Basalt's Torin Yater-Wallace said last week he wasn't near where his ability would typically be after undergoing shoulder surgery in September.
He looked just fine in his first competition back Thursday morning on Buttermilk.
Yater-Wallace scored a 90 in his first run in the skiing superpipe event, and his score only eclipsed by the defending gold medalist, David Wise of Reno, Nevada in the final run of the day.
Aspen's Alex Ferreira - a former Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard club athlete - failed to qualify for tonight's final after falling on both runs.
But it was Yater-Wallace who proved to be undaunted after training for just a little more than five weeks, and not competing in a single event since last season. He opened his first run with a right side double cork 1260, then landed every trick afterward to claim the top spot from France's Kevin Rolland, who put up an 88 before Yater-Wallace took to the pipe.
Ferreira, who drew loud cheers from friends and family at the bottom of the pipe, fell on his third jump after landing a left side 1080 and a switch right side 900. In his second run, he soared more than 18 feet out of the pipe to land a left side 1080. Ferreira then landed a 720, a double cork 1260, and then on his final jump, he he couldn't land a right side 900.
He wound up 13th in his first X Games appearance with a score of 37.
In Yater-Wallace's second run, with the finals spot already locked up, he dialed the difficulty down a notch, and scored an 87.
Wise improved on his 87 in his first run with a 92 in the second to head into the final as the No. 1 qualifier.
Yater-Wallace looks to win his third medal in as many opportunities. Last year, he grabbed the bronze medal, and in 2011, as a 15 year-old, he took silver.
Kevin Rolland, the 2010 and 2011 gold medalist, qualified second with a first run score of 88. Tanner Hall, making a comeback to the games since having knee surgery in 2009 and becoming addicted to painkillers, failed to qualify with two uninspiring runs that produced scores of 66.33 and 69.33. Last year's silver medalist, Noah Bowman, was held out of the finals by finishing ninth with a second round score of 70.66. Crested Butte's Aaron Blunck headed to finals after placing sixth in qualifiers.