For the second straight season the FIS Snowboard World Cup will come to a close at Switzerland’s Corvatsch 3303 resort, where sunny skies, warm temperatures, and perhaps the best course of the season are greeting a heavy field of riders on hand at the Silvaplana slopestyle World Cup.
One of the FIS Freeski World Cup’s premier freeski stops for a decade now, Silvaplana first welcomed snowboarders last season when the venue stepped in as a replacement stop for an event cancelled earlier in the winter. Once on hand in Corvactsch, the riders figured out pretty quickly why the skiers have loved coming to one of the Engadin region’s premier resorts for so long.
Once again the Corvatsch course is in prime shape this season, with a multifaceted top rail section leading to back-to-back quarterpipe features, which then flow into three big kickers, before the course finishes off with another set of rails at the bottom.
Qualifications in Silvaplana are slated for Friday, with men’s heat one at 9:00 CET, heat two at 11:35, and the women dropping in at 13:10, with the top eight men from each heat and the top eight women going through to finals. Finals, meanwhile, will begin at noon on Sunday.
MURASE SET TO DOUBLE DOWN WITH SLOPESTYLE AND OVERALL GLOBES
On the women’s side of things it’s Kokomo Murase of Japan running away the season’s titles, as she’s already locked down the overall crystal globe and needs to finish only 17th or higher to also ensure that the slopestyle globe is hers.
When you consider that Murase has never finished lower than 12th in her three-season World Cup career, and has four podiums in five World Cup competitions so far in 2021/22, the chances of the 17-year-old failing to do the bare minimum to win both trophies this weekend seems extremely unlikely.
Both of Murase’s closest competitors, Canada’s Jasmine Baird and Melissa Pepperkamp of the Netherlands, are here in Silvaplana this weekend, but with each rider sitting more than 80 points back of Murase, either one would need a victory and Murase to finish below 17th place to earn the globe.
So, while the landing spot for the women’s titles this weekend is essentially a foregone conclusion, with Murase almost guaranteed to add both trophies to a huge season that also saw her take Beijing 2022 big air bronze, there’s still plenty to watch out for with a strong field of some of the world’s very best on hand and looking to close the season out on a high.
Two-time reigning big air gold medallist Anna Gasser (AUT) will be looking for her fourth-straight World Cup podium in 2021/22, after a string of second-place results that includes big air podiums in Chur (SUI) and Steamboat (USA), as well as at the Laax Open slopestyle. After finishing just off the podium in fourth at last season’s Silvaplana World Cup, the 30-year-old will be looking to make the step up into the top three this weekend.
Also to watch out for is Beijing 2022 slopestyle bronze medallist Tess Coady of Australia, last season’s third-place finisher here in Silvaplana. Coady has only entered one World Cup up to this point in 2021/22, but she made that one count, grabbing top spot in Laax for her second career World Cup win.
The above-mentioned Baird and Pepperkamp can also be counted on to be in the mix come finals time, with both riders looking to finish off consistently strong seasons on a high and lock in what would be the first top-3 finish on a World Cup ranking for either rider.
One rider who could very likely end up changing things up on the women’s slopestyle standings before the weekend’s end, however, is Laurie Blouin of Canada. Blouin currently has 160 points - 11 points back of Pepperkamp’s talley of 171 and 14 points back of Baird’s 174. With a win and one third-place finish in her two slopestyle World Cups entered this season - as well as a fourth-place result in slopestyle at the Beijing 2022 Games, Blouin is a strong bet to finish near the top this weekend.
Others to watch out for on the women’s side include Switzerland’s Ariane Burri, who’s fresh off her first career World Cup podium in Spindleruv Mlyn (CZE) last week, and Katie Ormerod of Great Britain, who’s been riding strong in training and looking to put it down when it counts after falling on both her finals runs at the same competition in the Czech Republic.
COLLINS LOOKING TO MAKE HISTORY FOR NEW ZEALAND
For the men, it’s currently Tiarn Collins of New Zealand leading the slopestyle World Cup finals after earning his second career World Cup victory in Spindleruv in impressive fashion.
Collins shot at his first career crystal globe got a big - if bittersweet - boost this week, when it was announced that current second-overall rider Leon Vockensperger (GER) will be out of commission for the foreseeable future after undergoing surgery on his shoulder last week.
With Vockensperger out of the globe battle due to injury and third-ranked rider Sebastien Toutant (CAN) not on hand here in Silvaplana, the closest rider on the rankings to Collins on the startlist this weekend is the USA’s Luke Winkelmann, who sits 66 points back of the Kiwi with 134 points. Winkelmann looked excellent last weekend in Silvaplana where he finished third, and he’s going to need either a win or a runner-up this weekend and a big misstep from Collins if he’s to rise to the top by the end of competition on Sunday.
Also still mathematically in the hunt and on hand in Silvaplana is the Netherlands’ Niek van der Velden, who sits 75 points back of Collins with 125 points. The same story applies to van der Velden as it does to Winkelmann when it comes to crystal globe hopes - a win or a second-place finish for him and a rough outing from Collins.
Add it all up, and it’s looking highly likely that 22-year-old Tiarn Collins is on his way to making some history this weekend in Silvaplana by becoming the first ever FIS Snowboard crystal globe winner from New Zealand.
With that being said, a jump up into the season top-3 standings for one or both of Winkelmann and van der Velden is entirely possible, and for either rider scoring a slopestyle season medal would nicely cap off what have been strong campaigns from the both of them.
Then there’s the men’s Park & Pipe overall globe battle, which is currently lead by Japanese halfpipe rider Ayumu Hirano.
With 215 total points on the season it’s once again Collins who has the best shot at overtaking Hirano in the overall globe race, and with a seventh-place result or better he can do that while also ensuring that neither one of Winkelmann of van der Velden can catch him for the slopestyle title.
Of course, it’s not just the riders at the top of the rankings who we have to watch out for this weekend, as there’s a whole slew of heavy-hitters here in Silvaplana looking to end the competition season on a high note.
Last season’s winner here in Silvaplana and the double crystal winner Markus Kleveland will be looking for a bit of redemption after going into Beijing 2022 as a medal favourite for both big air and slopestyle but being unable to live up to expectations.
Kleveland’s countryman and Beijing 2022 big air silver medallist Mons Roisland could also factor in on the podium. With both a big air and slopestyle podium this season and 173 total points, Roisland is also still a potential factor on the in overall crystal globe race
The Japanese team is looking strong as always, with another overall-globe contender Ruki Tobita and his 203 World Cup points leading the way. Throw in Takeru Otsuka, Ryoma Kimata, and young gun Taiga Hasegawa (who finished fourth last weekend in Spindleruv) and you’ve got one of the strongest top-to-bottom teams here in Switzerland.
All three of Sweden’s Sven Thorgren, Dusty Henricksen of the USA and Australia’s Valentino Guseli have been putting down some of the best runs in training on the Corvatsch course this week, while Liam Brearley (CAN), Emiliano Lauzi (ITA) and the host Swiss team with the likes of Nicolas Huber and Patrick Hoffman should also be fun to watch.
WHERE TO WATCH FINALS LIVE
Peacock, Eurosport 2, ORF Sport+, YLE TV2, sportschau.de, J SPORTS 2, TV2 Play