Words by Milo McSenderson
The SLVSH Cup Grandvalira has cemented itself as one of the biggest events in the competition calendar, whilst throwing all traditional competition formats out the window. Utilising the age-old rules of S.K.A.T.E has made the always incredible free content from Joss Christensen and co. so popular over the last few years. The SLVSH Cup became an athlete and fan favourite very quickly, reffed by the pros themselves, and being all about stomping a trick rather than nailing every single aspect of a precise run to be crowned victor. The Granvdalira Cup, now in its fourth year takes place in the recently renamed Henrik Harlaut Snowpark, known for its creative rails and seemingly infinite lines, coupled with an absolutely stacked crew of riders this is going to go off!
I’m going to take a look at the runners and riders for the event, and then make some wild predictions. As always, SLVSH do a great job at bringing in riders at the top of the tree whilst also throwing in some less than well-known names into the list. Bringing exposure to some of the sickest riders we’ve never heard of, just take a look at their East Coast series from the start of the season. But without further delay, this is the lineup:
Hunter Hess (@hunterhess10) – Hunter, 20, fulfilled the spot of “rider I’ve never heard of” for me last year, and he killed it. Fending off Ethan Swadburg and Johan Berg to eventually be knocked out in a 13-minute* battle by king Henrik. Hess is no longer a dark horse. The U.S. halfpipe skier has made waves since since; from Superunknown finalist to his self-season cut that blew up on the SLVSH’s very own website (http://www.slvsh.com/posts/999). Hess is a techy rail skier and a force to be reckoned with in this year’s cup, keep an eye out for some serious dub flat rotations off whatever quarter pipe style features they have set up. A strong opponent for anyone to face.
Finn Bilous (@finnbilous) – Finn, 19, is a member of the Kiwi dynasty snapping at the heels of the Wells family (check out his brother Hank who competes in freeride). This is Finn’s SLVSH debut so it’s hard to tell how deep his bag of tricks will turn out to be against some of the more seasoned and creative riders in the cup. This isn’t to say his opponents will have an easy ride. Finn is one of the most stylish riders on the comp scene at the moment and sure to not back down from any first tries that come his way. Keep your eyes peeled for any cork 5 blunts Finn does, there’s a few on his Instagram that’d make even Jossi Wells weak at the knees.
Quinn Wolferman (@quinnwolferman) – Quinn, 21, has been on the come up for a few years now, it’s safe to say he has staked his claim as one of the best riders in the world. As part of Armada’s stacked crew, and fighting a true battle in last year’s final against Henrik, it’s safe to say Quinn is probably the favourite for this year’s cup. Although given the nature of the beast I don’t think it’s ever safe to name a favourite. Quinn’s previous SLVSH appearances rarely disappoint, check out this classic Park City clash with Colby Stevenson (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S89kfEkPNjc) for a true flavour of what’s to come. I predict that Quinn is going to do some serious damage with his left and right 450s on with a safety grab held through the spin and the rail. His jump game is consistent as all hell too.
Taisei Yamamoto (@tasiei.yamamoto0716) – Taisei, 17, came on to my radar in the build-up to the Olympics as one to watch, at 17 years old, Taisei is the youngest rider in the field. Hailing from Japan, and also on his SLVSH debut, it’s going to be very exciting to see what he pulls out of the locker. Super techy on the rails, (check his Instagram for Wallisch-esque future spins) and consistent competition dubs are most of what I’ve seen of Taisei.
This all fills me with excitement for what other rotations he has on lock and how he’s going to approach this year’s park. His first match-up against Hunter Hess is going to be a battle; very similar rail tech and comp pedigree should make for great Round 1 viewing.
Colby Stevenson (@colbey_stevenson) – Colby, 21, is another heavyweight in the line-up for this SLVSH cup and if you haven’t already watched his battle with Quinn (he throws a backflip dub nose for fun in there somewhere) go and do that now!! Colby is another U.S. team rider and it shows in his deep bag of tricks and consistency that will make him hard to beat. Gnarly car crash survivor, SLVSH Cup Ruka winner and all round big sender, Stevenson is a title spot contender.
Jesper Tjäder (@jespertjader) – Jesper, 24, is known throughout the ski world as one of the most creative, insane and down-right awesome park skiers in the game. Releasing video segments that wouldn’t be out of place in a video game, skiing on sand dunes and throwing doubles over gaps nobody even thought to hit at Nine Knights. Jesper is going to throw down the weird and wacky in offence and stay consistent in defence too. The infinite line choice of the Henrik Harlaut Snowpark is going to play into his style I’d imagine and we’ll definitely get some surprises out of him during the course of the event. Here are some of his best YouTube clips to give you a flavour for his madness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DioVNaipVI, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQVWrkFVgtA
Emil “The Child” Granbom (@emilgranbom) – Emil, 21, is no stranger to hard fought games of SLVSH. His three-part epic against Hugo Burvall, also competing in Grandvalaria this year, is the stuff of legend and I urge you to check out the trilogy (here’s hoping there’s a 4th and 5th edition). Drawing a tough opening game at last year’s cup (you guessed it, against Henrik) we didn’t get to see Emil stick around in the bracket long enough to see his full potential in Peretol. This year he’s drawn a tough first opponent again in Jesper but if cuts from his appearances at Kimbosessions and his games again Hugo are anything to go by he won’t be going down without a fight.
Hugo v Emil:
(Kim Boberg refs them all and it’s all the better for it)
Mark Henrikson (@mark_hendy) – Mark, 20, from Canada takes the position in the bracket of “skier I haven’t heard of before,” sorry dude! But fear not! Being the rigorous journalist I am I hit the go button on google and did some research. Unsurprisingly, given that he’s been invited to a SLVSH cup, the guy rips. His 2017 cut from a three-week trip to NZ (https://www.newschoolers.com/videos/watch/844836/Mark-Hendrickson---NZ-Footy) removes any doubt of that fact, it’s great watching, and in all honesty I thought it was a season edit. Mark has drawn one of the behemoths of the bracket in the first round, Colby, so I’m hoping he’s brought some consistency to go with his clean both ways spins and rail tech from down under to the Andorran battleground, and can spoil a whole array of brackets in Round 1.
Vincent Gagnier AKA Vinny Cash (@vincentgagnier) – Vinny, 25, is the oldest rider in the group but that doesn’t make him any less fierce. A seasoned comp vet known for his arsenal of weird grabs performed with both hands and poles. Crazy axes and just general mind bending wizardry. Be sure to watch Vinny wrong-footing opponents with tricks they can’t wrap their heads around. I’m super excited to see what he has in store for the sunset park. Truly one of the greats blessing this SLVSH Cup.
Fun Fact #1: His older brother Charles invented the Octo grab that Woodsy has made a staple in his comp runs.
Fun Fact #2: Vincent Gagnier and one of the AJ boys are Eskimo brothers… but which one?
Hugo Burvall (@hugoburvall) – Hugo, 21, is the other half of the greatest SLVSH trilogy there ever was. This Swedish sorcerer is going to be pulling out some heat in the Sunset Park, now a seasoned SLVSH veteran and seriously making a name for himself all around the ski world. Hugo has a very unique perspective on skiing and has a locker filled to the brim with tricky presses, taps and butters that can be a real challenge in defence and could see him go a long way in this cup and not forgetting his 15-minute* battle with A Hall in last year’s SLVSH Cup, Burvall isn’t one to underestimate in your bracket, and is certainly one to watch on all of the social medias.
Ferdinand Dahl (@ferdinandahl) – Ferdi, 20, is part of the Norwegian contingent in Grandvalaria. With a bronze medal in slopestyle at X-Games’ Aspen stop this year and a facemelting Kimbosessions edit Ferdi will be bringing a new wave flavour to the competition. Keep your eyes peeled for the iPod Shuffle on his goggle strap as well as some funky shuffles on snow. Ferdi competed in 2018’s Andorran rendition of the SLVSH Cup but did not trouble the scorers being knocked out early by Johan Berg. Recently however, a matchup between him and Quinn Wolferman (2018 Grandvalira Finalist) this tuned out to be one for the history books. Both throwing down hard and a 20-minute* offering. Ferdi will be bringing the heat this year and his creative grab selection may unstick even the most seasoned vets.
Watch the Quinn v Ferdi battle here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DAYHAPhOcc
Birk Irving (@birkirving) – Birk, 19, is flying almost straight from Mammoth where he secured first place in halfpipe for team USA (Birk’s sensational run https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGIM8IGaisw) and saw his SLVSH debut against fellow pipe slayer Hunter Hess, losing with an unrepresentative scoreboard. Birk has the great combination of interesting axes to play with, a versatile style and all the missing screws that are par for the course of halfpipe skiers meaning he’ll be tough to beat. Hailing from Winter Park he is no stranger to large and creative parks. I’m very excited to see what he brings to the table this year.
Østein Bråten (@oysteinbraten) – Østein, 23, and Norway’s Olympic slopestyle gold medallist has some serious competition pedigree; 2x X-Games slopestyle golds and 2x X-Games big air podiums, Bråten with bring his consistency and style to proceedings. As well as killing the comp game Østein puts out killer video parts with Fast Laps (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1T_YUFJqmps ) where rail wizardry is the norm. One for letting his skiing doing the talking we’re gonna see some fire from the Norwegian. Watch out for awesome grab combos such as hit blunt to blunt which he puts into his double corks with apparent ease and also helped him secure the gold in PyeongChang. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKVnYI6f6rA
Johan Berg (@johanberg95) – Johan, 23, turning 24 during the competition, competed for team Norway in the 2012 Olympics, and is no stranger to the SLVSH field. Johan’s last sojourn into the Grandvalira cup saw a very sportsmanlike display in the quarter finals against Hunter Hess, where he showed the ability to send new stunts and really push himself, showing the true spirit of SLVSH; to test your bag of tricks against others at the top of their game and be pushed out of your comfort zone. No doubt Johan will push his opponents into unfamiliar territory over the coming weeks.
Max Moffat (@maxmoffattt) – Max, 20, almost certainly takes the crown for the blondest competitor this year, and probably one of the nicest too (I’m sad Tom Ritsch isn’t competing because he’s both super blonde and one of the nicest sounding blokes ever). Anyway, objectifying skiers over, Max has been impressive for a number of years now, competing for Canada and regularly slaying the Whistler park are business as usual for Max. Rail skills are up there with the best and are going to make him a tricky customer in the Mecca of rail parks. Max made it to the consolation final of the early season SLVSH Cup in Ruka last year and showed what he’s got to throw around.
Oscar Wester (@oscarwester) – Oscar, 23, for so long in the shadow of his older brother Jacob, but this two-time Olympian has made a name for himself over the years. Comp jock was always Oscar’s true calling but he’s been wrangled into the SLVSH cup this year and he’s sure to blow some minds. His last SLVSH appearance was against Jesper in Persiher in another all-time classic game (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHX5Z9ZvLBo). Comp consistency may help him stay on top of the bracket but he’ll have to adapt fast to the varied styles this competition has rolling around in it to take the W.
Notable Omissions from the Squad:
Henrik Harlaut – crowned victor last year in a park bearing his own name, it’s a shame to not see him defending his title but it gives a fair chance to the others I guess. Arr Arr Arr!
Alex Hall – Without the big man A Hall, the seatbelt japan and in air pretzel count for the tournament is going to be way down, my only hope is that Vincent Gagnier will step up the wacky factor for us and blow some minds.
James Woodsy – although I hear from Danny Warley’s Instagram that they’re heading over for it it’s gonna be a damn shame he’s not competing. Let’s hope he’s reffing every god damn game coz he’s the best ref. End of.
Unfeatured rider to watch – Jake Carney (@jcpeggy) spends a lot of time behind the camera for SLVSH and usually gets on the other side of the lens for a few gnarly transfers. Jake is one you want to be following, always, but especially over the coming weeks. Also, this mention is an excuse to put my favourite edit of all time in. Jake totally murdering the Whis park!
*any game above 10-minutes YouTube time has taken a long time in the park and is usually considered a well fought out battle.
My pregame predictions that will undoubtedly become unstuck by the usual curveballs SLVSH games throw at us 👇
The schedule for games hasn't been released yet, but we know it's gonna be soon - so keep an eye out on the SLVSH insta, then sit back and enjoy the show. PEACE.