The sun broke in a cloudless sky over Tignes this morning, which did nothing for the still-ridiculously-colder-than-normal temperatures: hovering around zero until mid-day, when it crawled into the high teens. But the relative cold didn't have much effect on the riders, who poured out for their first day of practice on both the slopestyle course and the pipe.
The skiers had first crack at things and quickly discovered what the course builders at Snow Park Technologies already know: the jumps are a little rampy on takeoff and probably need more kick. As SPT's Tyrone Coyne pointed out, "It's a lot easier to add kick than take it off." For the most part, the skiers kept things mellow, as there wasn't a ton of air to be had. "We'll be here till 2 a.m.," admitted Coyne.
Work was already underfoot when the snowboarders came out for slope practice, which led to a lot of inspection runs for the first 45 minutes or so. Once things were hittable, there appeared to be a lot more women than men having at it.
Defending Winter X slopestyle champion Jenny Jones had at it a bit harder than most, sketching her landing on the sixth feature -- a 58-foot step-down gap jump -- and scorpioned end-over-end to a stop. She was shaken up after the crash, electing to take a snowmobile ride back to the base. "She'll be okay," said Silvia Mittermuller. "Jenny's the toughest girl I know. She's made of steel."
For her part, Mitmeuller is gearing up for her first event of the season. She's five-and-a-half months out of knee surgery and just began hitting "tourist jumps" five days ago. She's still a "maybe," having hit only half the course so far. "If I can put together a whole run, I will compete. But I'm just so stoked to be back!"
Sammy Carlson arrived in town as ski slopestyle practice was going on and showed up on course halfway through the snowboard session. He wasted no time, lapping the course at twice the speed of the snowboarders, and was crawling onto a snowmobile for an eighth run even after the course was technically closed for the day. His enthusiasm may have as much to do with providing a distraction as preparing for the event, though. Like several skiers here in Tignes, Carlson came after attending the memorial for C.R. Johnson in Squaw Valley. "It's been a tough week," he said.
"Sunny day up at Tignes," Louie Vito tweeted to his adoring fans, "Pipe is fun, but so relaxed here. Trying to get motivated." Plenty of snowboarders were feeling Vito, and most of them were done with pipe practice long before it ended. In the last half hour, Sarka Pancochova more or less owned the thing, boosting big straight airs and smooth spins and doing laps with Guillaume Morisset, who's here to judge.
Things came up a notch after the sun went down and the ski SuperPipe heavies all turned out. You know you're in France when Xavier Bertoni and Kevin Rolland arrive with an entourage that dwarfed Simon Dumont's. But, as usual, Dumont dwarfed most everyone else, throwing down something close to his comp run, minus the double, and boosting huge. Other skiers getting into French airspace were Justin Dorey, Tucker Perkins, and Winter X High Air champ Peter Olenick.