Nathan Bilow, Associated Press
Kelly Clark raises her arms after placing third in the superpipe.

ASPEN, Colo. — Kelly Clark burst out of the superpipe as if she had springs in her legs, sailing more than 13 feet above the rim.

Torah Bright floated through the air with graceful ease, making technically difficult tricks look impossibly easy.

Gretchen Bleiler whirled and twirled off the walls like a tumbling corkscrew, pulling off tricks few women would even consider attempting.

And that was just the first round. It only got better from there.

"That might have been the best night in the history of women's snowboarding," Bleiler said.

No one was better than the hometown favorite.

Bleiler won her third Winter X Games gold in the superpipe Friday night, capping a spectacular show of grace and athleticism with a near-flawless run.

The night started with a gravity-defying run by Clark that included an enormous frontside 900 and ended with a victory lap for Bleiler, who celebrated with family and friends just as she did after winning the same title in 2003 and 2005.

"Just watching these two, I felt, OK, this is not a threat anymore, this is a challenge, step it up," Bleiler said. "Tonight was a good night for women's snowboarding."

Clark started the show off on the night's third run, landing the frontside 900 on her first trick for 90 points. Bright followed with a flowing run that included a switch, backside 720 that earned her 89.66 points. Bleiler seemed to be in position to pass them both with a frontside 900 and a massive Crippler — an inverted 540 — but sat down on the landing on her final trick for 89.33 points.

Bleiler got it right the second time around, hitting the first two tricks again and finishing with consecutive 720s to grab the lead with a 93.33-point run she said was close to perfect.

SPIN LESS: It's no longer spin to win in the halfpipe. After several years of rapid innovation, the progression of snowboarding tricks has taken a new, smoother turn. Instead of riders trying to outdo each other by spinning as many times as they can, they've gone back to smaller tricks like 540s and 720s, using extra combinations and grabs to impress the judges.

BURKE REPEATS: Sarah Burke needed a big second run to end Grete Eliassen's run as ski superpipe champion a year ago. A fall on her first run left her in the same position this year. Burke pulled it off again, shaking off her early wipeout with a stellar second run that included a 900 and earned her 92 points — more than 10 ahead of silver medalist Mirjam Jaeger.

ODD ENDING: The night ended on an odd note in a new event. The event was skiing big air, which features riders doing one trick off a huge ramp in head-to-head competition. The judging was done in "American Idol" format with a judge sitting on a carved-out log bench telling the competitors what he thought of their run. The other part of the judging was done by fans who text-messaged their votes.

To top it off, the two finalists, Jon Olsson and Charles Gagnier, had to decide who would go first in an awkward game of rock, paper, scissors.

Olsson ended up winning, getting the vote from the judge and 70 percent from the fans with a spectacular trick called the Kangaroo Flip, which is essentially an off-axis double flip.

QUICK HITS: It wasn't much of a surprise when three-time slopestyle champion Shaun White put together a 95-point run to lead qualifying. What did catch everyone offguard was the poor performance of Danny Kass. The 2001 superpipe champion and three-time slopestyle medalist finished last out of 20 riders, bobbling the landing on his first run and missing one of the course features on the second for 38.33 points ... Cheryl Maas of the Netherlands led women's slopestyle qualifying with 87.66 points.