Alex Hall celebrates at the Visa Big Air on Dec. 21, 2019 in Atlanta.
ATLANTA – Alex Hall had his game face on as he waited atop a 150-foot high scaffold for his final run at the Visa Big Air on Saturday night.
For Hall, that meant he wasn’t just grinning, he was laughing.
“I couldn’t help myself with how hyped the crowd was,” he said of the fans inside SunTrust Park, home of the Atlanta Braves baseball team. “I was in for the ride on that last one. On my third jump, I felt the least pressure. I wasn’t nervous at all.”
And yet the stakes couldn’t have been higher in this freeski world cup. Hall had a two-event big air winning streak – the X Games in Norway and a world cup in Modena, Italy – and needed to land the jump if he didn’t want to end up in fifth place.
Hall repeated the trick from his second round – a switch double cork 1800 seatbelt stale – which had already earned him 88.00 points.
“Actually I just learned that trick in the practice before the event,” said Hall, who had thrown a double cork 1620 seatbelt stale for 90.50 points in the first round.
He came down the ramp backwards, performed his two flips and five rotations as the crowd went wild and made a butter smooth backward landing.
Hall was laughing as his skis came to a stop and still enjoying himself as he waited for his score.
When 97.00 flashed on the screen, Hall said, “That was maybe one of the craziest moments of my life when I got that score right there and saw that I was in first after that.”
He took a bow as the crowd roared, and believes the score is the highest of his career.
However, Hall still had to wait for Elias Syrja of Finland, who was in the lead after two rounds.
When Syrja did not improve, Hall won with a total of 187.50 points—with his first and third runs counting—followed by Antoine Adelisse of France (186.50) and Teal Harle of Canada (185.25).
“Boys, that was psycho,” Hall said to his fellow medalists as they sat down for their press conference.
Added Adelisse, “It was an absolutely insane final, maybe the best I’ve ever seen.”
Hall had entered the final round in second place, but his competitors kept throwing bigger and bigger tricks.
“Usually when it’s on like that,” Hall said, “the pressure brings out the best in everyone, so everyone just started landing and it started going crazy. Once one person lands, I think everyone gets excited and stoked for them and it kind of is a chain reaction.”
Judges score athletes on difficulty, execution, amplitude and landing.
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“I knew I went a little bigger on it and did execute the trick better and I was really, really stoked to land,” Hall said. “I was excited waiting for the score. I wasn’t exactly sure how high they were going to go with it.”
He kept his streak going, but said he wasn’t thinking too much about it.
“I was just skiing and having fun,” said Hall. “It feels insane, especially with how amazing everyone skied. I can say it for everyone: We were having a ton of fun out there.”
He moved up to second in the world cup standings. Birk Ruud of Norway, who placed fourth, is still in first because he has competed in three events this season while Hall chose to attend a training camp to prepare for this big air event instead of competing in Beijing last week.
One more event, in Czech Republic in February, will decide the winner of the crystal globe.
“We’ll keep it rolling,” Hall said. “I’ll see how I’m feeling at the time and whether I think it’ll be a fun event or not and I’ll play it by ear.
“Having a good time is the most important thing and then usually when I’m having fun I ski my best. It’s been working out right now.”
Hall, 21, who was born in Alaska, grew up in Switzerland and now lives in Park City, Utah. He could be a double medal threat at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 as big air skiing makes its Olympic debut.
It was one of several new events, joining monobob (women only) and mixed team events in aerials skiing, ski jumping, short track speedskating and snowboardcross.
“It’s still a ways away, so I’m skiing and not thinking too far in the future,” he said.
Hall placed 15th in slopestyle skiing in the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. The following season, he won an X Games gold medal in slopestyle in Aspen, was second in slopestyle on the Dew Tour and had podium finishes in both big air and slopestyle on the world cup circuit.
He was fourth in big air at the 2019 world championships and is so versatile that he was fourth in halfpipe at the Youth Olympic Games in 2016, where he won slopestyle silver.
“The Olympics is a huge platform to show what we can do,” Hall said. “It’s cool to push big air skiing and should be really interesting to experience.”
Hall was the only Team USA athlete competing in the final.
Mac Forehand, who won his first career crystal globe in 2019 in freeski slopestyle, qualified for the final but elected not to compete.
Nick Goepper, who won Olympic silver and bronze medalists in slopestyle, did not make the final, finishing 17th in his 22-man qualifying round.
Marin Hamill was the top qualifier on the women’s side in eighth place, with Carolina Claire 12th among 15 competitors.
Mathilde Gremaud of Switzerland won the women’s big air event with 180.75 points, with teammate Giulia Tanno second at 175.75 and Isabel Atkin of Great Britain third at 164.50.
Hall and Hamill were named the national champions.
Hall received a gold baseball bat for his victory. Even though he said he’s never played baseball, he enjoyed competing inside the Braves stadium.
"The snow was perfect," Hall said. "About as good as it can get."