SNOWBOARD Preview: Kim leads strong fields in Laax Open for Halfpipe and Slopestyle

Chloe Kim celebrates her 2018 Olympic Snowboard Halfpipe win (Photo by Jon Gaede)

One of the popular stops on the FIS World Cup Tour is Laax (SUI) for the annual Laax Open, and 2019 is no exception.

Both Halfpipe and Slopestyle competitions will be held for men and women, with qualifications beginning on Wednesday and concluding on the 19th (Saturday).

The Halfpipe entries are led by American Chloe Kim, the Olympic gold medalist from PyeongChang, plus teammates Arielle Gold (Olympic bronze) and Maddie Mastro, who was second to Kim in the season opener at Copper Mountain. China’s Xuetong Cai, bronze medalist in PyeongChang and winner at Secret Garden (CHN) in late December, is also among the favorites.

The men’s Halfpipe favorites include Olympic bronze medalist and 2017 World Champion Scotty James (AUS), 2017 Worlds silver medalist Iouri Podladtchikov (SUI), and current-season World Cup medalists Yuto Totsuka (JPN), Jan Scherrer (SUI), Ruka Hirano (JPN) and Chase Josey (USA).

Podladtchikov won in Laax last season, followed by Totsuka, while China’s Jiayu Liu and Cai went 1-2 for the women.

In Slopestyle, Olympic Big Air gold medalist Anna Gasser (AUT) leads the field, which also includes Olympic Slopestyle silver medalist Laurie Blouin (CAN) and bronze medalist Enni Rukajarvi (FIN). Japan’s Reira Iwabuchi, second last week in the season opener in China and Norway’s Silje Norendal, third last week at Kreischberg (AUT), will also be contenders.

The men’s field isn’t quite as strong, with last season’s World Cup champion and last week’s silver medalist in Kreischberg, Chris Corning (USA) and 2017 World Big Air Champion Staale Sandbech (NOR) among the expected contenders.

Last year’s Slopestyle events were canceled due to bad weather. Rukajarvi won in 2017, ahead of Gasser in the women’s competition and Canada’s Max Parrot won the men’s event.

Look for results here.