Ayumu Hirano made history the last time he was at Dew Tour, becoming the first person to land a triple in the halfpipe in December 2021, a prelude to his gold medal run at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. He’s not a man of many words, in Japanese or in English, and when asked after practice what surprises he might have planned for this year’s final, he put his fingers to his lips and said, “It’s a secret.” Get stoked.
Hirano was a standout of Friday’s Superpipe practice, as was his Team Japan teammate Raibu Katayama, who missed last season’s Dew Tour event due to an injury.
“I’m really excited to be back here after last year’s heartbreak, having to watch from the bottom,” Katayama said. “The pipe is super good. Unfortunately, there was some snow in the bottom today for practice, but it’s gonna be good tomorrow. I’m so hyped. There are so many good riders here, and I especially love getting to ride with Danny Davis: every rider looks up to him, for sure.”
Davis – a MTN Dew athlete whose Dew Tour career includes wins from Breckenridge in 2008 and 2009 and Snowbasin in 2010, and who also owns two X Games gold medals and countless other accolades – was taking practice pretty casually.
He said he hasn’t been in the pipe much this season, partly due to an epic powder season at home in Sierra at Tahoe and partly due to the arrival of his daughter, Posey Simpson Davis, born in November 2022.
“This year has been more about tons of powder days, but it’s always fun to be back in the pipe and back in the mix at Dew Tour, and it’s fun to see Ayumu and Raibu and Taylor Gold and all the other guys and girls out there having a good time,” Davis said.
Davis said he’s especially looking forward to the Superpipe High Air & Best Trick Jam presented by U.S. on Saturday, after the more formal Superpipe final: “I always ride best when contests are pretty relaxed,” he says. “So if we’re gonna have a big fat jam session, that’s all me! I can enjoy myself in that.”
Heavy snow falling Friday morning didn’t help the Superpipe practice much, but highlights from women’s practice included Gaon Choi spinning 1080s. The 14-year-old from South Korea is fresh off a surprise X Games win in January, and will be the one to beat in this year’s field, which also includes Summer Fenton, Bea Kim, Sonny Alba, and rising 11-year-old sensation Patti Zhou.
“It’s nice to be here at Dew Tour: I’m excited to ride and I love to see new young riders out here,” Fenton said. “I mean, these girls are the future of snowboarding and it’s great to see them progressing so much and pushing the sport, pushing me, just lighting that fire. I love to see it.”
Among the standouts of the Women’s Snowboard Super Streetstyle practice sessions on Friday was defending Streetstyle champ Alexis Hernandez-Roland.
“Vibes are high and the course is really sick,” she said at the end of the practice. “It’s a long course for a Streetstyle contest, which makes it so you have to be really consistent with your tricks and at the same time you want to stay technical. I really like the first down rails and the wall at the bottom is pretty massive.”
Since her Dew Tour win at Copper Mountain in December 2021, Hernandez-Roland has released a full street part for the video Out at Sea from Pink Dollar Possy (a crew of LGBTQ+ snowboarders out of Minneapolis, MN), been featured in Snowboard Magazine, and is now working on a new documentary series about her adventures.
She says she isn’t feeling any pressure as the defending champ.
“I know all the girls – we’re all homies – and I want everyone to do well and ride their best… I just want my best to be better than everyone else’s,” she says with a grin.
Other riders looking strong in the Streetsytle practice included Egan Wint, Iris Pham, and 11-year-old rookie Patti Zhou – also competing in Superpipe this weekend.
On the men’s side, defending champion Luke Winkelmann was watching practice from the sidelines, after getting a minor knee injury checked out earlier in the day, leaving room for riders like Red Gerard, Darcy Sharpe, Brandon Davis, and Sam Klein to shine. He was happily fanning out.
“It’s been really rad to see everyone link runs tonight and it’s definitely a different format than any year we’ve done before at Dew Tour,” Winkelmann said. “It brings a whole different aspect to it, and I’m just stoked to watch everybody ride. It’s kind of like the top of a Slopestyle course but with even more street-inspired features. I really love this drop-down Jersey barrier, and the pole jam to wallride at the bottom looks really good.
Red Gerard, the two-time defending Slopestyle champ, said he was frustrated in practice on the all-rails Super Streetstyle course. “This ain’t my specialty: I like riding jumps!”
Darcy Sharpe felt the opposite, and after watching him in practice he’s a good bet for the top of the podium.
“I like seeing rail jams becoming bigger and bigger in the industry because I think it’s more inclusive,” Sharpe said after Friday night’s practice. “You don’t have to have a perfect park or one of these training facilities like Copper or Whistler or Laax. You can get good at rails in Minnesota on little hills, or in Ontario, or wherever. So it’s exciting and relatable for people to watch and it’s more computable than seeing guys hucking 1620s or 1800s on massive jumps. I love a course like this becauce It’s more like skateboarding, it’s flow, you get the feeling of locking in on the rails.”
Sharpe was linking top-to-bottom runs throughout practice, and ending with bangers like his switch lipslide sameway from the polejam to wallride feature at the bottom. We asked him to talk us through a course preview:
“Everything’s pretty darn good,” he said. “Feature one, there’s a stick waterfall rail that’s really fun and kind of the hardest option. On the second group of rails, there’s a bunch of transfer features and big gaps you can do, and then Red’s Backyard shack next to the long downbar is a pretty challenging rail, really long with chain link fence and it rides like how it looks: street vibes and ragged and wobbly. The last feature is super sick, as well. The transfer down-flat or just down-flat that has a super extreme kink at the end: you’ve got to be super locked in and confident to take that kink. And then the polejam wallride is just a big wow factor feature that’s going to be sick to have at the bottom when we have the big crowd here.”
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