Castellet’s toughest challenger is likely to be the all-time leader in FIS Snowboard Park & Pipe crystal globes won – Cai Xuetong of China.
Another ageless veteran of women’s halfpipe riding, Cai last season scored the 10th World Cup crystal globe win of her career, putting her second on the all-time list for all athletes in FIS Snowboard history. With 29 podiums in 40 career starts, Cai Xuetong is as good a bet as you’ll find in the field this week to end up in the top-3
Second place behind Castellet in Copper was Canada’s Elizabeth Hosking, earning her first career World Cup podium despite some strong challenges. As well as being her first personal podium, Hosking’s top-3 was also the first for a Canadian woman on the World Cup in almost 13 years, and with the way she rode in Colorado there should be many more in the future.
Behind Hosking at Copper Mountain was Mitsuki Ono, who along with Ruki Tomita makes for a strong 1-2 Japanese punch on the women’s side. While Ruki’s sister and Beijing 2022 bronze medallist Sena won’t be on hand this week, the younger of the two Tomitas should be able to hold the fort for the family.
Keep an eye on the USA’s Maddie Mastro, one of the few women who possess a double cork trick in their arsenal. Mastro has been stuck at nine career World Cup podiums for nearly three years now, and to finally earn her tenth here in Laax should be a huge motivator for her.
As well, the U.S. team will be fielding some talented youngsters in Sonora Alba and Bea Kim, both who made finals at Copper in December – Alba in her second World Cup start and Kim in her first.
THE SCOTTY JAMES SHOW SET TO GO LIVE
For the men we could be once again be bearing witness to the Scotty James (AUS) show, as the 28-year-old rolls into Laax with his mind-blowing 99 point-scoring victory at Copper Mountain still fresh in everyone’s mind.
With Beijing 2022 gold medallist Ayumu Hirano once again focusing the majority of his time on skateboarding this season, James has reverted back to being the de facto number one in the world. However, with a performance like the one he had in Copper a few weeks ago, there are whispers around the halfpipe world that he’d be favourite heading into Laax even if Hirano were around.
Throw in the fact that James should be extra motivated after he finished in 11th place here in Laax last season, breaking his streak of four straight podium results in Laax (including two victories), and you can bet he’ll be more than motivated to keep his hot start to the season going.