Swatch BoarderCross in Aspen

Flat light and four inches of new snow couldn’t stop ISF World Champion Philippe Conte (US40) from going home with $25,000 first-place prize money and a WWF-style trophy belt in today’s boardercross final. Norway’s Line Østvold (Blue Windows), who’s been playing runner-up for most of this season, took the women’s win and $12,500.

Rounding out the men’s podium were Burton riders Drew Neilson in second and Nicolas Conte (Philippe’s brother) in third. Fully recovered from knee surgery, Canada’s Maëlle Ricker rode to a strong second place behind Line, while World Champion and number-one qualifier Ine Pøtzl wound up in third.

It was a wax race on Buttermilk’s (one of Aspen’s four mountains) technical, jump-filled course. “I chose the board with the right wax,” said Philippe. “That was the most important thing.” But a softer track and all-around slower conditions than racers experienced in yesterday’s qualifier also meant a change in tactics. “It was very hard work,” said Philippe, referring to how he had to use his legs to pump the terrain for speed. In qualifying (which Philippe also won) even top riders checked their speed before hitting big jumps because the course was so fast.

Out of the finals for the first time in recent memory was wonder boy Xavier Delerue; he struggled during the early rounds of the single-elimination format. Shaun Palmer showed hints of greatness, but came up short after spinning out in the semis. Palmer and Delerue finished in twelfth and thirteenth places respectively, and left the six positions in the final heat for the six fastest qualifier’s from yesterday’s time trial.

Top women riders were equally consistent¿the three fastest time trialers flopped to fill the podium today. Solid, technical riding by a handful of hotties I’m dead, but it went with handful. made up for a general lack of depth in the women’s ranks. While Ine controlled her early heats, Line (Look for Line’s Santa Cruz pro model in 2002.) handily won the semi finals and finals, giving her the last word and the biggest paycheck. The return to competition of riders like Nillard Pilavakis, Marguerite Cossettini, and Maëlle Ricker, who were all injured last season, will up the caliber of the women’s field and give Line and Ine (both Santa Cruz riders) a run for their prize money in the races to come.

All in all, a flawless event went down today in what will soon be a truly snowboard-friendly Aspen valley. The final stop of the Swatch Boardercross World Tour takes place during April in Laax, Switzerland.