Basalt's Torin Yater-Wallace said last week that he wasn't near where his ability would typically be after undergoing shoulder surgery in September.
He looked just fine Thursday morning in his first competition back on Buttermilk.
Yater-Wallace scored a 90 in his first run in the X Games skiing superpipe event, eclipsed only by the defending gold medalist, David Wise of Reno, Nev., on the final run of the day.
Aspen's Alex Ferreira - a former Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard club athlete - failed to qualify for tonight's final after falling on both runs.
But it was Yater-Wallace who proved undaunted after training for just a little more than five weeks and not competing in a single event since last season. He opened his first run with a right-side double-cork 1260 and then landed every trick afterward to claim the top spot from France's Kevin Rolland, who put up an 88 before Yater-Wallace took to the pipe.
Ferreira, who drew loud cheers from friends and family at the bottom of the pipe, fell on his third jump after landing a left-side 1080 and a switch right-side 900. In his second run, he soared more than 18 feet out of the pipe to land a left-side 1080. Ferreira then landed a 720, a double-cork 1260 and then, on his final jump, he couldn't land a right-side 900.
He wound up 13th with a score of 37 in his first X Games appearance.
In Yater-Wallace's second run, with the finals spot already secure, he dialed the difficulty down a notch and scored an 87.
Wise improved on his 87 in his first run with a 92 in the second to head into the final as the No. 1 qualifier.
Yater-Wallace looks to win his third medal in as many opportunities. Last year, he grabbed the bronze medal, and in 2011, as a 15 year-old, he took silver.
Rolland, the 2010 and 2011 gold medalist, qualified third with a first-run score of 88. Tanner Hall, making a comeback to the games since having knee surgery in 2009 and becoming addicted to painkillers, failed to qualify with two uninspiring runs that produced scores of 66.33 and 69.33.
Last year's silver medalist, Noah Bowman, will miss the finals after finishing ninth with a second-round score of 70.66.
The final starts at 8:45 p.m. tonight.