U.S. teen sensation Chloe Kim, Australian star Scotty James win at Copper Mountain Grand Prix halfpipe

Toyota U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain Resort

Men’s snowboard halfpipe podium

1. Scotty James, AUS 96.75

2. Toby Miller, USA 94.00

3. Chase Josey, USA 90.50

Women’s snowboard halfpipe podium

1. Chloe Kim, USA 92.25

2. Maddie Mastro, USA 85.00

3. Xuetong Cai, CHN 77.75

Toby Miller couldn’t help it. He wanted to catch a glimpse.

Before the 18-year-old snowboarder from Mammoth Lakes, California dropped in for his third and last run at Saturday’s Toyota U.S. Grand Prix finals at Copper Mountain Resort, he watched Australian star Scotty James complete his last run. As Miller’s eyes lingered down the halfpipe long enough to see James stomp his final trick, the halfpipe course’s starter actually had to physically pull Miller into the start gate.

“Come on, you need to get to the top,” the starter said to Miller.

“I gotta see him,” Miller replied.

Seconds later, James was awarded a massive score of a 96.75 to jump into first place above Miller’s second-run score of 94.00.

Moments later, Miller washed out on the bottom of the halfpipe after attempting the biggest trick of the day, a soaring double-cork 1440 — four complete 360-degree horizontal rotations complete with two inversions. It was a trick he only decided to attempt after he had the knowledge that James had jumped into first place.

“The second (James) landed it,” Miller said, “I looked at my coaches and I was like, ‘alright, we’re going to try it now.’”

If Miller had landed it, it would have put a resounding exclamation point to conclude a statement week at Copper for Miller. The week’s events rounded out with his back-and-forth duel versus the 2018 Olympic bronze medalist James.

On a day when other top riders, including Eagle-Vail Olympian Jake Pates, struggled to keep speed through the pipe’s flat bottom, Miller’s riding looked smooth and effortless. Even more impressive, Miller attempted and near-flawlessly executed two initial runs through the halfpipe that he hadn’t ever practiced. On his 94.00 run, Miller executed a frontside double-cork 1080 with a mute grab, a cab double-cork 1080 with a mute grab, a frontside 900 with a tail grab, a backside double-cork 1260 with a mute grab and a frontside double-cork 1260 with an Indy grab. In response, James’ winning run consisted of a frontside 1080 with a tail grab, a switch crippler chicken salad, a switch backside double-cork 1080 with a mute grab, a backside double-cork 1260 with a mute grab and a frontside double-cork 1260 with an Indy grab.

“Today was kind of a test, if you will,” Miller said. “Dropping in I had never done it, so to put it down and land it, I was so stoked. I couldn’t be happier and these guys absolutely slammed. They put a fire under me to have to land, so I’m really happy.”

Miller and James battling it out with their 1260-laced runs was complemented on the men’s podium by a particularly stylish and inventive run pieced together by U.S. Olympian Chase Josey of Idaho. Elite snowboarders in the competition and in the crowd came away enthralled with Josey’s creative take on the halfpipe course, opting for difficult, atypical tricks such as a high-amplitude double-Michalchuk with a Japan grab at the end of the pipe. Josey earned that 88.00 and third-place podium spot via a third and final run that included a frontside alley-oop 360 with an Indy grab, a switch double-Michalchuk with a backside grab, a cab double-cork 1080 with a mute grab, a frontside 900 with a roast beef grab and that double-Michalchuk Japan.

“Chase has always been a really good switch rider,” James said. “I really enjoyed watching him. He did a switch double-Michalchuk today, which I expressed was super damn hard. … I think we can open up a lot of other things in terms of creativity and everyone putting their own flair on certain tricks, and that’s kind of the direction that I want go in. And I think you saw a bit of that today.”

Kim dominates again

In the women’s competition, it was more domination from Californian teen superstar Chloe Kim. The Pyeongchang gold medalist posted the two highest women’s scores of the day, a 90.00 and a 92.25, on her first and second runs, respectively. The scores came on the strength of her back-to-back frontside 1080 with a tail grab, and a cab 900 with an Indy grab. Kim — seemingly as always — made the runs look easy and took a victory lap on her third run as she had already earned the win ahead of her fellow Californian Maddie Mastro (85.00) and third-place finisher Xuetong Cai of China (77.75).

As a result, Kim joined James in donning the yellow bibs that signify the World Cup series’ leaders.

Interestingly enough, if Kim struggled anywhere at Copper Mountain this week, it was off of the pipe. The 18-year-old from Torrance, California, mentioned how the altitude here got to her so much that she ended up having to be treated for dehydration.

“I need humidifiers, I’m filling my bathtub with water — just trying to get my room as nice as possible and to make it easier to breath,” Kim said. “I actually ended up in the clinic a few days ago because I didn’t drink enough water, and I woke up and I was, like, blinded because I was so dehydrated. So, yeah, drink water.”

Dew Tour look-ahead

Heading into next week’s Dew Tour modified superpipe event at Breckenridge Ski Resort, Kim may break out the double-cork 1080 she learned this summer while training with the U.S. team at the Stomping Grounds Park training venue at the glacier at Saas-Fee, Switzerland. After Saturday’s competition, James said Kim’s ambition to learn and land moves that big “is pretty inspiring.”

“I went out there a little early to hit the bag a few times and try it,” Kim said, “and one day everything was kind of falling into place, and I decided to try it. Fell on my butt pretty hard a few times, but when I landed a couple it felt really good.”

As for Miller, despite clearly showing on Saturday that he can halfpipe ride with the best of the best in the world, he won’t be competing in the individual men’s halfpipe competition at next week’s Dew Tour. Rather, he’ll only be hitting Dew Tour’s new modified superpipe while representing DC Snowboards in Dew Tour’s team challenge event.

“I’m very excited to ride that,” Miller said. “I think it’s going to be super, super great for halfpipe snowboarding to ride something different.”

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