It was a long time coming.
After nearly two years away from competition, Simon d'Artois returned to the X Games pipe on Jan. 27.
Though the 2015 champion didn't have quite the return he was hoping for — finishing ninth after posting a best run of 31.33 — it was a relief just to be there.
"It felt really good to be back. I was so happy to be competing, so happy to be at X Games, and just happy to be skiing again," he said.
It's been a trying couple years for the Whistlerite, who turned 25 on Jan. 26. At the end of the 2014-15 season, he suffered an ACL/MCL injury that kept him out of the following campaign. Just as he was amping up for this season in September, he suffered a broken ankle that added to the frustration.
"The first year and a half was not too bad. The knee injury was a huge setback and I missed the full season, but as springtime came around, from about March to the end of August, I got some really good skiing done and some really good training in," he said. "I built up my confidence again and learned one new trick and I'm working on another new trick to add into my run."
However, that progress was halted by the broken ankle, which compressed d'Artois' timeline and made him focus all his efforts on recovering, as opposed to crafting his tricks.
"Breaking my ankle at the end of September was definitely a huge setback. Coming back from that injury was a little bit more difficult just because of the timeframe. I had to be at an X Games level of competition by (January), which was about four months away. It was a little bit difficult," he said. "The bone healed in about six weeks and then (I was) getting everything else working in about three months.
"Getting to an X Games level (in the pipe) in about two and a half weeks was a difficult challenge, but I wasn't putting myself under too much pressure because (with) X Games being the first competition back, I just wanted to do my best and not stress too much about it."
Being able to return at a familiar place with some happy memories was welcome for d'Artois, as it provided some comfort to be able to slip back in.
"It's nice being at X Games. In that sense, it takes a bit of the stress off. I'm happy to be there. I'm happy to be hanging out with everybody who's there," he said. "The dropping-in part, it wasn't too bad. It was like I had jumped right back into it."
While d'Artois is feeling almost ideal physically, it's just a matter of getting those precise little details back in his runs, which he hopes will come quickly as the season progresses.
"As the season goes on, I'm going to gain confidence in my skiing and get back to where I was," he said. "I can ski. I can do my tricks the way that I want to do them. It's just about the confidence and being able to throw them when I want to in every sort of situation. I'm almost there."
Both of d'Artois' new tricks are right-side doubles and will increase the difficulty of his run. The one in progress is a switch right double 1080 that he hopes to have ready for next season.
"Hopefully I'll be able to work on that one a little more as the season goes on, and in training camps, and I can incorporate it into my run next year," he said.
Even with his injury challenges, d'Artois said he hasn't changed any of his goals — he's still determined to use the remaining four events to punch his ticket to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. His next event is this weekend at California's Mammoth Mountain.
"This being the qualifying season, I wanted to be able to perform at 100 per cent and be able to secure my spot this year instead of having to do it the year before the Olympics. I'll be working hard at that," he said.
Aaron Blunck, Miguel Porteous and Noah Bowman were the men's superpipe ski medallists in Aspen.
A number of Canadians ended up with medals at this year's X Games. Williams Lake's Brock Hoyer took the snow bike-cross gold, while Cody Matechuk of Cochrane, Alta. was third. In the men's snowboard superpipe, Bromont, Que.'s Max Parrot captured gold and Regina's Mark McMorris snagged the bronze. McMorris took a second bronze in the slopestyle event, while North Bay, Ont.'s Tyler Nicholson scored the silver. As for the men's ski slopestyle event, Alex Beaulieu-Marchand of Quebec City earned the bronze while in the snowmobile best trick final, Kamloops' Brett Turcotte placed second.
As for other locals, in the women's ski superpipe, Cassie Sharpe ended up in seventh.