Tanner Hall rattles competition

Ryan Slabaugh

Tanner had ripped his first run, throwing a 270 off a rail before a series that included a D-spin 720, a Cab 720 and a Cork 900. But in his second try, the X Games champion and the 2002 Open slopestyle winner landed funny on the last big air, while competitor Jon Ollson cleaned house.

It was going to be close.

The award came, and the 19-year-old took the $6,500 prize. The rattling and cooing from his mom got the frozen crowd moving again and caused another freeskier to comment, “Look, it’s Tanner’s mom.”

It seems she’s getting as famous as her son. And, after Friday, she might have some more change to throw in that bottle.

Tanner, even after the fall, credited his first run to a little divine intervention.

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“I’ve never had a run like that in my life,” said Hall, who started competing when he was 14 and is proving to be the premiere slopestyle competitor in the country. “My grandfather died a couple weeks ago and he must have been looking down on me.”

Olsson did finish second, just in front of Breckenridge’s Nick Mercon, whose first run solidified his spot with a clean Rodeo-720 gap jump for a finale. On his second, Mercon started a string of five-straight athletes to lose a ski, as the sun began setting and the icy landings turned to cement.

Rory Bushfield, of Sugarbush, Vt., finished 10th and watched in amazement as Hall’s final run came to a suspenseful finish. While Hall checked himself for injuries, Bushfield raised his eyebrows.

“It gets a lot harder in the cold,” said Bushfield, who nailed a 720 D-spin on the final run. “With Tanner in the field, you definitely have to throw down hard every time. The bar has been raised.”

Hall, meanwhile, said the below-zero temperatures work for and against the whole field. On the plus side, he said, the kickers are that much faster, meaning bigger air. On the negative side, the landings just plain hurt.

“My adrenaline was going so hard, I couldn’t really feel anything,” he said. “I knew when my toes got cold, because I felt my whole body just go numb.”

In the women’s competition, Sarah Burke did a little bar-raising of her own. The poster-girl for women’s freeskiing landed a 900 on the final jump, which caused a huge stir in the crowd. “Had that even been done before?” the announcer asked, and nobody knew for sure.

Either way, Burke’s huge air earned her first place, almost 17 points higher than Kristi Leskinen, and a $1,500 check.

“I tried it for the first time last week,” Burke said. “This week wasn’t quite as big as I wanted it to be, but it worked, I think.”

Other bouts of ingenuity weren’t as rewarded by the judges, who were looking for a mixture of style and degree of difficulty. When Tom Dolezel stomped a run wearing only a thong bikini bottom, the crowd gave its biggest ovation of the day.

Even TBS, who will be broadcasting the event the morning of March 12, seemed interested to know why, on Earth, would a man risk life and limb for a handful of friends and comrades.

“Um. I don’t know,” Dolezel said to the TV crews. “It just kind of seemed like a good idea.”

Other highlights included Charles Gagnier’s completing the course three times in switch mode, or backwards to those not in with the ever-evolving skiing lingo, and landing his final corked-out spin maneuver on one ski.

But Hall’s first run in the finals is what everyone was chasing. When his name was announced as the winner, he pumped his fist, smiled at his mother, and took the podium.

“It’s nice to come here, after last year’s X Games and this year and really ski well,” Hall said. “It means I’m legit.”

The competition continues today with a skiercross competition, where five racers in each heat compete for two spots in the following round. The rounds continue until only five racers are left, with the winner of the finals taking home $4,000. The race will begin at 10 a.m., with the finals starting at 2 p.m.

Afterwards, the $7,500 Big Air competition will feature the best athletes from the slopestyle competition hoping to land the biggest and baddest trick. The tricks will begin at 6 p.m.. C.R. Johnson won last year’s competition with a Bio 1260.

Sunday, the U.S. Freeskiing Open will finish off with a halfpipe competition beginning at 10 a.m. The finals are scheduled for 2 p.m., with the winner earning $6,500. Swedish competitor Jon Olsson is the defending champion.

All events are located on Golden Peak.

Friday’s slopestyle results


Pl Name Score

1. Tanner Hall 90

2. Jon Olsson 86.8

3. Nick Mercon 83

4. Simon Dumont 82.8

5. Mark Abma 82.6

6. Pep Fujas 82.2

6. Iannick B. 82.2

8. Charles Gagnier 81.4

9. Mickael Descenaux 80.6

10. Rory Bushfield 78.4

11. Henrik Winstedt 78

12. Mike Wilson 76


1. Sarah Burke 65.2

2. Kristi Leskinen 48.8

3. Jess Cumming 43.8

4. Hannah Farrar 33.8

5. Lisa Solberg 33.6

Ryan Slabaugh is a sports writer for the Vail Daily. Contact him at (970) 949-0555 ext. 608 or at

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