the field—but Shaun’s snowboarding wasn’t necessarily the talk of the town (or Twitter/Facebook feeds, for that matter). Embracing his inner Nima Jalali, White showed up to Snowmass on Thursday rocking full-on leather jackets, the tightest of tailored pants, and things hanging from his belt once again (foxtail?)—this time, in all black. Joking about his new emo-stee, Shaun laughed off the controversy with a quick Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World bit: “I’ve gone emo! [Laughs] I’m just so sad. So very, very sad …” Neither the new style nor time off between competitions could slow the Dark White, gliding into the Final round with a grip of momentum and  a promise of never-seen tricks—if he even needs them.

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With Superpipe, Slopestyle, Best Method, Real Snow, and Big Air Finals all to come, this year’s X Games at Aspen/Snowmass promises to tear the roof off. Stay up on all Winter X Games 15 coverage at Facebook.com/TWSnow, Twitter.com/TWSnow, and right here at TWSnow.com.

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NameBib No.Hometown Best Score
1.Shaun White79Carlsbad, Calif.92.00
2.Scotty Lago83Seabrook, N.H.85.33
3.Peetu Piiroinen84Hyvinkaa, Finland82.00
4.Louie Vito266Bellefontaine, Ohio74.33
5.Markus Malin275Lahti, Finland70.00
6.Kazuhiro Kokubo265Ishikari City, Japan68.00
7.Matt Ladley277Steamboat Springs, Colo.67.00
8.Mathieu Crepel276La Mongie, France63.66
9.Brett Esser281Breckenridge, Colo.61.33
10.Luke Mitrani274Mammoth Lakes, Calif.60.00
11.Mason Aguirre279Mammoth Lakes, Calif.58.00
12.Danny Davis261Highland, Mich.54.00
13.Greg Bretz262Mammoth Lakes, Calif.46.00
14.J.J. Thomas264Breckenridge, Colo.38.00
15.Christian Haller260Zernez, Switzerland32.00
16.Zack Black278Breckenridge, Colo.30.00