Winter blast once again affects FIS world championships, but USA’s Goepper takes bronze in ski slopestyle

Third place finisher Nicholas Goepper, of the United States celebrates on the podium following the men's slopestyle skiing world championship Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019, in Park City, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The world’s top slopestyle skiers went up against more than just the field on Wednesday. They not only battled a massive storm that dumped multiple feet of snow in the Park City area, but also gusty winds that kept them from soaring as high and as confidently as they normally do.

The men’s ski slopestyle event was forced to cram a day of qualifiers and finals runs into one jam-packed day of skiing Wednesday due to the early part of the storm that rolled in Tuesday.

James Woods of Great Britain won the gold medal Wednesday afternoon with a score of 86.68, while Norway’s Birk Ruud (85.40) finished with the silver. Two-time American Olympic medalist Nick Goepper (85.18) finished third. Park City’s McRae Williams, the reigning 2017 world champion entering Wednesday’s competition, finished seventh overall.

“It was a bit of a wild day,” Woods said. “Today was a pretty close call if it was going to be fair enough for us … I lucked out a little bit.”

On the slopestyle course at Park City Village, athletes were unable to take off and throw the sort of tricks they’re accustomed to doing with medals on the line due to the freshness of the snow and the winds at the top of the course that blew some skiers off balance during movements on the rail portions of the course.

“Although we got the contest off, really I think in this type of weather it’s about competing and not necessarily about the skiing, if you know what I mean,” Goepper said. “There’s a lot more strategy involved just with the runs you choose to do if you’re going forward or switch into the jumps, because you tend to get more speed when you go forward.”

The winter storm that socked the state forced world championship organizers to again cancel a second event in as many days as FIS announced late Wednesday evening that the women’s ski slopestyle championship event will not be taking place. The women’s ski slopestyle event was initially postponed Wednesday due to weather. The snowboard big air event was cancelled at Canyons Village Tuesday evening.

"The FIS, the organizing committee of the 2019 world championships and the host venue, Park City Mountain, had formulated a proposal to reschedule the competition for consideration by all the event stakeholders, but the complexities were such that it simply was not viable,” said Calum Clark, chair of the world championship organizing committee. "With the sheer amount of hard work and planning that has gone into every event at these world champs, it’s obviously incredibly disappointing to have to move plans around, and to have to cancel such exciting competitions, not just for those involved in putting on these events, but in particular for the athletes.”

The men’s and women’s aerials world championships continued as scheduled Wednesday evening at Deer Valley Resort. Aliaksandra Ramanouskaya of Belarus won the women’s gold medal, while Russia’s Liubov Nikitina won silver. China’s Xu Mengtao took bronze. Park City resident and American Ashley Caldwell finished fifth overall.

Russia’s Maxim Burov won the men’s gold medal, while Oleksandr Abramenko of Ukraine took home the silver. Switzerland’s Noe Roth won bronze. The team aerials event is scheduled to take place Thursday night at Deer Valley Resort.

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