Last year in Breckenridge, Frisco's Eric Willett finished ninth.
In Wednesday's snowboard slopestyle semifinal, Willett landed himself a third-place finish, solidly qualifying himself for Sunday's final and getting his hopes and confidence up for a top finish during this year's single stop in Breckenridge.
Willett finished behind Torstein Horgmo (Norway) and Maxence Parrot (Canada) with an 88.50. Horgmo sat nicely on top with a 95.00 and Parrot squeaked into second with an 89.00.
"It's good," Willett said. "You never know how that first competition is going to go. ... The conditions were a little gnarly out there for all of us. We had a bunch of snow, so we didn't get too much practice in the first few days. The wind played a factor (Wednesday)."
High winds gusted across Breckenridge in the late morning into the afternoon, slowing riders down in their semifinal runs. Still, Willett put down a solid run that he said boosts his confidence heading into the finals.
"It's a whole different aspect going into finals," Willett said. It's a different day and a different dynamic. The tricks get bigger and badder because the finals are about wowing the judges instead of simply finishing a run - and it's happening with a three-day break in between. The break isn't bad for Willett, who said his legs are tired after two full days of practice and a competition day.
With the single stop this year, the Frisco local looks to land a third-place finish or better, which was where he put himself in last year's overall competition.
"This year, there's a little more pressure and it's a little bigger because there's only one stop. Being on that podium would mean a lot more," Willett said. In the end, the list of snowboarders hitting the course Sunday isn't a surprise.
"If I could have handpicked the finals list, this would be it," Willett said. "It's going to be a pretty heavy final."
As Thursday's semi-finals wound down, Scotty Lago beat out defending champion Shaun White to take the top spot in the men's snowboard superpipe semifinals event, starting his run off with a frontside 540, followed by a backside 900, frontside 1080 double cork, cab 700, frontside 900 inverted nose grab and a backside air. Greg Bretz rounded out the top three. Top contender Ioui "iPod" Podladtchikov ruled himself out of the finals by finishing in 12th place. Breckenridge local Zach Black will also not advance, as he finished 11th, but fellow Breckenridge athlete Brett Esser advances after finishing fifth with an 86.00.
Day 2 of the Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships started off with 21 freeskiers hitting the superpipe, each taking two runs during a single heat of two rounds with only their best score counting. Considering only the top 10 skiers will be moving on to the finals, the semifinal level of competition resembled a winner-take-all attitude from the athletes, according to Alli Sports.
The best score of the day went to Mike Riddle (Canada) with his first run, which consisted of a double 1260, right 900, left 900, flatspin 360, switch left 900 and a switch right 900.
"It felt pretty amazing to win today. They narrowed it down from three stops to one this year. It is a pretty big deal. They are really pulling out all the stops, so it felt pretty good to come out on top. I am feeling real strong this year and can't wait for finals," Riddle said. David Wise (Reno, N.V.) and Justin Dorey (Canada) rounded out the top three from semis in second- and third-place, respectively.
Under the afternoon sun in Breckenridge, South Lake Tahoe's Jamie Anderson's strong first run put her in the top spot going into today's snowboard slopestyle final for the women. Anderson threw down a switch back 540, a back 180 and cab 540 in her first run, giving her a first run score of a 94.25, the highest score out of all the riders for the day. Trailing close behind Anderson was Germany's Silvia Mittermueller with a 93.00 and Enni Rukajärvi in third with a 92.00.