And to think, Shaun White chose not to ride down this course.

Snowboarders kicked off competition at the Olympics on Thursday by making the slopestyle layout that White deemed "intimidating" feel anything but that.

Sunny skies. No wind. Decent snow. All in all, slopestyle's debut on the grand stage was a great day for riding rails and grabbing big air and an even better day for scores.

Canadian Max Parrot backed up his win last month at the Winter X Games with a 97.5 -- 2½ points short of perfect -- in a qualifying run punctuated by a triple-flipping jump with a dead-solid landing, the likes of which will be virtually mandatory to win the gold medal this weekend.

He was one of eight riders to reach the 90s on a day in which Australia's Scotty James and Norway's Kjersti Buaas took the worst falls, but both walked away at Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.

"Other riders complained about the course this week. I actually found it really good from Day One to now," Parrot said.

White pulled out Wednesday, saying he wanted to focus on winning a third straight gold medal in the halfpipe next week. He was in no mind to put his health at risk on a course that took out one of the world's top riders, Norway's Torstein Horgmo, and sent dozens more tumbling in training.

Leading female contender, American Jamie Anderson, had no problem the day after banging up her back in practice. She called the course conditions "questionable," especially for the women.

"It's a challenging course. A lot of impact for everyone," Anderson said after a 93.5.

Among the problems they're dealing with are too-steep takeoff ramps that don't exactly mesh with the pitch of the landings. The transition areas between the jumps aren't very big, so it's hard to build up the speed needed to get the air the steepest jumps demand. But the course builders are adjusting and, overall, the riders responded well.

It made White's absence that much more confounding to several of the 29 men left in the field, who complained that, among other things, his last-minute decision cost someone a spot on the U.S. team.

"It would've been so awesome to have him in here today," American Sage Kotsenburg said. "He could've put down a super sick run that could contend. But it's his choice."

There were large pockets of empty seats during portions of the seven-hour qualifying session.

Opening ceremony: Who will light the Olympic cauldron on Friday? Russian hockey great Vladislav Tretiak has said he'll take part, and some speculate he'll have that honor. The United States has chosen six-time Olympian Todd Lodwick (nordic combined) to be the team's flagbearer at the opening ceremony.

Alpine skiing: American Bode Miller mastered the Olympic course on his first run, leading the opening downhill training session for Sunday's race. He finished in 2 minutes, 7.75 seconds. Patrick Kueng of Switzerland was second -- 0.03 seconds behind.

"Not to take anything away from the Olympics," Miller, in his fifth Olympics, said, "but it just isn't the same after I've done it as many times as I have."

  • Anna Fenninger of Austria had the fastest time in the women's downhill training run that had to be halted early on so workers could alter a harrowing jump. She had a time of 1:41.73 -- 0.21 seconds ahead of Fraenzi Aufdenblatten of Switzerland. American Julia Mancuso was third, 0.38 seconds behind.

    "You feel like you're never going to come down," Mancuso said. On her second pass, she told her teammates that the jump was now just fine and that they could attack it.

    Moguls: The quest by Hannah Kearney for an Olympic repeat in women's moguls started flawlessly as she easily topped qualifying. The 27-year-old American posted a score of 23.05 to move into Saturday's finals and one step closer to bookending the gold she won in Vancouver. Canadian Chloe Dufour-Lapointe finished second, just ahead of younger sister Justine. Older sister Maxime was eighth. American Eliza Outtrim came in fourth.

    "The course is great," Kearney said. "It's challenging but in a very positive way. It's going to separate the weak skiers from the strong skiers, hopefully."

    Ice hockey: Canada's Olympic team has picked a healthy Tampa Bay forward to replace an injured one. Hockey Canada announced Martin St. Louis is on the roster for the Sochi games to replace Steven Stamkos. Doctors ruled out Stamkos on Wednesday because he hasn't recovered sufficiently from a broken leg suffered in a Nov. 11 NHL game. Steve Yzerman, the Canadians' executive director and Tampa Bay's general manager, chose St. Louis over Philadelphia's Claude Giroux and Pittsburgh's James Neal.

  • Vancouver's Henrik Sedin pulled out of the Olympics, saying he's physically unable to play for Sweden. Earlier, Canucks coach John Tortorella said he was shutting down Sedin (bruised ribs) for Vancouver's final two NHL games before the Olympic break.