Perhaps the biggest story from the recent U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, Calif. came from just below the podium when 16-year-old phenom Torin Yater-Wallace capped off his second slopestyle run with a switch 1800. It was the first time the trick five full rotations with a backwards takeoff had been performed by a skier in competition.
The last time a skier broke the spin barrier came in late 2008 when Henrik Harlaut landed a switch 1620 in Les Diablerets, Switzerland. Harlaut was awarded first place in the Monsterpark Invitational Big Air for his feat, leading some fans to question why Wallace ended up fourth in the Grand Prix.
"Torin's switch 18 was an incredible feat, and I think it's great for the sport," said Josh Loubek, the judging director at the AFP and the head judge at last weekend's Grand Prix. "He just broke down another barrier."
Although he shared the excitement for the new trick, Loubek stood by Yater-Wallace's placing in the competition. "It's a slopestyle event so all the features count, not just one jump," he said. "You look at [winner] Tom Wallisch's run, and on every feature he was perfect."
For slopestyle judges, perfection is a guiding principle. "We want to make sure that we maintain integrity on execution and style in our judging. From our perspective, Torin's switch 16 [from his first run] was even better. He held the grab longer, it was a better executed trick."
The scores reflected that line of thinking. Although he landed the unprecedented switch 18 in his second run, Yater-Wallace's best score, an 86.2, came from his first run, which he capped off with the better-executed switch 1620.
In the super competitive discipline of slopestyle skiing, a fourth-place finish is nothing to scoff at, especially for a skier like Yater-Wallace, who has up to this point been known primarily as a halfpipe skier. At the end of the Grand Prix, the young Colorado native made no indication of disappointment, tweeting, "Real sick day at the Mammoth Grand Prix finals! Ended up 5th in pipe & did a double cork 1440 & ended up 4th in slope & did a switch 1800."