2016/17 halfpipe World Cup season recap
The 2016/17 FIS Freestyle halfpipe season wrapped up in Tignes (FRA) in early March, with stops in Copper Mountain (USA), Mammoth Mountain (USA), and Bokwand Phoenix Park (KOR) leading up that ender in France. With the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games on the horizon and an epic season finale at the Sierra Nevada 2017 World Championships coming just after the end of the World Cup campaign, there was lots of drama both in the pipe and outside of competition, as the season story lines played out in thrilling fashion.
France ruled the pipe in 2016/17, with veterans Marie Martinod and Kevin Rolland capturing the respective ladies’ and men’s crystal globes, the second for Martinod and the third for Rolland, and, his second in a row.
Martinod’s overall win was remarkable not least of which was the fact that it came fully 13 years after the last time she won her last overall title.
A known veteran, Martinod has had a remarkable career resurgence leading up to this past season’s triumph. After stepping back from competition following the win of her first globe in 2004 to become a mother, Martinod returned to the pipe ahead of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, where she would go on to claim the silver medal.
Fast-forward to the 2016/17 World Cup season and the 32-year-old was nearly unstoppable, winning the first three competitions and finishing third on home soil at the finale in Tignes to finish with 360 points, 110 points above second-overall finisher (and 2016 crystal globe winner) Ayana Onozuka (JPN).
Rolland’s victory came with a clutch third-place finish at the final competition of the season that gave him the globe by just five points over his countryman and great friend Benoit Valentine. Though he couldn’t pull off a repeat victory in front of the French crowd in Tignes, throwing down for third-place for the globe win by the barest of margins.
Heading into the final in Tignes it was Torin Yater-Wallace (USA) sitting in the driver’s seat, but a late-season injury kept him out of the season’s final competition, dropping him down to fourth overall.
With halfpipe and slopestyle skiing making their Olympic debut at the 2014 Games and immediately becoming two of the most-watched competitions in the Winter Olympic programme, any Games-related news is important. This season, the biggest Olympic-related story was the Bokwang Phoenix (KOR) halfpipe World Cup - test event for next year’s PyeongChang 2018 Olympics.
The competition was arguably the best of the World Cup season, with Martinod and Yater-Wallace taking the victories over stacked fields of Olympic hopefuls. In fact, Yater-Wallace’s winning run was one of the standouts of the year, as the explosive 21-year-old needed just four massive hits to earn his score of 95.60 and his second-straight World Cup win.
Wild world champs
While the World Cup season ended in Tignes, the 2016/17 season came to its true conclusion with the biggest competition of the year at the Sierra Nevada 2017 Freestyle Ski & Snowboard World Championships in Spain.
While summer-like temperatures forcing several program adjustments having many fearing that the Sierra Nevada pipe would melt away before the top six ladies and 10 men would be able to drop in for the nighttime finals under the lights, a huge effort by the Sierra Nevada crews ensured that the pipe was in excellent condition for the big show.
With so much on the line, the action in Sierra Nevada was as boundary-pushing as you would expect, with big runs and big crashes galore.
At the end of the night it was Aaron Blunck and Ayana Onozuka who overcame their competitors and the changing conditions in the pipe to claim the gold medals, bringing the 2016/17 season to a close in thrilling fashion.