Colorado is playing host to the world’s best snowboard spectacle this week for the Aspen 2021 FIS Snowboard World Championships. All the big players are in town to battle it out for a spot on the podium across Halfpipe, Slopestyle and Big Air. Game on.
The World Championships competition in Aspen will be going down from the 10th to 16th of March, 2021, with slopestyle qualifications kicking things off on the 10th and finals on the 12th, while big air qualifications will take place on the 14th, followed by finals on 16th March. For both competitions, the top eight women and 10 men will make it through to finals. This is where the battle really heats up.
Where to watch?
What’s the course setup?
While the courses here in Aspen have some similarities with January’s X Games events which went down on the same slope, the slopestyle course will see a completely new rail set-up and the elimination of the side-hit features from X Games in favor of more a more traditional three-jump kicker line. Big air competition will once again go down on the final hit of the slopestyle course.
FEMALES TO KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR:
Zoi Sadowski-Synnott, Jamie Anderson, Anna Gasser, Tess Coady and Chloe Kim.
17 years into her international career still at the absolute pinnacle of the sport, Jamie Anderson of the host U.S. squad comes into Aspen 2021 looking for one of the only titles she doesn’t yet own, as she seeks to add world champs gold to her extensive trophy case. With back-to-back Olympic slopestyle gold medals and the PyeongChang 2018 big air silver, two crystal globes, eight X Games golds, ten World Cup wins, eight US Open victories, and innumerable other accolades, Anderson’s CV is the heaviest in all of snowboarding. The 30 year-old has shown nothing but excellence once again this winter, and we expect nothing less than that from her this week in Aspen.
Now, while it’s hard to imagine Anderson missing the podium in either the big air or the slopestyle here in Aspen, she’s not necessarily a shoo-in for victory in either competitionas there’s plenty of international firepower on hand to challenge snowboarding’s golden girl.
Tops on the list is Zoi Sadowski-Synnott of New Zealand. The reigning slopestyle World Champion from the Utah 2019 event in Park City, Sadowski-Synnott currently leads the Park & Pipe World Cup overall rankings on the strength of a big air win in Kreischberg (AUT) and a runner-up to Anderson at the Laax Open slopestyle. She then followed up those two World Cup podiums by earning another runner-up to Anderson at X Games slopestyle, and taking bronze in big air. However, perhaps her most impressive performance of the season so far came when the 19 year-old went from a wildcard entry to the eventual winner at the Natural Selection backcountry freestyle competition in Jackson Hole (USA). Seemingly impervious to pressure and boasting one of the most well-rounded skill sets in snowboarding, Sadowski-Synnott has all the tools to make it happen in Aspen.
With the Utah 2019 big air World Championships competition unfortunately cancelled due to bad weather two years ago, Sierra Nevada 2017 winner Anna Gasser of Austria remains the incumbent big air world champ, as well as the one rider in the woman’s field that we know has a triple cork in her arsenal. Gasser famously took gold at the first-ever Olympic big air in PyeongChang and has two X Games big air wins since then as well, making her one of the odds-on favourites on the big jump and a top contender in slopestyle.
Japan will be fielding three riders with the talent to podium in slopestyle, big air, or both, with Kreischberg 2015 slopestyle World Champion Miyabi Onitsuka, 2018 X Games Norway big air winner Kokomo Murase, and two-time reigning big air crystal globe winner Reira Iwabuchi all on hand and ready for action in Aspen.
Canada’s Laurie Blouin is the Sierra Nevada 2017 slopestyle world champion and the silver medallist from Utah 2019 event, as well as the third-place finisher at just a few weeks ago here in Aspen at X Games. The PyeongChang 2018 Olympic slopestyle silver medallist behind Anderson three years ago, Blouin is another rider who seems to thrive when the pressure is on.
Aussie Tess Coady has been looking good this season with a third-place finish at the slopestyle World Cup season-opener in Laax, while rising German star Annika Morgan impressed with her no-holds-barred effort at X Games in January. Reigning slopestyle crystal globe winner Katie Ormerod of Great Britain, and veteran Enni Rukijarvi of Finland are just a few of the other names capable of podiums this week in Aspen.
THE GUYS WHO ARE GOING FOR GOLD:
Scotty James, Yuto Totsucka, Valentino Guseli, Staale Sandbech, Marcus Cleveland, Mark McMorris, Brock Crouch and Sebastian Toutant.
First off the bat is the fire coming from Australia. We’ve got Scotty James who’s got his eye on the gold as the previous World Champ, Bronze Olympic Gold Medalist and coming in strong after just coming short of Gold at the 2021 X Games to Yuto Totsuka. Valentino Gusseli is the grommet looking to blow minds again after his incredible performance at the LAAX Open making it through to finals and just coming unstuck on his runs. He’s ready to go bigger and land on the podium.
In terms of pure competition pedigree, the Canadian men’s team may be unmatched in the world, with Mark McMorris, Max Parrot, Sebastien Toutant, as well as young gun Liam Brearley. If we tried to list every top-level accolade earned between these riders we’d be here for the rest of the day, but as far as FIS-sanctioned events go you can count four Olympic medals (including big air gold for Toutant in PyeongChang) and 28 World Cup podiums amongst them (including 16 victories), and this doesn’t even touch on things like the 40+ X Games podiums shared between the three riders or McMorris’s outstanding win at the Natural Selection competition.
On to the Norwegians, featuring the likes of Marcus Kleveland, Staale Sandbech, Torgier Bergrem and Marcus Olimstad.
Kleveland is leading the way, what with his victory in X Games big air, his third place finish in Laax, and his incomparable creativity in all aspects of snowboarding. Sandbech, meanwhile, is the reigning big air World Champion from Sierra Nevada 2017 due to big air’s cancellation at Utah 2019, and while we haven’t seen him in FIS competition much lately, he remains one of the world’s most influential and talented riders. Bergrem is only one of the most naturally stylish riders in all of snowboarding, while Olimstad has a World Cup win from the 2018/19 season to his credit.
Japan, meanwhile, will be fielding one of the most naturally gifted riders in all of snowboarding, as Takeru Otsuka is back in a big way from the knee injury he suffered last season. While he ended up finishing fifth in the competition, Otsuka made history at X Games big air a few weeks ago by stomping the first frontside quad cork 1800 in snowboard history – and that’s just one mind-blowing trick in the arsenal of bangers boasted by the 2019 big air crystal globe winner. Along with reigning slopestyle crystal globe winner Ruki Tobita and rising star Ryomo Kimata, the Japanese team is one of the most technical and explosive in the world.
And then there’s the host US men’s team, lead by 18 year-old phenom Dusty Henricksen.
Since Henricksen claimed his first World Cup win on home soil at the Mammoth Mountain slopestyle World Cup last season he has essentially lit the snowboarding world on fire, going on to become the first rider ever to stomp a quad cork in slopestyle competition on his way to a second-place finish at last year’s US Open, taking gold at this year’s X Games slopestyle, and winning the knucklehuck competition there with his signature brand of casual tech wizardry. Henricksen is on his way to becoming the sport’s next superstar, and this week in Aspen may just stamp that possibility into law.
Along with Henricksen the US will be fielding the reigning slopestyle World Champion Chris Corning who is, quite simply, one of the most successful Park & Pipe riders in World Cup history, winning seven career crystal globes by the age of 20. Throw in silver and bronze medals from the Sierra Nevada 2017 world champs, 14 total World Cup podiums, and his designation as the first rider ever to land a quad in World Cup competition and you’ve got quite the resume for a 21 year-old.
Reigning Olympic slopestyle gold medallist and all around style-master Red Gerard beefs the US team up further, along with Utah 2019 slopestyle bronze medallist Judd Henkes, Lyon Farrell, and Brock Crouch – who is currently an alternate but likely to start in qualifications. Put it all together and you’ve got a home team roster capable of making some real noise this week.
Last but not least, keep an eye on the Swedish squad, lead by Sven Thorgren. While the 26 year-old is yet to earn a world champs podium in his four tries so far, he comes into Aspen hot after taking a second place finish at the Kreischberg big air, and then locking in silver at the X Games big air competition. Along with his teammate Niklas Mattsson, who won the Laax Open slopestyle competition early this season, Thorgren and the Swedes will be tough to ignore this week.