Just when you think that the sport of freeskiing has hit the roof in terms of what the skiers can do with a 70-foot table, along came the 2009 World Skiing Invitational Big Air.
For a few years it looked like the sport hit a plateau with the switch 1080 - taking off and landing backwards with three full rotations in the middle. This year the switch 1080 was the minimum on display, with athletes throwing all kinds of inverted or near-inverted doubles - double switch backflips, double corked 1260 spins, double switch flat spin 900s. The announcers were at a loss sometimes to describe what they had just witnessed.
But it was Japanese skier Shinji Osada who raised the bar the most this year, landing the first switch 1440 in a competition - taking off backwards and spinning four full rotations before landing backwards again.
Speaking through an interpreter, Osada said it was the first time he tried the trick in a competition and he was excited to land it. When asked when he decided to throw a 1440 he said he made the decision in training when he tried it and landed it successfully. While the landing was a little soft for some tricks - there were no shortage of crashes this year and a few athletes were injured - the softer landing gave him confidence.
Osada was all smiles heading to the podium to collect his $10,000 first prize, then shed a few tears of joy when the realization hit home that he won one of the premier events in new school skiing.
The format was the same as last year, with 30 men and five women getting two jumps each during the qualifier. The top-10 moved on to the super final, with each athlete getting four jumps - a 540, 720, 900 and best trick. With the clock ticking the judges decided to pull the 720 contest.
Not that the crowd minded waiting around. This year the jam band Lotus provided the background music from start to finish, playing for more than two hours while people danced and watched the world's largest puppet play with human acrobats spinning on silks and bouncing on bungee chords.
In second place, winning $5,000, was Swedish jumper Jacob Webster. Webster was the top qualifier and was flawless through a competition where even the top names were having difficulty landing their tricks. His final tricks was a smooth, double corked 1260 where he held his grab and crossed his skis almost to the point where he landed. Without Osada's switch 1440 it would have been the winning jump.