Men's halfpipe World Cup season preview
With the Winter Games NZ (and the World Cup competitions that were included in the Winter Games program) already staged in August, many halfpipe and slopestyle athletes on the FIS Freestyle tour already have one major competition under their belts. However, with three big-time events still on deck for 2015/16, there's lots more action to come.
Halfpipe stops in Park City and Mammoth Mountain, USA (in conjunction with the Visa US Freeskiing Grand Prix), and the World Cup finals in Tignes, France (in conjunction with the SFR Freestyle Tour), will see the best skiers in the world on hand to send it in some of the world's best halfpipes. While their might be “only” three halfpipe events left in the World Cup season, each one is a monster, and each one promises to be a season standout.
1 – David Wise (USA – 240pts)
2 – Gus Kenworthy (USA – 176pts)
3 – Kevin Rolland (FRA – 175pts)
(Full list HERE)
Kreishberg 2015 Freestyle World Ski Championships
Gold – Kyle Smaine (USA)
Silver – Joffrey Pollet-Villard (FRA)
Bronze – Yannic Lerjen (SUI)
David Wise (USA) had an impressive resume heading into the 2014/15 season, with Olympic, World Championship and multiple X Games gold medals, Dew Tour wins, but last season he put it all together on the World Cup circuit to take perhaps the only thing that was missing from his trophy case – the crystal globe.
At just 25 years old, Wise has now won basically everything there is in halfpipe skiing, and his combination of consistency and smooth technical precision is a benchmark against which all other competition skiers in the world measure themselves. One of the nicest guys in skiing, his presence on the competition circuit in 2015/16 means all others will have to elevate their game.
One skier who certainly did that last season was Gus Kenworthy (USA). Kenworthy finished the season in second on the World Cup leaderboard, and his contest-winning run at the Park City World Cup/Visa Grand Prix is still being discussed as greatest halfpipe run of all time. Throwing four double-corks in one one (the first time that had ever been done in competition), Kenworthy took halfpipe skiing to a place it had never been last season, and it will be exciting to watch how that run influences things in 2015/16.
Were it not for a knee injury suffered in training for the World Cup finals in Tignes, there was a possibility Kenworthy could have stolen the crystal globe from Wise.
Now that his knee is rehabbed and he's back on snow, the general feeling in freeskiing circles is that Kenworthy will retain his place as the best all-around competition skier (he took silver in Sochi 2014 slopestyle ), and should be at or near the top of the results lists.
The list of athletes in men's halfpipe skiing who can challenge for the podium is long, deep, and seemingly growing. Kevin Rolland (FRA) finished last season third overall on the World Cup, and then came out firing at the 2015/16 season-opening event in Cardrona (NZL), earning the win and an the lead in this season's crystal globe race. The World Champion at Inawashiro 2009 and the Sochi 2014 bronze medalist, Rolland continues to be one of the best – and most popular – halfpipe skiers in the world.
Rolland lead a French sweep at Cardrona, with his teammates Thomas Krief and Benoit Valentin taking second and third, respectively. That result, along with Joffrey Polley-Villard's silver medal at the Kreischberg 2015 Freestyle World Ski Championships, goes a long way to making the case for the French.
The U.S. team took something of a hit last week, with the announcement by Torin Yater-Wallace that he has a severe medical problem that will him likely see him miss all of the 2015/16 season. While skiers like Aaron Blunk, Alex Ferreira, and Kreischberg 2015 gold medal winner Kyle Smaine can no-doubt hold their own, the whole tour will lose out a little bit not having Yater-Wallace's show-stopping abilities.
A Canadian contingent lead by Mike Riddle, Simon D'artois, and Justin Dorey remains one of the most respected gangs around, with all three of those skiers possessing signature tricks and style that separate them from the pack even if their contest results don't always show it. Riddle, the 2012/13 crystal globe winner, finished last season with a win Tignes after struggling through the earlier part of the season, and a return to form for him could mean several more returns to the podium in 2015/16.
Whatever happens this season, it's going to be worth paying attention to every event on the calendar, because it seems that nary a competition goes by these days where somebody doesn't do something that has never been done before. Halfpipe skiing is fun to watch, and this year should be no exception.