Battle Mountain’s Cope upsets X Games champ Alex Hall to defend Vail pond skimming title
GOLDEN PEAK — Three-time defending champion Casey Cope is still the top pond skimmer in Vail after a performance that would impress the best slopestyle skiers competing Sunday.
Actually the best slopestyle skier competing Sunday did see the run, and he was really impressed.
Olympian Alex Hall, of Park City, Utah, competed in Vail’s annual World Pond Skimming Championships on Sunday in an appearance that surprised all who follow the sport of freeskiing.
But what was even more surprising was that Hall, who won both on the Dew Tour and at the X Games this season, did not win the competition.
After making it through to the semifinal with ease, Cope’s final run through the pond was very similar to Hall’s in that both skiers rode through the water backward, in what’s known as switch stance.
While Hall went off the jump in the forward and performed a left-spinning 180 to hit the water switch, Cope hit the jump switch and remained backward throughout the pond.
For extra speed, Cope got a little help from two skiers at the top who pulled him. Hall was one of the skiers.
“That was awesome,” Hall said of Cope’s run. “I met him at the top, he’s awesome, he’s hilarious and he’s really good at it.”
Cope’s “zero spin,” airing off the jump and landing switch, was deemed to be the better trick on the day and Cope — who also won Vail’s pond-skimming championships in 2018 and 2017 — was able to stand atop the podium again this year.
“I think I definitely had the home-crowd advantage,” Cope said. “He’s an X Games gold medalist, but I had kids in my class … rooting for me.”
LEVEL OF LEGITIMACY
Cope said after winning the pond-skimming event in 2017 and 2018, he was no longer trying to win, he just wanted to put on a good show.
“So I thought I’m gonna hit it backward, that’d be a fun thing to try,” he said.
With Hall bringing a level of legitimacy to Cope’s pond-skimming reign in a big way on Sunday, Cope said he could have never imagined the outcome.
“I still can’t believe it,” he said after the event.
Danny Grabel, who won the Best Splash award on Sunday, may have put it best.
“It’s about the first contest Hall hasn’t won this season,” Grabel said with a laugh.
Grabel also pointed out that Hall was not wearing his “lucky sweater,” a fashion choice Hall became known for this season when he won X Games wearing the sweater.
Cope is a senior at Battle Mountain High School who plans on attending the University of Colorado in the fall. When he won the pond-skimming event for a second time last year, Cope was awarded an Epic Pass, which he scanned some 60 times this season.
He said he had been looking forward to the pond-skimming event all year, but had no idea what was in store. Cope said he didn’t know Hall was competing until he recognized him at the top of the venue.
“I look over and I’m like wait, that is a pro skier, that man was in the Olympics, that man won an X Games gold medal, he’s one of my idols, I’ve been watching his edits for years,” Cope said. “He was right there.”
‘SMALLER STUFF IS MORE FUN’
Hall made a last-minute decision to join in the competition on Sunday. He said he was in town skiing with friends in Breckenridge and, after watching videos of last year’s event, decided to try it out this year.
When Hall showed up, the signup was full, but he was allowed a late registration, he said.
“Spur of the moment,” Hall said. “Usually smaller stuff is more fun, the big stuff gets scary some times so it’s fun to switch it up, and I’ve never done a pond-skimming event before, so it’s fun.”
If Hall had not decided to join in the competition on Sunday, the most decorated snowsports athlete by a long shot would have been Idaho ski cross racer Langely McNeal, who also competed in X Games and had a five-year career on the World Cup from 2008 to 2013. McNeal’s disco-era outfit, coupled with her effortless style over the water got her into the finals and earned her the first-place female award on Sunday.
Fan favorite Edmund Doogan who, at 80 years old, skimmed the pond nearly to the end after a massive air into the water, was awarded the Best Performance by a Skier. Best Performance by a Snowboarder was awarded to Kelby McManus, Joseph Neff won the Pepsi Performance Award and Peter Woroniecki was deemed the Show Stopper presented by Oakley.
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