September 8th 2017, Cardrona NZ

It’s finals day! With the fear of the incoming storm front looming, the FIS World Cup Halfpipe event was brought forward and the format was compressed. The headliner event for the Audi Quattro Winter Games was meant to kick off the closing ceremony celebrations on Saturday. Luckily the executive decision to bring the event forward was made, and it was spot on.

As the competition ran early on Friday morning, the semi’s turned into the finals and the sunny skies turned grey. Winds started to pick up and you could feel the chill in the air of the oncoming storm. The event went on, and all the riders got through two runs before the snow flurries starred to roll through the resort.

Thursdays Halfpipe Qualifiers

The Snowboard World Cup Qualifiers action ran a day early, but that didn’t seem to faze the talented field of athletes competing today. Neither did the cloud cover or gusty winds. With five months till the PyeongChang Winter Olympics the pipe was packed with the best in the business and the skill level was high.

Danny Davis.
Danny Davis. Two time X Games gold medalist and snowboarding icon tweaks a method in qualifying – Crdeit: WinterGamesNZ, Photo: Iain McGregor

The women’s event saw 30 starters competing for just 6 spots in the final. U.S.A. dominated the heats with three riders making the finals.

Competition favourite and X-Games gold medalist Chloe Kim qualified fourth with a score of 86.50 off her two runs. Olympic champion and come back queen Kelly Clarke sent out a wake up call to the younger girls, qualifying 3rd off the back of two solid runs and a score of 87.50. The surprise of the heat being the amazing runs from 17 year old shredder Maddie Mastro. Her run featured back to back 7’s and 5’s split by a crippler (180′ backflip). This run scored her a 93.00! We think we even spotted her landing a 900′ in practice?

Maddie Mastro qualifies first in the women
Maddie Mastro qualifies first in the women’s halfpipe – Credit: WinterGamesNz, Photo: Iain McGregor

The rest of the qualifiers were Mirabelle Thovex (FRA) – 2nd with 91.25. Hikaru Oe (JPN) – 5th with 82.25, and reigning world champ Xuetong Cai (CHN) – 6th with a score of 79.75.

The Men’s WC Halfpipe Qualifiers

42 men were split across two heats with two runs each to move on to the final 16. The top three from each heat were to be guaranteed a spot in the final. The next five from each heat were then to go into a semi final to compete from the remaining final spots. As we mentioned earlier, weather restrictions meant that no semis were run, so all 16 qualifiers got to compete for the podium.

The two top qualifiers from the heats were Ben Ferguson out of the U.S and Japan’s Raibu Katayama.

Ben Ferguson takes off
Ben Ferguson takes off – Credit: WinterGamesNZ, Photo: Iain McGregor

Ben Ferguson is a real triple threat. He dominates in the pipe and picked up a silver in the X Games, Aspen in 2016. He is also pretty handy in the park, winning the Danny Davis Peace Park invitational three times, as voted on by his fellow competitors. Riding for Burton and Red Bull, Ben also gets plenty of opportunity to pursue his third love, riding deep back-country pow lines. Spending most of his year filming epic back-country video parts, it’s a wonder he has time to practice his pipe riding at his home mountain, Mt. Bachelor.

Ferguson at home riding Park, Pipe and Pow

He didn’t hold back in his heat with plenty of amp on his first hit, a huge bs 180′ to set him up for a corked 1080. Going down the pipe he hit a double crippler (backflip), a switch Mc Twist (forward flipping 540) and an alley-oop cork 5′ (Rodeo). He scored a 88.00.

Taku Hiraoka
Taku Hiraoka flys high out of the pipe in the finals – Credit: WinterGamesNz, Photo: Iain McGregor

Japanese halfpipe and reining Winter Games champion Raibu Katayama also threw himself into the pipe with reckless abandonment. His run featured plenty of power, amplitude and technical trick selection. His incredible run (89.00) included a fs 10′ tail grab, a cab double cork 10 and back to back 9’s. He finished his hammer run with a fs double corked 1080 right in front of the hyped crowd at the bottom of the pipe.

Sochi Winter Olympic silver and bronze medalists Ayumu Hirano and Taku Hiraoka of Japan also looked good in qualifying. They booked their spots in the finals qualifying third and fifth in their heats respectively.

David Habluetzel
David Habluetzel – Credit: WiterGamesNZ, Photo: Iain McGregor

Swiss contingent Patrick Burgener and David Habluetzel performed really well and qualified second in both heats with good solid runs. Also qualifying were American young guns and U.S Olympic team hopefuls Toby Miller and Chase Josey.

The Women’s Winter Games Halfpipe Final

The action got away early and the first of the women’s runs were underway as the resort hummed into its morning trade.

Chloe Kim
Chloe Kim – Credit: WinterGamesNZ, Photo: Iain McGregor

17 year old Chloe Kim was the hot favourite coming off a victory in the X Games and U.S Open earlier this year. She did not disappoint with a huge first run containing a fs method with plenty of amp to set up a clean 1080′. With plenty of smooth transitions she followed up with a fs 7′, an alley-oop 7′ and a Mc Twist indy. This gave her a 90.50 from the judges, the score to beat for the day. Her second run was not as tight, even though she landed back to back 1080’s, they were not clean enough.

Kelly Clark, back in the hunt

Hot on her heels was three time Olympic medalist, 34 year old Kelly Clark. She also threw down a 1080′ on her third hit but the landing wasn’t as clean as Kims. With plenty of airtime and powerful riding Kelly also stomped a huge set up 540′, a cab 7′ and a huge backside rodeo 5′ to finish, landing way down the pipe wall. The run scored her an 88.00 and landed her second place on the day.

Kelly Clark with plenty of air-time
Kelly Clark with plenty of air-time – Credit: WinterGamesNZ, Photo: Iain McGregor

Finishing the US podium sweep was the leading qualifier Maddie Mastro. Her run started with a solid 900′ and finished with back to back 5’s. She scored a 83.25. She was definitely having fun out there and was stoked to land on the podium.

Maddie Mastro
Maddie Mastro in the crippler on her way to 3rd place – Credit: WinterGamesNZ, Photo: Iain McGregor

Not only were all the ladies who won from the US, but they all rep Mammoth Mt. A huge day for the Californian resort!

The Men’s Winter Games Halfpipe Final

The men were stepping up the trick difficulty and amplitude from the qualifiers. Hoping to land on the podium and score as many World Cup points as possible. With the wind picking up in the later morning and visibility dropping, the conditions claimed a few of the riders runs.

Tim-Kevin Ravnjak (SLV) fell in his first run trying to land a double 1080 at the bottom of the pipe. He gave it a little too much pop and landed deep in the pipe, just sitting down as he rode out. He hit the trick on his second run and scored a 81.00, just off podium pace for the day.

Tim-Kevin Ravnjak
Tim-Kevin Ravnjak – Credit: WinterGamesNZ, Photo: Iain McGregor

Leading qualifier Ben Ferguson (USA) also had problems with too much pop. He hit the biggest amp of the day with a back 180 on his first hit but come unstuck after a huge double 10′ lead into a second 10′ attempt that left him washed out in the flat bottom. Another favourite, Taku Hiraoka (JPN), had his own problems sticking his back to back double cork 1080’s. Landing deep in the pipe and washing out but just holding on to ride away. Unfortunately his massive airs went to waste as the judges punished him for this and he missed the podium.

Ninja flippers come out spinning

It was a one-two punch from ninja flippers Yuto Totsuka and Olympic silver-medallist Ayumu Hirano coming in first and second. Ayumu led all riders after his first run score of 92.25. He came in spinning with back to back double cork 10’s at the top of the run, followed by a fs double 12′ and a 540′ off the bottom hit for the fans.

Ayumu Hirano spins high off the lip
Ayumu Hirano spins high off the lip in the men’s final – Credit: WinterGamesNZ, Photo: Iain Mcgregor

15 year old Japanese wonderkid, Yuto Totsuka was sitting in third after his first run. Not for long though as he stomped his second run featuring a fs 10′ off the first hit, into a cab dub 10′, front 9′ and a bs 5′ setting up for a final frontside double cork 1080 indy. The run scored a 93.25 and gave him his first (of many to come) World Cup circuit win in his debut event.

Patrick Burgener, Yuto Totsuka and Ayumu Hirano
Patrick Burgener gets em good. Yuto Totsuka and Ayumu Hirano – Credit: WinterGamesNZ, Photo: Iain McGregor

Rounding out the podium was Swiss halfpipe champ Patrick Burgener with a final score of 88.50. His run was solid, containing a double crippler 1260, back to back 10’s, a 3′ and a 7′. Reppin Samsung hard he was happy with his first competition outing of the season.

Japans triple threat just miss 1-2-3 sweep

Top qualifier Raibu Katayama just missed the podium and the chance of a Japanese 1st-2nd-3rd sweep. The dominating rider put it all on the line with a massive double corked 1440′ attempt but crashed out and missed a place.

MC Richard McGechie high fives Rabiu Katayama
MC Richard McGechie high fives Rabiu Katayama (JPN) – Credit: WinterGamesNZ, Photo: Iain McGregor

Shaun White was penciled in to start this event but couldn’t make it after injuring himself during practice. The halfpipe living legend is on a comeback season and will be the favorite for an Olympic gold in PyeongChang. He picked up the U.S Open halfpipe gold earlier this season. Another missing Olympic favorite, Scotty James (the 2017 X Games champion), opted to stay at his home mountain of Falls Creek, Australia to train. Both these guys will be paying plenty of attention to these Japanese rippers in the lead up to the games. They’re hungry and their skills are real!

Click here for more news, events and the Audi Quattro Winter Games