Dew Tour has always been known for mixing things up with fun, creative contest formats. This year’s new addition: the Superpipe High Air & Best Trick Jam presented by U.S. Air Force pitted the top skiers and snowboarders, men and women, against each other for what turned out to be a wildly informal and unpredictable session under heavy snow at Copper Mountain.
By Colin Bane and Matt Harris
On the play-by-play, Bomb Hole host Chris Grenier called the format a “complete trainwreck of awesomeness,” and analyst Todd Richards called it “the mullet portion of Dew Tour: we had the business up front, and now we have the party in the back.”
Judges at the bottom of the pipe had stacks of cash to hand out for individual tricks during the contest, while Dew Tour had a big prize purse on offer for the highest airs out of the pipe and for the MVP of the session. Commentators Todd Richards, Gus Kenworthy, Chris Grenier, and field reporters Chris Cote and Mary Walsh also awarded prizes for “Best Drip” and “Best Time.”
Ayumu Hirano and Raibu Katayama battled it out for the highest snowboard air. Hirano launched a Japan air to fakie at 16 feet, 5 inches early in the jam session. Katayama stepped up to 16 feet, 11 inches with a method air, then both sent airs over 20 feet. Hirano ultimately took it, after sending a wild, loose no-grab air to fakie, rolling down the windows at 22 feet, 8 inches on the edge of disaster to take the prize. That’s several feet shy of his younger brother Kaishu Hirano’s world record halfpipe air at 25 feet set at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, but very impressive given the near white-out conditions in heavy snow during the jam session. Ayumu Hirano ultimately took MVP honors, too.
Skier Hunter Hess came to play for highest ski air, improving from 13 feet, 11 inches to 14 feet, 5 inches in Run 3. Sonny Alba launched the highest air of the women, with a 10-foot backside air, then ended her best run with an Andrecht handplant that earned her some extra cash.
Skier Aaron Blunck – the 3rd place finisher from the Men’s Ski Superpipe Final – took the Best Drip honors, after earning a stack of cash for sweeping the blue paint marker off what felt like half of the coping at the bottom of the pipe (Todd Richards called the move “the Zamboni”) while wearing a bright yellow kit.
And 11-year-old snowboarder Patti Zhou – the 2nd place finisher from the Women’s Snowboard Superpipe Final – took Best Time honors, for obviously having the time of her life out there. We have a feeling we’ll be hearing that name for many, many years to come.
“All these great people mixed up all together inspired me to go bigger and have more style,” said Zhou, whose “#PattiParty” fan club at the base of the pipe was the most spirited section of the crowd. “I’m having so much fun learning from everybody! Contests like this make me want to skate and surf and snowboard forever.”
The snowboarders in the field included Ayumu Hirano, Taylor Gold, and Raibu Katayama – the podium finishers from the Men’s Snowboard Superpipe Final just moments before the jam session – along with Danny Davis, Ryan Wachendorfer, Josh Bowman, and Siddhartha Ullah. This weekend’s Women’s Snowboard Superpipe podium finishers were also in the mix – Gaon Choi, Patti Zhou, and Bea Kim – alongside Sonny Alba and Summer Fenton.
Skiers in the field included Aaron Blunck, Matt Labaugh, Aaron Durlester, Lyman Currier, Hunter Hess, and Connor Ladd.
Summer Fenton earned the first cash of the contest, with a half-Cab method air in the opening run, followed by Bea Kim with frontside and backside handplants and a frontside alley-oop.
Matt Labaugh, the first skier to grab some cash, had solid amplitude on a double cork, alley-oop flat spin safety, and switch 720, then ended his run with an old-school crowd-pleasing backscratcher X-up. He had the biggest crash of the contest in his next run, double ejecting out of his skis in a beautiful catastrophe that judges ponied up $150 for.
After the crash Hunter Hess still wanted to help keep Labaugh in the game, so they hatched a plan to do just that. He set up a doubles routine with Matt Lebaugh: Lebaugh stopped on the pipe deck, laid down to lean himself into to the pipe, and Hess threw a huge double cork 1080 over him.
“Matt was killer about it. He was like pretty bodied, he fell really hard, so he was just trying to cruise,” Hess said. “We just wanted to make something happen and I was like, oh just go sit on the deck.”
Labaugh, comparing the jam session to Saturday’s much more formal Superpipe event, said, “It was way more relaxed, more fun, and my first run felt great. But really it was just a super fun day… my goal was just to have fun with my friends. I wanted to win highest air and I went for it, but obviously, Hunter got it. Hunter’s great.”
There were lots of other highlights, but rather than try to recap all the mayhem… we recommend just going ahead and watching the full thing.