With $100,000 in prize money on the line, the Laax Open halfpipe competition unfolded on hallowed ground. The Laax Superpipe is revered as the world’s largest snow halfpipe. Measuring over 22.5 feet in height and 650 feet in length, the halfpipe provides the perfect backdrop for the season’s most spectacular aerial show.
In Saturday night’s Snowboard Halfpipe final, the high-energy crowd in Laax cheered on an international field of riders from Australia, Switzerland, Japan, and the United States. The night session under floodlights saw a field of twelve finalists gunning for the top spots. But one rivalry dominated: Current X Games snowboard halfpipe gold medalist Scotty James from Australia versus Monster Energy’s Totsuka from Japan.
The two snowboarding prodigies share a long competitive history, with James emerging as the winner in his last eight starts, including World Cup, X Games and US Open competitions.
“I think the halfpipe in Laax is the best halfpipe in the world, because it’s smooth and so big. I definitely want to beat Scotty James,” said Totsuka before the competition.
In his first run, Totsuka blasted through the superpipe with his signature blend of high-flying, contorted aerials and technically precise rotations. He put together a perfect routine including frontside double cork 1440 mute, Cab 1080 double grab, frontside double cork 1260 tuck knee, backside 900 mute grab and frontside 1080 tail grab for a 92.25-point opening score.
Then Scotty James fired back by unveiling his latest trick, a double cork 1440 melon, to take the lead at 95.75 points. Now the pressure was on Totsuka to clinch the win on his second and final run. The challenger opened strong by blasting a 1440 double cork mute as his first trick and following up with back-to-back 1080s on both walls. But when he lost his momentum after landing a technical switch 1260 double cork tuck knee grab, Totsuka had to settle for second place.
The end? Not so fast. Look forward to Totsuka and Scotty James revisiting their rivalry at the world’s greatest winter sports spectacle less than one week from now.
X Games Aspen will bring together elite athletes across ski, snowboard, snowmobile, and snow bike disciplines – including the entire Monster Energy snow team – from January 23-26, 2020 at Buttermilk Mountain resort in Colorado.
With today’s second place finish under his belt, Totsuka heads into the 2020 season as a certified podium threat. Last season’s highlights included back-to-back silver medals at X Games Aspen 2019 and the 2019 FIS Snowboard World Championships. Totsuka also took home snowboard halfpipe wins at the FIS Snowboard World Cups in Calgary and Mammoth Mountain in Spring 2019 and third place at the 2019 Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships. After Laax 2020, Totsuka now ranks second on the FIS Snowboard Halfpipe World Cup leaderboards.
Also making a huge impression on the judges in Laax tonight, Monster Energy athlete and Swiss snowboard icon Iouri Podladtchikov returned to competition after dealing with heavy injuries during the last season. On his first run, the 2014 Olympic snowboard halfpipe gold medalist stoked the crowd with tricks like frontside double cork 1080, frontside 900 mute grab and a fully extended alley-oop 540 nosegrab for 76.50 points and a solid fifth-place finish.
Rounding out a great showing, Monster Army recruit and United States Snowboard team rider Jason Wolle cracked the top eight in his debut at Laax Open. Hailing from Winter Park, Colorado, the 20-year-old stomped a perfect run consisting of frontside cork 900 tail grab, double Michalchuk sideflip aerial, massive frontside 1080, Cab double cork 1080 mute and a surprise crippler double nose grab on the last wall, earning him 68.75 points and seventh place.