words: Mary Walsh
photos: Aaron Blatt and Mary Walsh
The riders who make up the slopestyle elite are undoubtedly some of the most talented in the world; the roster is a bevy of boarders whose ability to land 14’s regardless of weather and conditions is semi-incomprehensible. As the jump tricks have continued to get bigger in both rotation and cork over the past few years, catalyzed by the loaded skills of Mark McMorris, Stale Sandbech, Sebastien Toutant, Maxence Parrot, and others, the rail maneuvers have also exploded, with 270 combinations and rail-to-rail transfers the standard, in addition to mandatory style differentials that add necessary scoring ticks for those who aspire to the podium. Every year, men’s slopestyle finals at X Games Aspen is a flurry of one-upmanship in iteration of rotations, and while there are a handful of riders who are stalwarts of the winner’s circle, the level of rising talent ensures that on any given Sunday (or whatever day finals happen to fall on), it’s anyone’s event to win.
Such was the case on the afternoon of January 29, 2017, when young Norwegian upstart, Marcus Kleveland stood at the top of the drop-in on the top of the X Games course. At on seventeen-years-old, this week was Marcus’ rookie year competing in Aspen, though his moniker was far from unfamiliar as, in addition to a deluge of physics-bending edits and short videos released by Marcus over the past few years, he has been making additional waves already in first year as part of the big contest circuit. Marcus dropped into the upper rail zone, and put down a casual 50-50-back 270-pretzel out on the first rail; switch frontlip on the rainbow; front 270 on, 270 off on the third rail, and a cab 270 on the final job. In the jumps, Marcus sent a switch back double ten, a cab triple sixteen, and one of the mellowest-looking backside triple fourteens potentially ever landed. He was awarded a 91.66 by the judges and would take the lead, never looking back and adding a shiny, gold medal to his cache.
Tyler Nicholson’s second place run.
Joining Marcus on the podium were Tyler Nicholson in second, earning his first X Games medal, and Mark McMorris, lauded X veteran, taking third place for the day. Tyler’s second run included a switch back 270 on the rainbow rail up top, a flat cab 1440 on the first jump, switch back twelve on the second jump, and a frontside 1440 on the final jump. He moved from sixth place into second. Mark had a slight bobble on the first rail, but had no problem dialing in the rest of his run. He dropped a switch backside 270 on the down-flat at the top and then threw down on the triple jumpline with an ease that few others posess: switch backside twelve, backside triple fourteen, and frontside triple 1440 and the Canadian rider had secured bronze.