What was arguably one of the best snowboard slopestyle World Cup competitions ever took to the storied slopes of Switzerland’s Laax resort on Friday, where Julia Marino of the USA and Canada’s Sebastien Toutant claimed Laax Open 2020 victories against incredibly strong fields in what was as good a start to the 2019/20 FIS Snowboard Slopestyle World Cup season as one could ever hope to witness.
With perfect weather and an ever more perfect slopestyle course on hand for the riders’ enjoyment all week through training, qualifications, and semifinals action, expectations were high that the level of riding set to go down on Friday would be exceptional. As it turned out, those expectations would be proven correct.
Marino breaks her personal Laax curse with big win
The fourth-place finisher at each of the past two Laax Open FIS Snowboard World Cup slopestyle competitions, Julia Marino had stated that she just wanted to find her way onto the podium at this go-around. However, on Friday she did all that and more, putting down a standout first run that included a near-perfect rail line to start things off, and a slick frontside 900 into a cab double underflip during the middle two hits of her jump line for a score of 81.30 that would hold up as the winner.
“I feel like I’ve been getting fourth place here since I can remember coming here,” a relieved Marino said, smiling before the awards ceremony, “It’s been such a pristine week, the course has been awesome, and I felt like I really had to take advantage of that fact. I’ve never had so much fun on a slopestyle course. I never felt too stressed and just had a really fun time all week.
“Even before I saw Reira’s run I was really happy just knowing I would be on the podium. I was really just stoked for all the ladies. Everyone did so awesome this week. It was an amazing final to be a part of and to watch for both the guys and the girls.”
The “Reira” that Marino mentioned was none other than top qualifier Iwabuchi of Japan, who as the top qualifier had the final run of the women’s competition. And though the 18-year-old dropped an incredible backside double cork 1080 in competition for the first time in her slopestyle career, she would still fall just short in her attempt to claim her first slopestyle World Cup victory, with a score of 76.95 and second place her result.
Third place with a score of 64.20 went to Katie Ormerod of Great Britain, as the 22-year-old’s comeback campaign after missing all of last season due to injury continues to be a huge success, with Friday’s Laax podium her second of the season after a runner-up finish at the season-opening big air World Cup Cardrona (NZL) back in August.
Toutant takes storming victory in his first World Cup in nearly three years
Over on the men’s side of things it was pure bedlam from start to finish of the day, as the 12 riders qualified for finals brought out the heaviest weapons in their arsenal on a day when everyone knew it would take something special to stand on top of the Laax Open podium.
The PyeongChang 2018 Olympic big air gold medalist, Sebastien Toutant was one of a couple of riders who took hard falls in the morning’s practice session, and dropping in for finals the 27-year-old was sporting a cut across the bridge of his nose and blood on his competition bib.
If you hadn’t seen his crash you wouldn’t have known it happened from the way he rode, however, as he stomped a near-flawless first run that had him sitting in fifth place, behind Red Gerard and Judd Henkes of the USA, Staale Sandbech of Norway, and Sweden’s Sven Thorgren.
Knowing he had to step it up in his final attempt, Toutant dropped in and stomped each of his first five hits even cleaner than in his first run, including a switch lipslide underflip out on the second rail, a massive frontside double cork 900 on the sidehit feature, and a backside 1440 on the second-to-last jump, before launching an impossible-seeming frontside double cork 1080 off the knuckle option of the final jump that he had not even done in practice leading up to finals.
It was a gutsy showing, and he was rewarded with a score of 87.45 to jump into a lead that neither Henkes nor Gerard, dropping after, would be able to best with their final runs.
“I haven’t really competed in like a year, I just realized that before coming here,” Toutant said from the crowded awards zone, “But I’ve been riding and filming a bunch of street stuff back home. I just love snowboarding, and I try and switch it up and not do the same thing over and over, and I was stoked to be up here today.
“I took a heavy slam in practice and I didn’t expect to win today, especially having that crash. I came out swinging on my second run and to take the win today feels amazing. I just felt lucky to even be riding in the finals, so for my second run, my last trick there, I had nothing to lose and I was just like, ‘I have to try it.’ I tried it and it worked out. Sometimes you have to take some heavy crashes to appreciate what’s in front of you.”
As per usual, Red Gerard had what was perhaps the most creative run of the day, using several of the courses six sections in ways that few others could conceive of, let alone pull off with the aplomb that the reigning Olympic slopestyle champion was able to exhibit. However, when he looked to improve his score and overtake Toutant on his second and final run he was unable to stomp everything quite as cleanly as he would have liked in the softening snow, and was forced to settle with his first-run tally of 85.45 and second place.
Just behind Gerard in third was his US teammate Judd Henkes, as the 18-year-old stomped an explosive first run for a score of 82.33 and his second career World Cup podium.
Up next for the FIS Snowboard Slopestyle World Cup we’ll be heading into the Italian Dolomites for the Seiser Alm Legends competition, where qualifications are set for Wednesday, January 22, and finals on January 23.
TRICK LIST - WOMEN:
Marino - frontside boardslide 270 off, frontside tailslide 270 off, crippler, cab double underflip mute, frontside 720 mute
Iwabuchi - frontside boardslide 270 off, 50/50 backside 180 stale off, cab 360 mute, switch backside 540, backside 1080 mute, frontside 720 mute
Ormerod - boardslide 270 off, backside noseslide pretzel 270 off, cab 540 mute, frontside 360, backside 720 mute, double backflip
TRICK LIST - MEN:
Toutant - 50/50 stall frontside 270 out, hardway switch backside 270 lipslide, switch lipslide underflip off, frontside double cork 900, cab 1260 nose grab, backside 1440 mute, frontside double cork 1080 mute
Gerard - rock n roll, backside nosepress 270, cab on backside 360 melon off, frontside 1080, backside 1260 melon, switch backside 1440 mute, cab on to backside 720 off the butter knuckle
Henkes - switch frontside boardslide backside 270 off, cab 270 on 450 melon off, cab 900 mute, backside 1440 mute, frontside 1260 melon, switch backside triple cork 1440 mute