Halfpipe World Cup finals headline Mammoth freeski showcase

by Matt
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The 2022/23 FIS Freeski Park & Pipe World Cup tour moves onto Mammoth Mountain (USA) this week for the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix, where we’ll have both slopestyle the final competition of the 2022/23 FIS Freeski halfpipe World Cup season taking to Mammoth’s perfectly prepared venues from 1-4 February, 2023.

Halfpipe qualifications will be going down on Wednesday, 1 Feb, followed by slopestyle qualies on Thursday, halfpipe World Cup finals on Friday, and then slopestyle finals to close out another big week of action in Mammoth on Saturday. Sunday is a reserve day in case we encounter any weather-related delays.

We’re right in the middle of the heaviest portion of the 2022/23 freeski season at this point, with Mammoth coming on the heels of the Calgary Snow Rodeo, Laax Open and X Games, and with the biggest event of the season looming on the horizon as we prepare to roll into Georgia for the Bakuriani 2023 FIS Freestyle Ski, Snowboard and Freeski World Championships beginning on February 19.

All of which is to say that these few weeks make for an especially exciting block on the calendar for freeski fans around the world. With good weather forecast throughout the week in Mammoth and both the slopestyle and haflpipe venues looking as good as we’ve ever seen them here in Mammoth, we’re expecting this to be another exceptional week in the world of freeski.

It will also be an emotional week here in Mammoth, after news came down of the passing of Kreischberg 2015 halfpipe World Champion and 2018 Mammoth Grand Prix winner Kyle Smaine (USA) over the weekend. Smaine was a fiercely loved member of the ski community, and many athletes competing this weekend were close friends with him and are deeply feeling his loss. A memorial for Kyle will take place during halfpipe finals here in Mammoth.

HALFPIPE – WOMEN

When Eileen Gu (CHN) was sidelined after a heavy crash in training at X Games, her fellow Stanford University student Zoe Atkin (GBR) stepped up in a big way, dropping in on her first competition of the 2022/23 season and walking away with the win.

While we haven’t seen much of Atkin in World Cup competition over the past few seasons as she focuses on her studies, the 20-year-old proved in Aspen that she hasn’t missed a beat, and she’ll be looking to keep the momentum going heading into Bakuriani as the reigning World Champs bronze medallist.

Runner-up to Atkin at X Games was halfpipe World Cup leader Rachael Karker (CAN) who, with a win and two runner-up results for 260 points in three competitions thus far, has what will be her first career crystal globe already assured.

While Karker’s Canadian teammate Amy Fraser is mathematically within reach of her, for Fraser to take the globe would require Karker to withdraw before competition and Fraser to take the victory. It’s not an impossible circumstance, but it’s not a likely one either.

The USA’s Brita Sigourney is out for her fourth Mammoth podium this week, and finished third here last season, while her teammate Hanna Faulhaber will be looking to keep the momentum going from from her third place finish at the first of the two Calgary World Cups a couple of weeks ago.

Finally, keep an eye on Zhang Kexin, who has looked strong in training and is also coming off a third in Calgary, this time at the second of the back-to-backs there in Canada.

HALFPIPE – MEN

It’s a tight battle atop the men’s World Cup halfpipe rankings, with five skiers all within striking distance of current top ranked Birk Irving (USA) and his 220 points, and all five of those skiers amongst the very best of the halfpipe world.

Unfortunately, two of those contenders won’t be dropping in on this week’s action, as Irving’s U.S. teammate Alex Ferreira and Canada’s Noah Bowman were both injured at X Games and have been forced to sit out Mammoth.

However, the pipe masters still in the game with one competition to go are some heavy hitters, including last season’s crystal globe winner Brendan Mackay (CAN), rapidly rising star Jon Sallinen (FIN), and Mackay’s Canadian teammate and living legend Simon D’Artois.

All three of those skiers have World Cup podiums this season, and Mackay and Sallinen are both fresh off of earning top-3 results at X Games, with Mackay taking silver and Sallinen bronze. Mackay currently sits 28 points back of Irving, while Sallinen is 38 points behind; which is to say, there’s plenty still left to be decided before this season’s men’s halfpipe globe is awarded.

First place in front of Mackay and Sallinen at X was the three-time Olympic medallist David Wise (USA), who battled the tough conditions there in Aspen to earn his fifth X Games gold. Despite being the elder statesmen in the field here in Mammoth at 32-years-old, Wise continues to get it done when it counts, and should be in the hunt for his fourth career Mammoth podium this weekend.

Others to watch out for over the coming days in the Mammoth halfpipe include Finley Melville-Ives and Ben Harrington of the always exciting New Zealand squad, and a whole bunch more skiers from the host U.S. team, including Hunter Hess, Cassidy Jarrell, Matthew Labuagh, and two-time World Champion Aaron Blunck, who will be paying tribute to his good friend Kyle Smaine with every run.

This post was originally published on this site

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