After days of foiled attempts at holding the traditional first pro halfpipe event of the year, the last chance came and went on Saturday, Nov. 29th at Laax, Switzerland. The lack of early season snow in the Swiss Alps had forced the organizers to stage the World Cup halfpipe event at over 10,000 feet, high on the Vorab Glacier rather than at the original halfpipe site 2,000 feet below at the Crap Sogn Gion tram. The weather failed to cooperate, holding the Vorab Glacier hostage most of the week with high winds, blowing snow, and the thickest of the thick Alpen fog soup.
The first day that the competition pipe was officially open offered a challenging mix of zero visibility and blowing snow but the ampers were amping out anyway. Hannah Teter (USA), Steve Fisher (USA) and 16 year old US Open runner-up Kazuhiro Kakubo (JPN) were charging through the steady cross-winds linking up their runs like it was a bluebird day.
The forecast was for the bad weather to turn worse, and it was correct. Rather than continuing with the planned schedule, the organizers attempted to hold the contest each morning, and it was cancelled each morning. Friday was socked in again at Laax, but loads of riders were seen a few ridgelines over riding the well-shaped pipe at Davos. The event organizers also sponsored a few hours of go-kart racing at the indoor track down the road from Laax. After recovering from the 4 hours of indoor carbon monoxide poisoning (or just continuing the buzz), the riders threw down at the ultra high-tech Riders’ Palace hotel and club until the wee hours of the morning.
The weather was forecasted to clear out on Saturday, and it did, but not until high noon and the official contest was cancelled. A number of the teams packed their bags and high-tailed it out of there, but as it would turn out, the afternoon was sunny and the pipe was perfect. What would have been the finals on Saturday erupted into a full-blown session with Antti Autti and the Finns spinning ten foot tens … 1080s that is; switch, regular, nose, tail. All with that unmistakable, nonchalant (“yes, I’m hucking my carcass 10 feet out of an 18 foot icy halfpipe, but I will show no fear or effort”) style. Look for more to come from the Finns and the rest of the rippers as the tour moves on.