Norwegians flip to the top at Hafjell’s extreme skiing and snowboarding event

Photo: Nick Guise-Smith / ESPN Images
Silje Norendal competing in women’s snowboard slopestyle during X Games. She had a disappointing day of slopestyle, but won big air the following day.

Molly Jones
The Norwegian American

Norway’s top snowboarders and freestyle skiers were undoubtedly feeling the pressure as they performed all kinds of super tricks in front of their families and friends at X Games Norway this March 8 to 11.

This competition marked only the second time that the extreme sports event has been held in the country known for its winter sports prowess, following a successful X Games Oslo last year.

“It is very nice to see that the interest is the same for Hafjell. Most of the tickets were sold before we released a single artist’s name,” said head of X Games Norway Henning Andersen about the event, which also includes concerts by popular artists. “For us it is cool to see that Norwegians want to experience X Games and see the big action sport stars up close.”

The event in Hafjell, a village and ski resort located in the county of Oppland, included slopestyle and big air competitions in both snowboarding and skiing for men and women with a total of eight gold medals up for grabs. In the slopestyle events, the athletes got two runs down the course—made up of a variety of obstacles—and earned points for their tricks, with the best score in a single run taking the gold. For big air, the skiers and snowboarders made as many jumps as they could in 23 minutes with the two best tricks contributing to their final score.

Following a historic success for Norway at the X Games Aspen in January, where the country managed to take four medals overall with two of them gold, the country was optimistic heading into the event on their home turf. As it turns out, they had every right to be!

In the first final of X Games Norway, in the women’s ski slopestyle, 19-year-old Johanne Killi managed to win the gold medal for Norway—also her first ever X Games gold.

Photo: Nick Guise-Smith / ESPN Images
Johanne Killi took her first X Games gold medal in the ski slopestyle event.

Killi was in the lead after her first run, scoring 85 points, but promised she had even more up her sleeves. Tess Ledeux of France then overtook the lead with 88 points, but Killi managed to take the gold with 90 points in an impressive second run that included technical rail tricks up top, a rightside 540 Japan, switch rightside 720 Japan, and a leftside 900 on her final jump. The home crowd erupted in cheers when her winning score was announced.

“It is unbelievably cool to land right in front of my family and friends. There is nothing better than that,” she said to TV 2. “I have skied and competed a lot this year, and I prepared myself mentally for this competition. I knew that there would be a lot of press here,” she added.

Keeping the momentum going, 21-year-old Øystein Bråten had a solid first run in the men’s ski slopestyle final, earning 90.33 points. He remained in the lead, and no one managed to beat his score—besides himself, that is. On his second run, he completed a switch on mistyflip Japan on the fence rail, a switch rightside double 1080 Japan, a switch leftside double 1260 tailgrab, and a double belly down flatspin 900 to beat his own score by one point and take the gold, the same medal he earned in Aspen this year.

“I don’t know how to explain it, but both times I have had good days. It is very fun to land in the way I wanted to,” he said to TV 2. “It is awesome to see so many people who are cheering and are stoked. There are more people than in Aspen, and that excites me.”

Photo: Nick Guise-Smith / ESPN Images
Øystein Bråten had full control over the competition in the men’s ski slopestyle.

And the home crowd was certainly rooting for Silje Norendal in the women’s snowboard slopestyle final the next day. With three X Games gold medals in the event under her belt, the 23-year-old was definitely a favorite. Norendal had an incredibly disappointing performance, however, falling in the final jump on both runs.

While big air is generally not her forte, Norendal was determined to excel after her slopestyle fiasco. She started off by landing an incredible cab 900, giving her the boost she needed. In the end her top-scoring jumps of 38 and 28 gave her a total of 66, edging out American Julia Marino by one point to take the gold.

“It means so much. Everyone saw my emotions yesterday, and yesterday sucked for me. I didn’t really expect to win big air, so finishing off my season with a win at home in front of everyone is… I have no words,” she said to ESPN.

Also earning spots on the podium for Norway were Ståle Sandbech with silver in the men’s snowboard slopestyle, Torgeir Bergrem with bronze in the men’s snowboard big air, and Eirik Sæterøy with silver in the men’s ski big air.

In all, Norway ended up with six medals in Hafjell—three gold, two silver, and one bronze—easily taking the title as the most successful country.

This article originally appeared in the April 7, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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