Say what you want about the legitimacy of FIS-run competitions, but there is something undeniably exciting about watching British freestyle riders taking on some of the best in the world, as a team, and bossing it.
There is something even more exciting about the growing feeling that – with slopestyle as part of the Olympics – the UK now has several riders capable of representing, and I mean really representing, our snowboard scene on the biggest sporting stage of all.
This was certainly the feeling I got watching the men’s qualifying at the FIS Snowboard World Championships at Stoneham, just outside Quebec City, today.
Billy Morgan (a man who seems to have that trickiest of tricks, the cab double cork, so on lock he could do it in his sleep) qualified straight through to the finals. He finished second in his heat behind none other than multiple X Games medallist Mark McMorris.
In heat two, Jamie Nicholls stomped his first run clean and finished fifth, earning himself a place in tomorrow’s morning semi-finals.
Although Nate Kern unfortunately couldn’t hold on to either of his runs (and took a nasty-looking tumble on the second) Sam Turnbull rounded out the day with a solid performance in heat four, narrowly missing out on a semi-final place himself.
That might be all very well by itself but it’s the company these boys are keeping that really puts things into perspective.
Billy finished a full five places above Peetu Piiroinen. Yep, that’s the three-time TTR world champion, Olympic silver-medallist and the man-who-never-ever-falls Peetu Piiroinen.
Sam was one place away from qualifying alongside Janne Korpi, with Marco Grilc several places below him.
The conditions were far from easy either. The day dawned bright and clear, but there was a lot of wind, delaying the start of the comp.
It was also bitterly cold (cold enough to freeze camera shutters!) making the kickers, which were already effing enormous, into downright scary behemoths of sheet ice.
Chatting to the boys it seemed the course is well-enough shaped, but still a far cry from the scrupulously sculpted kickers at the Aspen X Games or the smooth transitions of Laax, home to the Burton European Open.
Those events may have their advantages, but their preference for invited rider lists (usually based on reputation and/or sponsors) mean we rarely get to see Brits competing on an equal footing with the biggest names in the sport.
The FIS World Championships qualifying may not have been perfect. But it helped prove that if you take invitations out of the equation and start everybody off from the same point, the British Freestyle Team is more than capable of holding it down with the biggest names in the business.
Whitelines will be back up at Stoneham tomorrow following Jamie and Billy’s progress through the semis and final, as well as the women’s slopestyle qualifying. We’ll also be watching Ben Kilner and Dom Harington in the halfpipe for the UK. Check out our twitter feed for slopeside updates on the action as it happens.
Oh and for the full lowdown of who came what and where today, have a look at the FIS live-scoring site here.