The 2022/23 slopestyle World Cup season got underway on Sunday morning at the Laax Open in some surprisingly good conditions, with mostly sunny skies and no winds allowing the seven women and 11 men dropping in on finals to show off some exceptional riding, and with Zoi Sadowski-Synnott (NZL) and Marcus Kleveland (NOR) walking away as the most exceptional of them all.
After weather issues forced the postponement of the slopestyle finals on Saturday (and later forced the cancellation of halfpipe finals), no one was quite sure how things would go on Sunday morning at the rescheduled finals - especially with low clouds and snow at the base of Laax in the morning.
However, up at the Crap Sogn Gion slopestyle venue things were all clear come start time, and while speed was occasionally an issue after new snow overnight, at the end of the competition nearly every rider put down at least one of their two runs clean.
SADOWSKI-SYNNOTT ADDS ANOTHER BIG ONE TO THE TROPHY COLLECTION
For Sadwoski-Synnott that meant a standout first run that began with a back blunt 270 out on the first rail into a front blunt 450 on the second, a jump line that saw her go switch backside 900 switch stalefish, frontside 1080 melon, and backside 720 melon, before going 50-50 frontside 180 up and then half-cab Indy on the butterbox final feature, earning the reigning Olympic slopestyle gold medallist a score of 81.30 and her first Laax Open title.
“To add the Laax Open win to my collection feels pretty amazing,” Sadowski-Synnott said from the finish area, “Honestly I can’t really believe it. It feels pretty insane. It was pretty tricky conditions out there today. We got a bit of fresh snow and it meant it wasn’t super fast going into the jumps and you had to land everything perfect and straight.”
Second place for the women went to Mia Brookes of Great Britain, as the World Cup rookie (who just celebrated her 16th birthday on 19 January), dropped in on the first slopestyle of her career and promptly earned her first career podium.
Oozing style throughout her run, Brookes went back 180 on cab 360 out on the first rail, reversing that with a cab 180 on backside 360 out on the second rail, and then going frontside 720 melon, backside 900 Indy, cab 1080 stale, and finally switch boardslide to forward and front 360 Indy out on the butterbox for a score of 79.91.
Third place with a score of 77.05 belonged to Anna Gasser (AUT), as last year’s second-place Laax Open finisher went backside noseslide pretzel 270 out, switch backside bluntslide 270 out on the waterfall rail, cab 900 nose, frontside 720 Indy, backside 720 Indy, and finally 50-50 frontside 180 up and then switch backside 180 switch weddle on the final feature.
KLEVELAND’S CREATIVITY SHINES THROUGH IN MEN’S WIN
The men’s podium saw three of the most distinctive riders in all of snowboarding grabbing a piece of the podium, with perhaps the most original of them all Marcus Kleveland leading the way.
The reigning slopestyle World Champion, Kleveland has made a habit out of showing off abilities on his board that are simply incomprehensible to even the best of his peers, and Sunday at the Laax Open was no exception.
Kicking things off with a hardway 270 on to switch on the first rail, Kleveland then put it into high gear with a cab 270 on to corked 620 out on the big tube, before going switch backside 1260 melon on the first jump, a mind-bending frontside double cork nollie 1080 on the second, nosebutter back 14 Indy on the third jump, before finishing it all off with a frontside lipslide to fakie and a cab 9 Indy off on the butterbox for a score of 83.61 and the win.
“I’ve been to Laax so many times and never stood on top of the podium,” Kleveland said when the results were in, “So to finally be on top of the podium here today feels incredible. Like I said, I’ve been here so many years and it’s almost a nostalgic feeling coming back here every year, and to land a run and get the win is pretty special.
“I had a really good time riding this course all week. Even when the weather wasn’t good it was still fun to ride this course, so I’ve just been having a blast and enjoying riding, basically, and I think that shows in the riding. I think we all had fun riding today.”
Second place behind Kleveland with a score of 82.45 went to Dusty Henricksen for his second career World Cup podium, as the 19-year-old put down a second run that started with a gap to front lipslide pretzel 270 out, switch back boardslide to front flip weddle, cab 1260 nose grab, frontside 1440 Japan, backside triple cork 1440 weddle, and finally a back bluntslide 270 up to frontside todeo 540 Indy down on the butterbox.
Finally, in third place for what was, incredibly, his first slopestyle World Cup podium in almost a decade, was Sven Thorgren of Sweden. With a switch backside tailslide 270 out on the elbow rail, cab 180 on to nollie backside rodeo 540 out on the canon rail, cab 1260 nosegrab, frontside 1440 tail grab, and backside 1620 melon through the jumps, and then a cab 180 up to backside double rodeo 900 melon down, 28-year-old Thorgren would earn a score of 80.23 and a return to the slopestyle top-3.
With the Laax Open done and dusted we take a one week break while the X Games are going on, and then it’s on to Mammoth Mountain (USA) for a big week of slopestyle and halfpipe World Cup action at the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix from 01-04 February.