The stoke level was high on Buttermilk Mountain on day two of X Games Aspen 2020, the 19th consecutive Winter X Games in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. The stacked roster for the day included snow competitions across a wide range of disciplines, plus a musical performance by hip-hop duo Rae Srummard on the GEICO Music Stage.
But best of all, the crowd had a chance to witness X Games history in the making. In Friday night’s highly anticipated The Real Cost Men’s Ski Big Air final, Monster Energy’s Henrik Harlaut set out to become the most decorated ski athlete of all time.
The 28-year-old freeski icon from Åre, Sweden, only needed one medal to make it happen. Stepping into the eight-rider final, Harlaut was tied with his friend and mentor, freestyle ski pioneer Tanner Hall, at eleven total X Games medals (6 gold, 5 silver).
Friday night was Harlaut’s big chance… and his only chance this year, actually, after he missed a qualifier spot in Saturday’s slopestyle finals.
Standing between Harlaut and the historic feat was a stacked field of finalists, including heavy hitters like defending Big Air gold medalist Birk Ruud. Adding to the challenge, the Men’s Ski Big Air event had adopted a new judging format this year: Whereas winners were previously determined by adding scores for the best right-turning and left-turning trick, judges now looked for the best overall impression in a 25-minute jam session.
Due to the change, riders now had about six runs each to send their most difficult aerials over the 70-foot gap and demonstrate their versatile trick repertoire. Fortunately, innovative and creative tricks are Harlaut’s calling card, and he jumped into the final session with his usual positive energy and unpredictable trick arsenal.
Straight out the gate, Harlaut unveiled a forward left double bio 1620 safety to clinch an early lead. This set the tone for what the judges would later call the best Big Air contest in history.
As the rest of the field fired back with state-of-the art aerials, Harlaut kept defending the number one spot with fast-spinning rotations on different axes, including a switch left double bio 1620 safety, left triple 1620 mute, and a Switch left triple orbital 1260 mute grab. In between attempts, Henrik made sure to hype the crowd and high-five fans on his way back up the course.
When it was time for final attempts, Harlaut was suddenly leapfrogged by Swiss skier Andri Ragettli, who pulled a never-been-done switch triple misty to take over the lead.
Determined to set the new record on not just any medal, but gold, Harlaut responded with a massive left double cork 1620 blunt taking him right back to the top. When all was said and done, the judges recognized Henrik Harlaut’s creativity and trick difficulty. Plus, he landed every single trick he attempted, and each one spun on a different axis.
Henrik Harlaut received the Ski Big Air gold medal as the winner of the most epic final Buttermilk Mountain had ever seen.
“For sure this was the best jumping I’ve ever done in my life. I did two or three jumps I’d never done before and landed every jump. I had so much fun. It was crazy. It was awesome. Thank you so, so much for the opportunity!” said Henrik Harlaut upon claiming Men’s Ski Big Air gold at X Games Aspen 2020 on Friday night.
Henrik Harlaut is now officially the most decorated ski athlete in X Games history with twelve medals to his name (7 gold, 5 silver). Friday night’s Big Air victory marks Harlaut’s 7th total X Games gold (6 Big Air and 1 Slopestyle gold), which now ties him with Hall for the most Ski victories in history.
Harlaut found words of gratitude and respect for his mentor Tanner Hall: “Tanner is the greatest of all time and for sure the best. Thank you for the inspiration!” said the 28-year-old from Åre, Sweden.