ASPEN - The past year has produced big changes for David Wise.
Since last January's Winter X Games, the Reno, Nev., product married his girlfriend, Lexi, and became a father; daughter Nayeli was born Oct. 5.
"Life has definitely accelerated for me lately," he admitted, "but I've been in a really good place."
Saturday, that place was on top of the podium at Buttermilk.
The 21-year-old produced a near wire-to-wire victory in one of the games' marquee events. The top qualifier Friday night, Wise seized the lead Saturday with a technical second run that judges rewarded with a score of 93. The effort was good enough to secure gold and end France's three-year reign; two-time defending champion Kevin Rolland (89.33) wound up fourth.
"It's been a Frenchy sweep for a while now, so to just come out and ski well and have an all-North American podium is sweet," Wise said.
Canadian teenager Noah Bowman, an alternate making his Winter X debut, nabbed silver with a 90, while some third-run heroics landed Basalt pipe phenom Torin Yater-Wallace, last year's surprise runner-up, on the podium once more with an 89.66.
Wise's second run was delayed for a few minutes when fellow competitor Justin Dorey drilled the coping, double ejected and fell to the flat. The 23-year-old from Vernon, British Columbia, lay motionless for a few moments as medical personnel rushed up the pipe but ultimately was able to walk off under his own power. He did not return for a third run, however.
"Dorey fell on the trick I was most scared of in my run, so it was kind of nerve-wracking for him to fall right before me and really blast himself," said Wise, who finished seventh here last year. "You have to take a moment, refocus and tell yourself it's just another run. All the outside influences don't matter."
Wise responded with the run of the competition. He kicked things off with a switch double-corked 1080, back-to-back 900s and an alley-oop flatspin 540 before finishing with a near-flawless double-corked 1260.
The effort momentarily dropped Bowman into third place, but the 19-year-old made the most of his final run, which included three 900s - among them a switch alley-oop double-corked 900 he learned just days before the competition - and two 720s.
Not bad for a competitor who did not learn he was in the field until two hours before Friday night's qualifier.
"Sadly, a couple guys got hurt, but it's nice to be in and just making the finals, I'm glad I did that," Bowman said. "I was kind of looking at this week as a good practice week and having fun. There was no pressure."
The same could not be said for Yater-Wallace, who morphed from relative unknown last year to presumptive contender this time around.
"I definitely felt like I was kind of expected to do well," the 16-year-old said. "I tried to put the pressure aside, but it's hard when you're standing at the top about to drop, looking down a massive, big snow ditch. It's scary."
That feeling increased dramatically after Yater-Wallace found himself sitting in sixth position following two lackluster runs. He made Run 3 count, landing a double-corked 1260, a left-side 900, a double-corked flare, an alley-oop flatspin 360 and a switch 720 - the same run that helped him top the field at last week's Dew Tour stop at Killington, Vt.
"I was just happy I put it down. Quite frankly, I didn't care what score I got," Yater-Wallace said. "When I woke up this morning, this was exactly what I was hoping for, anywhere on the podium. It ended up happening, so I'm stoked."