Video: Justin Gunson
Photos: Chris Wellhausen
“I’ve been wanting this since I was 9 years old! I don’t know what else to say … it’s a dream come true!”
As it has so many times before at Winter X, a snowboarder’s dreams have been realized on Sunday afternoon. Two young X Games rookies struck Gold in Slopestyle Finals, with Mark McMorris and Sebastien Toutant winning out on their very first try. If this weekend’s events are any judge, it’s time to say it--the youth have arrived. The landscape has been flipped once again in men’s and women’s slope competition, with more underagers earning Medals at Sunday’s Finals then ever before.
The women took to the course first, arriving in the early morning to begin practice and finalize their lines. 20-year old Jamie Anderson, fresh off wins at the Breckenridge, CO and Killington, VT Winter Dew Tour stops, was riding in with all the momentum, but was unable to stomp her run in Aspen, settling for Bronze. Like it has so many times in X Games past, it all would come down to the veteran Jenny Jones--the only rider to podium in Slope aged 21 or above. The 2-time Gold Medalist strapped in atop the scaffolding for her final run, the only rider remaining who could bump down 20-year old Finnish upstart and first-place occupier, Enni Rukajärvi. She was looking prime leading into the final jump, and then surprised everyone in attendance at take-off. Instead of sticking a 7 and potentially claiming Gold, she sent it for a 9, skidding out into the landing. Much respect to Jenny for stepping up, for as she would agree with later, it’s way more badass to get Silver with a failed 9 than Gold with a stock 7.
After Jenny went down, the Finnish celebration began. Enni Rukajärvi, in her rookie appearance at Winter X Games, earned the Gold.
For the men, there’s no debate here: the kids have officially arrived, and are well on their way to fully taking over the game. With an average age of just 17.33, Tyler Flanagan (17, Bronze), Mark McMorris (17, Silver), and Sebastien Toutant (18, Gold) all combined tech (read: non-safety) rails and jibs with massive doubles and calculated spins to sweep the Winter X Games 15 Slopestyle podium for the teens. “Old Man Chas” Guldemond (ahem, 23 years old) spent the day sending the biggest double back rodeos of the week, but couldn’t hold the final jump landing clean in his three runs, ending up in 4th. And in 5th, to the cheers of many pure snowboarding fans, was new Frends team member, Mikkel Bang. Thanks, Bangers, for focusing on sending your tricks right, and sacrificing your shot at a Medal to keep style alive here at X.
But when the last Cab double 12, hardway 270 to fakie, or back double ten touched down, young Canadian phenom Sebastien Toutant would take the X Games Gold. For Seb, it’s his second Medal here in Aspen (Silver in Big Air as well), both coming in his first X Games appearance. Seb’s been invited in the past, but has some troubles staying healthy in late January. Last year for example, he overshot the jump at Air & Style, breaking his ankle and wrist before the big show. Coming back from a missed opportunity like that only made the win that much sweeter for Seb: “You just can’t compare this to any other contest. It’s been watching and dreaming about this since I was 9! The level of snowboarding is so gnarly … Every year, this will be my major event, for sure.”
While the Media zoo lay in wait at the press conference, we took Sebastien aside for a few minutes, and asked him the obvious question: Seb, you just won X Games Gold! How are you feeling right now? His answer matched the smile on his face and the excitement in his eyes perfectly: “I’ve been wanting this since I was 9 years old! I don’t know what else to say … it’s a dream come true!”
What’s next for the young Canadian? Staying hyped, enjoying the ride, and keeping the momentum going. “I’m so stoked to be here with Tyler and Mark,” Seb would exclaim. “We’re just going to keep snowboarding, having fun, and yeah--looking forward to next year!”
Always looking towards the future, Seb would later comment on the inclusion of slopestyle at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Socchi, Russia: “For slopestyle to be in the Olympics, it’s a huge move for snowboarding. It’s good for snowboarding, good for us, our sponsors, and our careers.” Looking over at his fellow Canadian, Mark jumps in to add his thoughts: “It’s going to be cool to see if we can stay on top of our game, leading up to Russia.”
Congratulations to Jamie, Jenny, and Enni; and Tyler, Mark, and Seb.
With Superpipe, Slopestyle, Best Method, Real Snow, and Big Air Finals all on the schedule, this year's X Games at Aspen/Snowmass promises to send ‘er heavy. Stay up on all TWSnow coverage from Winter X Games 15 at Facebook.com/TWSnow, Twitter.com/TWSnow, and right here at TWSnow.com.