The 16th annual Showcase Showdown came down to three women, three men and one run for all the marbles — the marbles being cash prizes, luggage from Dakine, helmets by Sandbox and zombie-themed trophies that featured a zombie arm holding up one, two or three fingers for first, second or third place.
The theme for this year's event was a "Night of the Living Shred" big air contest, complete with zombie mannequins, ripped bibs and tombstone banners lining the course. It was a fitting theme in some ways: competitors pulled out everything they had for the après ski crowd in some tough conditions — Jesse Millen's double backflips were particularly gutsy — and crashes left a lot of competitors limping off course, zombie-style, although no serious injuries took place.
In the women's competition the win went to Breanna Stangeland, a member of the national team who had been doing her own zombie walk in recent weeks. She is a national level slopestle athlete, and used the Showdown to springboard herself back onto the World Cup tour after being sidelined with a serious injury.
"I'm just coming off an injury so I was pretty nervous," she said. "I broke my vertebrae and my tailbone. I cased a jump at the world championships in Quebec... so I'm glad to come back and win."
Stangeland had only been back on snow for four days before winning her first Showdown title. She has finished second and third in the contest before, but missed the last couple of years and has never won the event.
She landed a backside 360 with a stale grab, which might seem like a simple trick but conditions were tough and the female competitors had to go flat out just to clear the top of the table and make the transition.
"It was raining pretty bad (in the qualifier) but you could count on the jump being good," she said. "It wasn't scary, you just needed to pick up speed for it, which was hard, and you had to wipe your goggles right before you hit the jump so you could see the landing and avoid hitting the knuckle."
After the event, Stangeland said she was looking forward to joining the national team overseas for the last two events on the World Cup calendar, including the World Cup finals in Spain. Slopestyle is now an Olympic sport, and Stangeland will be contending for one of Canada's spots in 2014.
As the first place woman she earned $1,000, while Gillian Andrewshenko walked away with $500. Third place, Carly Scott, won sponsor prizes.
In the men's event, Marc-Andre Tremblay was the only superfinalist to land his trick, a switch front-side cab 900, to win $2,500 in cash and more in prizes.
Although you never want your competitors to get hurt, Tremblay said he couldn't help but cheer when his competitors struggled in the last round.
"For me it was good to see people falling, even if we don't like to fall," he said with a laugh. "In this type of contest, when it's a battle like this, it's kind of nice to see people fall."
Last year it was a different story, he said, and he was the rider who crashed out of medal contention.
Tremblay gave the event crew high marks for all their work to keep the course buff in the challenging conditions.
"It was pretty bad this morning (with the rain), but in the afternoon it was really good with the crews putting salt on the in-run. The guys scraping the jump did a really good job to get us through to the final," he said.
Tremblay is not currently sponsored, but will head to the TTR Canadian Shield series slopestyle event at Mount Seymour next week. His goal is to do well at that contest and earn an invite to the five-star TTR events being held in Whistler during the World Ski and Snowboard Festival as part of The Shred Show.
Matt Belzile placed second in the contest after over-rotating his last trick, a tweaked-out backside 1080 that could have taken the top prize.
"All my friends are telling me I should have gone for a safe trick, but I went for the glory and got second," he said with a shrug.
Belzile is more of a backcountry rider these days, and only decided to enter the contest the day before the contest after seeing the jump and deciding it would be fun.
Belzile earned $1,000 while Tremblay took home $2,500. Third place finisher Nathan Therriault won a sponsor prize pack.
Rounding out the top 12 were Jon Versteeg, Martin Juareguialzo, Chaise Baines, Jesse Millen, Jason Wexler, Logan Haubrich, Duncan Mainland, Aaron Santos and Andre Benoit.