Tonight's Big Air just might be the marquee ski event at Winter X. And after the wealth of unprecedented tricks that we saw last year -- and last night -- the question on everybody's mind right now is, "What madness are we going to see tonight?"
Let's get specific: Are we going to see some triples tonight, or what? Those tricks had belonged in the realm of the imaginary until last spring. But when you're as good a skier as Bobby Brown or Sammy Carlson, life's a dream, right?
Brown, who has been described by Winter X announcer and freeski icon Mike Douglas as "the best jumper in skiing," helped stir the triple frenzy early last spring when he broke ground on a triple flatspin 1080 and a triple flatspin 1260 on a film shoot in Alaska. In the summer shortly thereafter, Carlson took the triple game even a step gnarlier when he stomped the first switch triple rodeo in Mt. Hood, Ore.
Leading up to this Winter X, the official answer on triples has been "probably not." Brown and Carlson both did their new triple flips on massive jumps (over 100 feet) that were built specifically for their new trick attempts. At 75 feet from lip to knuckle, the Winter X big air jump is no local hill park kicker. But it's still small enough that the official stance of most athletes in the contest aligned with Brown's earlier statement that, "I do not think that triples are going to come into play."
In the same breath as he said that, Brown also said that, "There might be a few people that are crazy enough to try." Enter snowboarder Torstein Horgmo.
The Norwegian put the question to death for snowboarders when he brought his own triple out to win Friday's Snowboard Big Air. Yup. A snowboarder did it. The fire is lit under the skiers. And the morning after, the buzz among athletes and spectators has changed in character markedly.
We know that Brown and Carlson already have the tricks proven. Australian Russ Henshaw, who got his first Winter X podium today with a silver in men's Ski Slope, put a triple cork 1620 to his feet at the same film shoot where Brown landed his triples, but he couldn't hold onto the landing. He also crashed in Big Air practice today and has pulled out tonight's contest.
Carlson might have extra motivation to land a triple tonight, assuming that's what it takes to win. The 22-year-old Oregonian just won his first gold medal in six appearances at Winter X with a win in men's Ski Slope. You know all that hype that Brown got for being the first skier to win two gold medals at one Winter X? If Carlson pulls off the win tonight, he'll become the first skier to win two Winter X gold medals in one day.
Carlson also left the possibility wide open in a pre-Winter X interview when he said that, "We'll see how the jumps are hitting. If they're hitting nice, I'm definitely gonna bust out some new tricks."
Brown stole the show last year, taking golds and two perfect scores with two never-before-seen tricks -- a switch double misty 1260 and a switch double misty 1440. But with the minutes ticking down before the contest, it appears questionable just how much of a force Brown will be able to be in tonight's Big Air.
In the Slope final, Brown collapsed in pain after skiing away from his first run when a very deep landing on the Money Booter aggravated nagging injuries to his hip and lower back. Brown was unavailable for comment, but his agent gave this update: "Bobby just went and got checked out by physical therapists in the athlete lounge and he's taped up and icing. He's going to give it a go in practice and see how he feels from there."
So are we going to see triples tonight, or aren't we? My bet? Count on it.