"Cool and unstable" is a favorite prediction of weather forecasters in the Northwest -- particularly in spring. It basically translates to: "We're not sure exactly what's going to happen, but we're guessing it will rain at some point."
Such was the case at the Monster Energy-produced The Shred Show, the snowboard side of Whistler, B.C.'s annual World Ski and Snowboard Festival. Featuring back-to-back 5star TTR events -- slopestyle on Friday and Big Air Saturday night -- cool and unstable didn't stop some of the best contest riders in the world from throwing down for a $50,000 prize purse and World Snowboard Tour points for the 2013/14 season.
Friday's slopestyle event took place in the Blackcomb terrain park, and presented a balanced half-dozen features: three jibs and three jumps, growing progressively larger until the 75-foot bottom booter. As fog rolled in atop the course, there were murmurs of dropping the final for a two-run format, where the highest qualifier would take the win.
And then the sun came out.
And then it snowed, hard.
And then it was sunny again.
Mother Nature's indecisiveness made it so one rider would drop in a whiteout, battling slush trenches to the finish, while another would get a sucker hole and throw down in idyllic spring light.
But you've gotta play the cards you're dealt, and, in the end, the finals went off without a hitch -- ten riders with two shots, best run counts. Little-known Norwegian Emil Ulsletten stomped two double corks to snatch the win from contest favorite Eric Willett, who was keeping it mellow with backside 720s off the final jump, landing him in second. But just making the finals and walking away unscathed seemed a victory, given the variability of speed caused by the instability of the weather.
A little more than 24 hours later, it was time to close out the Festival at the Big Air, held above the main stage in Whistler Village. A massive, true table-top jump dominated the skyline above a few thousand spectators, listening to Canadian hip hop duo Swollen Members and watching a field of 31 riders tuck at the monolithic wedge.
By the time the sun had set, the field had been reduced to the top 10. The evening's light drizzle came to a halt and a Vancouver, B.C. dance troupe jumped onstage for a performance, which forced most people's attention back up to the jump.
With the snow riding fast and predictable thanks to regular grooming intervals, it became clear that anything less than a 1260 wouldn't make the podium. A double cork train was brought to a halt only after X Games Aspen slopestyle silver medalist Max Parrot proved he was the latest triple-corking Canadian boy wonder and claimed victory by adding one more upside-down flip/spin than everyone else.
Another Shred Show is in the books and another couple riders have undoubtedly thrown their hats in to the upper echelon of the slopestyle field -- cool and unstable weather conditions be damned.
1. Emil Ulsletten
2. Eric Willett
3. Tyler Nicholson
4. Spencer Link
5. Maxence Parrot
1. Maxence Parrot
2. Kim Rune Hansen
3. Justin Morgan
4. Sage Kotsenburg
5. Matts Kulisek