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Will 2021/22 be the most progressive competition season ever?
Luke Winkelmann (USA) in Saas Fee Β© Mike "Daisy" Dawson/US Ski & Snowboard Team

If autumn 2021 has been any indication, we’re set to experience a FIS Snowboard Park & Pipe World Cup season - and, of course, an Olympic Winter Games in Beijing - featuring a level of riding that would be simply incomprehensible to a time traveller arriving on the scene straight from snowboarding’s first Olympic go-around at the Nagano 1998 Games.

While footage coming out of training camps in Hintertux, Stelvio, Stubai and other locales has been jaw-dropping, it’s been at the Stomping Grounds set-up in Saas Fee where the most mesmerizing action has been going down.

Over the past few weeks we’ve seen tricks that had only been witnessed on the rarest of occasions as recently as last season now becoming standard, with established stars and up-and-comers alike pushing each other to new levels at every drop-in.

First, it was the parade of new 1800 variations we saw coming down the line from the likes of Luke Winkelmann (USA), Sebastien Toutant (CAN and Mons Roisland (NOR)…

Before 15-year-old Taiga Hasegawa blew the roof off the 1800 battle by becoming the first rider ever to land the rotation all four ways - frontside, backside, cab and switch backside…

Which in turn lead to a pair of Chinese riders taking things one step further, first with Yang Wenlong putting down a picture-perfect quad-corked 1980 to the bolts...

Before his compatriot Su Yiming followed that up with his own 1980 over at Prime Park Sessions in Stubai, this time with a less-corked (and arguably more difficult) variation...

(Bonus points for the mid-air claim on the cab 9 and the backflip after stomping the 19...πŸ˜‚πŸ™Œ)

Not to be outdone by the gents, Anna Gasser reminded us again that she's the only woman in the world thus far that we've witnessed stomp a triple cork on snow, and she once again threw down the trick we're all expecting to see when she seeks to repeat as Olympic big air gold medallist in Beijing...  

Moving over to the pipe but sticking with the women, Maddie Mastro (USA) served notice that there's a legit challenger to Chloe Kim in the house, as Mastro became the first woman since Kim to stomp a frontside double cork 1080 in the U-tube...

And, finally, we'll finish off this (obviously incomplete) look at the madness that's been going down with a look in on men's pipe, where not one, not two, but three (!!) members of the Japanese team rattled off triple corks in the past week - the first we've seen of the rotation since China's Zhang Yiwei put one down with a bit of a butt-check in 2015.

First up were Yuto Totsuka and Ruka Hirano, with Totsuka going for the regular frontside approach...

While his younger teammate Hirano electing to throw an extra bit of difficulty into what was once thought impossible and hit it cab for his triple...

And then a few days later this one dropped from two-time Olympic silver medallist Ayumu Hirano (no relation to Ruka), who not only stomped a frontside triple 1440 (we think?) of his own, but followed it up with a cab dub 1080 for good measure...

As wild as all of this is, we've also heard rumours (which are at this point completely unverified) that Australia's Scotty James is on the Shaun White programme and training at a private pipe, where may have landed as many as three triple cork variations of his own. Which is...mad to think about.

How many of tricks that'll be attempted in competition in the lead-up to the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games it remains to be seen, but you can bet your bottom dollar that come time for the world's finest to drop in with the Five Rings bib hanging from their their shoulders, it's going to be a no-holds-barred blitz of mind-benders. 

With just 99 days to go before the opening ceremony in Beijing, we cannot wait to see what happens in the coming months.

 
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