By the time Men’s Ski SuperPipe eliminations began, the sun was down and the crowd at the base of the pipe was more than three-quarters full. It looked and felt like a real Winter X Games, minus the venue announcer who pronounced it “Ween-tair X Gaymeens!,” and screamed that each skier was dropping in to the “Pie-eep!” …for the rest of the night the announcer was drowned out by a crowd that was here to see Xavier Bertoni and Kevin Rolland — both of whom have status in France that might exceed Simon Dumont’s status in the U.S.
Despite a conservative, double-less first run, Bertoni didn’t disappoint. His 87.33 had him in first until mid-way through the second run, when Justin Dorey uncorked arguably the best run of his career: double to left cork 540 to alley-oop flatspin 3 to 9 to switch rightside 7 to alley-oop flatspin 5. It rocketed him from fourteenth to first and took the energy in the ensuing runs up a notch.
Dumont tried to rise to the moment. Sitting below the eight-man cutoff on his second run, he powered through a stock but typically huge run of 9s and 7s. He landed low on one hit, which perhaps convinced him he needed something special to finish. Torquing into a switch 9, Dumont ran out of pipe and impacted violently on the last remaining feet of lip, snapping a pole in the process. As the realization that he’d miss yet another Winter X podium this winter, he snapped the other one across his helmet in frustration. With Peter Olenick failing to advance as well, the biggest names in U.S. pipe skiing will not be represented here in Tignes.
Rolland might be the biggest name in French pipe skiing, but as the final skier of the night, he was sitting in ninth. The run he put together wasn’t as impressive as the one that won Winter X Games a month and a half ago, but it included a double and a 12 and everyone, including the venue announcer who sounded more and more like Borat as the night went on, audibly exhaled when he finished in third.
“I’m going to switch it up,” said Dorey when asked if he thought his qualifying run could win Wednesday’s Final. “It’s not enough, because everyone will be stepping it up.” Considering that Bertoni and Rolland both have more doubles in their bags, he’s probably right.
Then again, considering the forecast calls for up to a foot of snow and howling winds, there’s no telling they’ll get the chance to prove it as scheduled.