Honda Sessions Slopestyle Vail
John Sang Wilbur
and Luke Shelley
The South America Snow
Sessions crew rolled into Vail Friday evening and went right to Golden Peak
where the course was receiving some final grooming touches before the event
went down. Honda Sessions takes the term Slopestyle course to a whole new
level with 4 HUGE perfectly built jumps in a row and a wide up-down jib
setup complete with a ˝ bowl at the top made entirely out of lexan. Just
looking up at the set-up in the growing darkness got our hearts pumping.
I think there was more snow used to build the Honda Sessions
Slope course than most East Coast have total this year including snowmaking.
Of course as with any big event held at night with big sponsors there had to
be fire, booths with marketing propaganda that you take but don’t need, a
band playing on a stage way to early with no one watching, and a VIP tent
with free things and food. Wahoo’s catered the tent and we chowed down on
some sweet Mexican while catching up with South America Snow Sessions homies
like Pat Milbery and Yale Cousino.
The level of riding displayed at the Honda Sessions was
unreal. Far beyond “stepping it up a notch”, these boys were throwing down!
The course was so long and big that spectators could not see the top three
jumps and had to watch the action on the big screen. Then we would see the
rider come through the pocket between the 3rd and 4th booter and watch them
explode off the 80 foot monster through a burst of flames shooting 30 feet
in the air. There was NO margin for error for these madmen, catching an edge
meant at the very least a broken bone at these speeds and with the spins
being thrown down.
As I tried to count rotations as the riders came down the
course, my mind got blurred from the back to back to back to back combos so
I just leaned on the Dingo to call the tricks for me. Andreas Wiig showed up
to win. Coming in second for the past two Honda Sessions behind Shaun White
must have gotten him pretty pissed because he was riding like a man
possessed. The Shaun was not here this year, but Andreas did not relax for a
second. His first run ended up securing 1st place and $30G’s!! BS Rodeo 1080
> Cab 1080 > Switch Backside 900 > FS 1080 all stomped and styled out like
nobody’s business. Wiig clearly deserved the win, taking every trick the
biggest the jumps allowed him to, while still being able to hold it together
for the next kicker. He was the last rider to drop for the night and even
though he knew had already taken 1st place, his “victory lap” consisted of
repeating his winning run trick for trick. Sickness.
David Benedik ended up in second, applying his technical
mastery of spinning on his shredstick to the Honda Sessions Slopestyle
course. I would not have wanted to be a judge with this level of riding as
it came down to subtle variations within the tricks and landings, amplitude
and consistancy that ended up scoring Wiig a 93.7 and Benedik a 90.7. Mr
Benedik was awarded $20 grand for his efforts though, which I am sure took
some of the sting out of the loss.
Once the riders got to the jib section, the personal touch
was added onto their run with FS grinds around the entire bowl, Gap BS 3’s
up the jib line to handplants, noseblunts and just about any other jib trick
you can think of. Chaz Guldemond (NH represent!) carried on his tradition of
getting upside down off of all types of jibs as much as possible with
perfect McTwist up and out of the bowl and stomped on all lexan.
Chaz Guldemond continued his assault on the contest scene by
stepping into 3rd place with a 84.3 and being $15G’s richer! Chaz rides
hard, takes chances and likes to push the limits of what is possible on a
snowboard with a ridiculous BS 1260 to finish his jump run. When it comes
together for Chaz, every single competitor is in his sights.
Huge props go to Dan Breezy as one to watch for, this kid
was unreal! Check THIS run out… Switch BS 9 double grab to FS 1080 to
Frontside DOUBLE CORK 1260 to a Switch Backside 1440 attempt. Huh…are you
kidding me?? Just unreal. I kept thinking to myself how crazy it is how
quickly snowboarding can progress in just one year. K Pierce busted out
Shaun White’s winning run from last year’s Honda Sessions (Cab1080 > Switch
BS 900 > FS 1080 > BS 1080) didn’t even break into the top three.
The Honda Sessions course is definitely at the forefront of
the progression of Snowboard Slopestyle contests. It was a well-built course
that the riders trusted as was evident by them pushing the limits of what is
possible on a snowboard. The folks at Vail pulled off yet another unreal
contest both for the riders and spectators. An unreal job by the park crew
was accomplished in erecting and maintaining that massive course. We will be
back next year to see just how much farther it is possible to push the sport