The 2021/22 FIS Snowboard World Cup season came to a close in sublime fashion on Sunday at the Silvaplana (SUI) slopestyle World Cup, where picture-perfect weather, a top-tier slopestyle course, and a deep field of the world’s best riders stomping some of the heaviest runs we’ve ever seen gave the season the send-off it deserved. It also gave the fans watching at home and on the hill at Corvatsch 3303 a whole lot to cheer about, and gave Anna Gasser (AUT) and Marcus Kleveland (NOR) victories to close out the season with.
“It feels great,” Gasser said after the results were in, “It’s been such a fun week, such a great course, such great weather, and I think it’s so cool that we could all show our best riding today. All these girls sent it, everyone [on the podium] did 9-9-10 combos, so it was a really high level contest and a lot of fun.”
Second place on the day belonged to Canada’s Laurie Blouin who, as Gasser said, also did 2880 degrees worth of rotations through the jump line, with a backside 900 melon, a cab double underflip 900, and frontside double cork 1080 weddle grab, earning herself a score of 90.20 and her third World Cup podium of 2021/22.
Finally, third place on the day went to top qualifier Kokomo Murase of Japan, whose jump line combo went backside 900 weddle, switch backside 900 indy and finally frontside 1080 melon on the big booter for a score of 87.20 and her fifth World Cup podium this season.
However, while Murase may have been disappointed that she wasn’t able to take what would have been her fourth competition victory this winter, the 17-year-old did more than enough on Sunday to walk away as the biggest winner of the season, claiming both the slopestyle and the Park & Pipe overall crystal globes in commanding fashion.
Murase was followed up on the final slopestyle rankings by the Canadian duo of Blouin, who took silver, and Jasmine Baird in bronze medal position. Meanwhile, on the Park & Pipe overall podium, it was Gasser jumping up into the silver medal position, while Baird would earn her second bronze medal of the day in third.
Over on the men’s side of things, it was a battle for the ages on Sunday, as an oftentimes tentative set of first runs gave way to a set of second runs – some of the very finest we’ve ever witness in slopestyle World Cup competition.
The finest of them all came from Norway’s Marcus Kleveland, last year’s Silvaplana winner and double crystal globe winner who struggled to match his 2020/21 form for much of this season, but who showed up in a big way to defend his Corvatsch title on Sunday.
Kicking things off with a cab 270 gap to boardslide 270 out on the down-flat-down rail, Kleveland then went frontside 720 weddle on the quarterpipe to cab 540 with a tweaked Japan on the side hit, setting himself up for the jumps.
There the 22-year-old unleashed a frontside triple cork 1440 weddle on the first hit, followed by a backside 1620 stalefish on the second, and finally a cab 1620 weddle – all stomped on the bolts, before adding one last bit of his incomparable flare with a frontside bluntside corked 450 out on the final rail, earning himself a score of 91.60 and the sixth World Cup win of his career.
“To end the season like this is just incredible,” Kleveland said after a nervous wait while the final four competitors dropped after him and were unable to top his run. “To stand here on the podium with Mons (Roisland) and Val (Guseli) just feels incredible. Good day; but the riding was just insane. Yeah. I can’t believe the level that we’re at right now. It’s scary and fun and once you put down a run that you’re happy with it just feels amazing.”
As Kleveland mentioned, he was joined on the podium by his countryman Mons Roisland in second place, as Roisland dropped in just before Kleveland and stomped a run that had him in first place for the briefest of moments.
With a silky-smooth switch bluntslide through the down-flat-down to 270 out, and then switch backside 1620 indy, frontside 1440 melon, and finally a backside triple cork 1440 weddle on the jump line, Roisland would finish just back of Kleveland with a score of 90.20. However, the result would be just enough to land him some important season hardware, which we’ll get to in a moment.
Third place for what was a hugely impressive – and perhaps unexpected – result was 16-year-old Valentino Guseli of Australia, as the young rider who came into this season known as a pipe specialist cemented his place amongst the park elite with his second World Cup slopestyle podium of this season.
With a massive backside air on the quarterpipe into a double crippler on the side hit, and then a backside 1620 weddle, switch backside 1260 stalefish, and finally a frontside 1440 melon through the jump line. Capping things off with a 50-50 to backside rodeo-ish type flip out on the final rail, Guseli would garner a score of 89.40 and a whole new level of respect from the slopestyle crowd.
While top qualifier Sven Thorgren (SWE) had a near-flawless run going through six of the seven features on the course, an early-out on the final rail would ensure that the podium wouldn’t be shaken up at the last moment, and arguably the most exciting slopestyle competition of the season would end with the two Norwegians and the young Australian as the top three.
While he was unable to put down his best run in finals, Tiarn Collins still did enough in 2021/22 to make history, as the 22-year-old took the slopestyle season title to become the first ever FIS Snowboard crystal globe winner from New Zealand.