Bertoni isn't France's only pipe threat


Technicality, speed and amplitude—French style. Good enough for gold. WX13, Jan. '09.

"France comin' atchya!"

No less an authority than Tanner Hall made that claim after watching Xavier Bertoni and Kevin Rolland kill it during Winter X13 SKI SuperPipe Eliminations. Unfortunately for Hall, he proved prophetic: Bertoni would go on to shock Tanner -- and everyone else -- the next night, capturing gold and halting Hall's four-peat hopes.

The French ain't just coming; they're here. It's been a big year for Bertoni since he became the first Frenchman since Candide Thovex in 2003 to win SKI SuperPipe. The 21-year-old measures success in a very 21st century way. "Just after [Winter] X Games I got sponsored by Monster Energy, which was really cool for me," he says. "I think maybe I became more famous, too; I got 3,000 friendships requests on Facebook."

Along with his good friend Rolland, Bertoni also started hosting a bi-weekly web series called "Follow Us." The program follows the two riders on their skiing exploits around the world.

So how did the La Clusaz native -- who doesn't even have a proper halfpipe at his home mountain -- interrupt the Tanner and Simon Dumont show at Winter X 13? Hall brought a new double flip and got in seven technical tricks, but he lost amplitude down the pipe. Dumont brought his classic amplitude, but he only got five hits.

Bertoni relegated them to silver and bronze, respectively, by being the best combination of the two. Xavier logged six technical hits and carried more speed and amplitude down the pipe than Hall did. Like Thovex, who is renowned for his cat-like reflexes and general skiing savviness, Bertoni has a similar effortless style and the judges rewarded it.

Craig Stein/Shazamm/ESPN Images

Bertoni has new doubles for WX14. Will it be enough to beat Dumont?

Following Winter X, Bertoni had a solid end to his 2009 campaign and finished second overall in the FIS World Cup standings. Over the summer, he and Rolland logged quality hours on a halfpipe in Les Duex Alpes, France, where they attempted new tricks into an air bag. "It's the best training ever," says Rolland. "You can try whatever you want and fall on your head and it is no problem."

Both riders learned a handful of new doubles -- key to earning a trip to the 2010 WX podium -- and flashed the moves at the first event of the 2009/2010 season, the Winter Dew Tour at Breckenridge. Bertoni finished third and Rolland fourth.

While Bertoni was solid and boosted a big double off the first hit, he hasn't played all his cards yet. "I would like to link back-to-back 1260s at Winter X," he says. Two 1260s combined with a double flip would be perhaps the most difficult run in SuperPipe history and would practically guarantee gold.

But can Bertoni repeat? With Hall out because of injury, Dumont may be his biggest obstacle. "It is my biggest dream to win Winter X gold twice," says Bertoni. "But to beat Simon again, I need to be good. Really good."

Luckily for Bertoni, he is really good. So watch out Aspen France comin' atchya!