The 2014 Aspen X Games is fast approaching, which means it's time agin for this - the now annual Real Snow contest. If you haven't seen this before, here's the score: Eight of the world's top jibbers are invited to submit a minute long video.
A team of judges watches all the videos and during the X Games, hand out gold, silver and bronze medals to the top three.
But that's not all. There's also an award for a "Fan Favourite". The riders' names are also drawn from a hat, and their movies then go head to head in a squash-ladder-style contest, with the results of each round being decided by online voting.
Oh and these days there's actually a jib jam at the games as well with more medals up for grabs, but we'll forget about that for the minute 'cos it merely over-complicates matters.
What you really want to know (let's face it) is what's in the videos, and who we think will win right? So let's go - here they are, round by round, with our predictions.
[part title="Bode Merrill vs. Frank April"]
A heavyweight bout to kick things off here. American Bode was given the bronze by the judges last year, while Quebecois Frank April won the "fan favourites" voting award. What will they bring to the table this time around?
Well here's Bode Merrill...
...and here's Frank April's part.
Both of these are seriously impressive. As you might expect Frank (who hails from a province where they seem to have more sick shred-spots per capita than anywhere else on earth) has the lion's share of dramatic-looking spots.
But we reckon when it comes down to online voting, the "crazy" tricks factor is probably more important - think how popular Scotty Vine or Scott Stevens' parts are online. And (as well as his undoubted technical ability) Bode has that in spades - just look at the rodeo to rail or the one-footed miller flip at the end. Mental. Our money's on Bode.
[part title="Dylan Thompson vs. Louif Paradis"]
Dylan Thompson may be a rookie to this competition, but he's got previous when it comes to producing popular online vids - this much-watched vimeo vid, was responsible for launching him into the big leagues. Louif though won last year's gold medal.
Here's Dylan first.
A sick section, with some original looking spots (we'd love to know where some of this is filmed) and a sweet combination of tech tricks, insane tricks, and properly solid style. Now here's Louif...
In any other matchup here we'd like to think Dylan would win, but against a part that opens with that front 7? We're not sure he can. Louif is as technical as always, and somehow manages to shred a whole bunch of previously unseen spots in and around his hometown. It's crazy, we've been to Quebec, it's not that big - where the hell does he find all these places?
He also of course has the established reputation as a core shredder's favourite. We're predicting Louif to take it here, and assuming he does, we'd back him to win the vote against Bode Merrill in the second round too.
[part title="Forest Bailey vs. Dan Brisse"]
Forest, recently picked up by Adidas, wasn't in last year's contest and will be looking to make his mark here. Unfortunately he's been drawn against Dan Brisse, a veteran and last year's silver medallist.
Let's see what he's got though eh?
Some nice tech tricks in his signature, instantly recognisable style there. As they say, no one snowboards like Forest Bailey. But then here's what he's up against from Brisse...
And we have to say we can't see this one gong any other way than a Brisse victory. Forest's part is sick, no question, with some cool combos and stuff, but as he's proved many times before, Dan Brisse is a bona-fide nutcase. And if there's one man you don't want to meet in a fight, it's a man with absolutely zero regard for his own personal safety.
We reckon Brisse could well be in with a shout for a judge's medal here too...
[part title="Eiki Helgason vs. Jaeger Bailey"]
Eiki Helgason, the token Euro in this year's competition, has been drawn against another Real Snow rookie, Jaeger Bailey. Both are known for their creative flair
so this will be interesting.
Here's Eiki's 60-second offering to the X Games gods (aka the judges)...
Versus this from Jaeger Bailey.
As much as we love Jaeger's original take on tricks (that opener is pretty entertainingly odd!) we have to say Eiki's is just a better part all-round here. More technically accomplished (check the front 180 to switch nosepress followed by the back three on at 0.23) and boasts better spots. We'd give it to Eiki, whether the (largely American) public will agree with us remains to be seen.
If we'e right and it comes down to an Eiki vs. Brisse semi-final though, we reckon Brisse will probably win the vote. And then Brisse vs. Louif in a popularity contest for the "fans favourite?" That'd be a tough one to call but we'd give it to Louif... just.
As for who the judges will award their medals to? Having watched all of these we're calling Brisse then Louif (in that order) with a surprise bronze for Dylan Thompson. Of course, we're probably completely wrong though.
But we've said it now, so you can check back here as the competition continues and see just how wrong we were. Oh, and if you want to alter the "fan favourite" outcome yourself, head on over to the ESPN website and get voting!