New Jack Hustlers

Toutant, McMorris

For 2012, Toutant, McMorris, and Flanagan are back, with another year of competition experience, and are joined by quite possibly one of the most talented and progressive fields ever seen at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

“At this point, I could easily name 12 people that could win on any given day in slopestyle,” says McMorris. “When you show up to a pipe, you know Shaun White will win, but it’s really anyone’s day in slope. It comes down to whoever rides perfectly. You can’t have a mishap and you need to be trying your hardest tricks.”

Speaking of perfect runs, defending gold medalist Toutant posted a 97 during Elimination in 2011, the then-highest score ever awarded in WX Slopestyle — male or female, Snowboard or Skiing. He also took silver in Big Air. Last year’s performance, along with second place finishes at the first two Dew Tour events of 2011-12 season, have established him as a ringleader of this new generation of rippers. Not only are his tricks big and technical, but his edge control and stomped landings set him apart from the field. In April 2011, he became the third person in history to stick a triple, behind Norway’s Torstein Horgmo and McMorris, when he landed a backside triple cork 1440 at Squaw Valley, Calif.

Horgmo, who has the distinction of being the first snowboarder to land a triple cork, in May 2010 in Norway, is still the favorite to win WX Slopestyle this year, despite his best finishes being a fourth place in 2010 and sixth in 2011 (he won gold in Big Air in 2011). But here’s why: But here’s why: For 2012, he has an arsenal of double corks. To top it off, he has almost every combo imaginable of spins into and out of the rails. All this and his riding is done with incredible control while maintaining a look of ease and style.

HorgmoMorning/ESPN ImagesThough at 24, WX 15 Big Air gold medalist (and triple cork innovator) Torstein Horgmo is a little “old” for this competition, but he’s still a heavy contender for he win.

“I’ve got some new tricks up my sleeve,” Horgmo says. “But you’ll have to wait until the event to find out. Mostly I just want to do all my tricks with style.”

McMorris, fresh off a win at the O’Neill Evolution in early January, enters WX further refining his already consistent Cab double cork 1260 and backside double cork 1260. He also has a double backside Rodeo and a unique double backflip. He says Winter X Games is all about making it through the semi finals because everyone “just throws down all they’ve got.”

Rounding out this all-star men’s Slopestyle lineup is an army of talent, including Eric Willett, Sage Kotsenburg, Chas Guldemond, and Gjermund Braaten.

Willett just took the win at last week’s Dew Tour slopestyle in Killington, where he beat out Toutant (who took second) and others with a stout run. WX Big Air bronze medalist, 18-year-old Sage Kotsenburg, landed the first-ever Cab double cork 1440 in February 2011 at the Air Style, Innsbruck. Kotsenburg says he plans to do the Cab double cork 1440 in both Slopestyle and Big Air at Aspen.

[+] EnlargeGjermund Braaten

In 2011, Norway’s Gjermund Braaten broke his collarbone two days before WX and had to watch the event on television. He burst back on the scene full force this season, upsetting a stacked field at the Breckenridge Dew Tour stop for the win. Chas “Chuck G” Guldemond, who at 24 is the veteran of the new guard, beat a tough field in very tough conditions to win the 2011 WX Europe Slopestyle gold. Aside from being one of the best spinners in the game, with multiple double cork variations on lock, he is also among the small handful of riders who has landed a 1440 in competition.

Then there’s the Shaun White factor — or as some have said, the non-factor. He placed 13th in last year’s Winter X Slope qualifiers, and didn’t advance to the Finals. This season, he showed up at Breckenridge Dew Tour, but also didn’t come close to qualifying for the final there. Some of his fellow riders, including McMorris, speculated that he was there to survey the field and top tricks so he could go back to his lab and put together a podium run.

Despite his showing of late, of White’s five Slopestyle gold medals — the most of any athlete in men’s slopestyle — one came just three years ago. With slopestyle a new addition to the Winter Olymics for 2014, and White possibly looking for a double medal in Sochi, the world might see White rekindle his focus on the discipline.

But like McMorris said, on any given Saturday, Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle could be anybody’s game.

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