Tom Wallisch came out on top of the War of Rails contest at Bear Mountain, Calif., this weekend. Nineteen-year-old Michigan native Spencer Millbocker took second and Lake Tahoe up-and-comer Kyle Smaine rounded out the podium in third.
The year of the dragon has definitely shaped up to be the year of one dragon: Tom Wallisch. This guy has slain every slopestyle contest thrown his way this year including the overall Dew Cup and a gold medal at Winter X Games Aspen.
Originally the brainchild of pro skier Craig Coker, the third annual War of Rails was hosted by Monster Energy and Under Armour's Mountain Division. The rail jam attracted some of the best riders in freeskiing with its complex features, and 28 competitors went through the gauntlet in two heats of 14 to prove themselves in 30 minutes on a unanimously pro-approved course.
At this point, the public has gotten pretty comfortable seeing Wallisch on the slopestyle podium, but many still remember the Pittsburg, Penn., native's rail-riding roots. "It was a beautiful, amazing day here in Bear Mountain," Wallisch said after winning. "I'm stoked after just finishing finals here at the War of Rails. It's my first year out here and it couldn't have gone any better being on top of the podium. It's been so long since I've done a rail jam. It's my roots. It's what I grew up doing in PA and this was an amazing event."
The rails have long been where Wallisch finds his edge in the highly competitive slopestyle field. Take his Winter X Slope win: the jump heavy course with two relatively untrickable rail features left little opportunity to stand out from a field of jumping masters. Wallisch's risky, technical approach to the top wall ride feature -- a big ollie to the top of the wall and an inward 450 out --made the difference.
At the War of Rails, Wallisch made his mark by using the entire course. While the other competitors chose one or two lines, Wallisch stomped his arsenal of tricks on every feature course. This performance not only earned him the top spot, but also $10,000.
Pro rider Millbocker took second place with his massive hand plant to misty flip off the up-rail gap tank feature of the course. "Tom Wallisch is like a freak of nature," Millbocker said. "It is so fun to compete against him because he pushes you past your limits. He makes you ski better and better."
The podium rounded out with Smaine and his impressive switch 270 on top of the wall ride to close his final run.