In 2016, street skiing is finally getting its long overdue, X-Games-sized recognition.
There has been a “Real Ski” event at the X Games for a few years now, but past competitions have tasked skiers with creating a 90-second video part in the backcountry. This year, they’ve switched up the format to highlight six of the top street skiers in the world right now.
Street skiing is a different kind of gnarly than big mountain skiing, with very different inherent dangers and obstacles, anyone who’s tried to get a shot on an urban rail will tell you that, like big mountain and backcountry skiing, it’s an incredibly demanding, logistically complicated, and all-too-often dangerous activity.
In skateboarding, no “pro” will ever be taken seriously in the core skateboarding community until they’ve put out a heavy street segment—no matter how many Street League podiums they climb onto, or how big their Monster Energy contract is. While skiing is certainly far, far away from emphasizing the importance of the street video (unlike skateboarding, and to a slightly lesser extent, snowboarding), “X-Games Real Street” is a big step at getting this discipline into the public fore.
The following is nothing more than my opinion on the six submissions to the inaugural street-skiing edition of X Games Real Ski.
Right off the bat, one could make a case that Ahmet Dadali has created the most well-rounded and diverse entry of the six contestants. His part has impressive, straightforward technicality, including a blind 360 switch-up on a flat-down rail, and an underflip off of a tight, quick up rail at a baseball field. He brought creativity as well as quality spot selection, exemplified by the wall transition to a down rail in the third clip, a hand drag through an 8-kink rail, and a wild curved wall-ride. Finally, he came out with a series of really heavy tricks, including a cork 7 on a large fence gap, a few different huge close-out rails and wall rides, and that massive rail on a billboard. It took me a few viewings to truly appreciate just how diverse Ahmet’s segment really is.
The only skier that could really match Ahmet’s versatility and well-roundedness was Tom Wallisch, whose part came complete with impressive trick and spot selection and technicality. Three different large, unique rail transfers particularly impressed me, as well as both way blind 450s out of very tall, high-consequence features, and both way 450s onto handrails.
Will Wesson’s part is far and away the most creative of the lot, and probably has the most re-watching power. Will demonstrates that there really isn’t a surface he can’t slide, as if he’s gotten bored with traditional rail skiing and is constantly looking for new challenges. Highlights include him sliding a metal chain, then hopping over a ledge onto another metal chain to 270 out, airing through a tree onto a rail, and then following that with airing off a high close-out through a tree on his way off to end his part. Most impressively, Will took arguably the most played-out spot in the whole contest (the SLC Rail Gardens down rail) and did a switch lipslide to underslide on the second half of the rail – a trick I don’t think anyone has ever done anywhere.
Hot off the success of his two-year street-skiing project, “Houligan,” JF Houle is making a case that he’s still one of the best urban skiers on the planet. His part is also remarkably well rounded with massive wall-rides, technicality on huge hand rails, and the two closing shots put a big exclamation point on a generally gnarly part. The 270 on, 270 off of a roughly 30-foot high flat rail jutting out from a 3-story building makes you believe that it’s the ending shot of his part. But JF follows it up with a disaster nose butter 630 onto a double kink. Absolute madness.
Clayton Vila and Cam Riley
Clayton Vila and Cam Riley’s parts are both very solid, like everything they’ve put out in the past seven years. They’ve been working together in the streets for many years now, and they both have a clear vision as to how they want their skiing portrayed. Both videos feature great spot selection, skate and snowboard-influenced skiing style, and top-notch video production.
Cam brings vintage Cam Riley burliness with his disaster on the classic Minnesota four-kink, and a doozy of a lip 270 to switch on a really long down rail. And Clayton’s right-side lip 450 on the rail gardens double set makes a really scary, gnarly trick look easy.
The thing is, since they’ve both put out arguably the best street parts ever (see Clayton’s section in “Mutiny” and Cam’s section in “NetWork,” both by Stept Productions), it’s only natural to judge both of these parts against their respective high-water marks. Cam has pulled off so many insane stunts over the years that I can only imagine it’s becoming increasingly difficult—and terrifying—to continue to outdo himself.
Clayton has numerous jaw-dropping shots in his part (particularly the enormous blunt slide on a high closeout above a building, the backflip ender for the boys, and the disaster on a huge double kink toward the end of his part immediately come to mind), but I couldn’t ignore the fact that every single shot in his part was a left foot forward rail slide.
Voting for the X-Games 2016 Real Ski “Fan Favorite” closes Sunday, February 21.