As tough as it was to watch the loved and revered Scotty Lago go down twice in two runs in the men's snowboard halfpipe, it was equally exciting to see the legendary Shaun White claim the Dew Cup from Louie Vito in Saturday's finals event.
Vito, who was last year's snowboard superpipe Dew Cup winner, stomped his first run to put him initially in first place with a 90.00. With incredible amplitude for a smaller guy, his run included three back-to-back 1080s that seemed to be the staple of the upper echelon riders.
Then, along came White, who hit a backside air at least 20 feet over the pipe's edge and sailed into the rest of his nearly flawless run before executing his backside 1260 double mctwist (also known as the tomahawk) without error. He finished the run with a backside alley-oop and was awarded a 95.25 by the judges.
Vito needed to step it up in the second run, but when he attempted the 1260 rotation, a trick that even the announcers didn't know he had in his arsenal, he didn't quite complete and went down.
"It's great. I came here to do well. I had a weird time in semis," White said, referring to his second-place finish on Friday, which had fans questioning what he would do Saturday. "To shake that off and win today with the snow and the slow pipe and everything and the injury, I didn't know how I was going to hold up. It's good."
Both men and women encountered variable conditions in their back-to-back, live broadcast events. Lago, who was on the top heading into the finals, may have been the most disadvantaged as he faced flat light and relatively heavy snow on both runs. Still, he didn't land his risky and difficult switch cab double cork 1080 either time he tried it, going down fast on both his final runs.
By the time White entered his second run, it was only Lago who could have bumped him off the podium. He was a little nervous, too. He hadn't seen Lago's run.
"I don't know, I know he doesn't have the (tomahawk), so I felt like I was confident my first run would hold, but you never know. I was a little disappointed I didn't make my second run; I didn't know what Scotty had in store."
Still, White "felt great."
"I've never felt better. Once you get in a great score ... the goal is to defend it. For me, (the second run) was a really great run. I tried something I normally don't do at the bottom and it didn't work out," he said, referring to his alley-oop backside 900 rodeo, in which the pipe won over the athlete.
The 1080s were a favorite of the judges, as indicated by Japan's Taku Hiraoka's third-place finish with a front 900 into a back 900 followed by three 1080s in a row, landing him an 81.50 overall.
Breckenridge local Brett Esser, in sixth place going into finals, had the support of the crowd, but he lost his edge in the beginning of the first run, putting him at the back of the pack with a 16.25. In his second run, he looked to be a contender, throwing a front 1260 but putting his hand down to complete the rotation. His run included back-to-back 1080s with plenty of amplitude with 900s to boot, but the hand down and other errors gave him an initial score of 61.25 and eighth place heading into the final run.
As the victor, Shaun White sees the Dew Cup as a solid start to his season. At 26 years old, he was the oldest in the men's halfpipe finals field, but it doesn't seem to be slowing him down.
"It's a little weird," he said. "It's good. I feel like I'm still hitting my prime. I've never felt more confident or more in tune with my riding. ... I'll take it as a compliment, I guess."