Zhangjiakou, China • If the slopestyle course at Genting Snow Park was a canvas, Alex Hall was Picasso.
Using his own form of expressionism, the Park City skier claimed the Olympic gold medal in men’s slopestyle, the U.S. freeski team’s first individual gold of the Beijing 2022 Olympics.
Friend and fellow Parkite Nick Goepper took the silver, giving him two silvers and a bronze in his career and putting him on the podium in every Olympics he’s been to. Jesper Tjader of Sweden, also appearing in his third Olympics, took the bronze.
The third Park City athlete in the contest, Colby Stevenson, placed seventh a week after collecting the silver in big air.
Hall said he’s not much of a morning person, plus he and the other competitors were dealing with temperatures around minus-7 degrees, despite the bright sunshine. Still, he opened with what he called “definitely the best run I’ve ever done, by far” and set the bar high with a score of 90.01. Within that run were several tricks he said he had only recently learned. They included a nosebutter with a knuckle huck on his second jump and, at the end, a 900 pretzel — which required him to stop a spin mid-turn and reverse it to the opposite direction.
Hall let out a thrilled whoop upon completing the run, then buried his head in the crash pads in disbelief.
“You want to win a gold medal, but part of the love of this whole thing is just getting to do whatever the hell you want to do out there as much as trying to win 100%,” Hall said. “I mean, that’s why we all ski is because of the freedom and the creativity we’re allowed.
“And definitely when you compete, it’s easy to kind of try to fit the mold in a certain way. And that’s why I think this win is the most special way in my career, because I just did exactly what I wanted to do. I didn’t do anything for the judges. I did what I thought would be the most fun on the course, and I’m glad it put me in first.”
Hall, 23, entered the event as a formidable competitor with a No. 2 World Cup ranking in both slopestyle and big air.
Goepper, who at 29 is the oldest slopestyle athlete to win an Olympic medal, also got rewarded for letting his creativity shine through. He was one of the few, along with Stevenson, who rode a rail across a feature built like a Buddhist temple
“I know that some of my big air tricks aren’t up to par, especially compared to [big air gold medalist] Birk Ruud or Alex Hall,” Goepper said. “So I think I had to separate myself in some other way.”
The event is the last one of these Olympics for the slopestyle skiers.