words: Mary Walsh
photos: Ryan “Huggy” Hughes and Mark Imanuel
captions: Pat Bridges
In addition to years of memorable and progressive snowboarding, creative course builds, and blurry nights at the Green Door, part of the long-standing heritage of the US Open at Stratton, Vermont, was variable weather conditions. Open attendees could recall a particular contest year based on whether there were snowstorms, heavy rain, or in fewer instances, sun. Moving the Open to Vail has provided a larger venue and more resources with which to build a world-class course—and the outcome has been nothing but positive thus far—but Mother Nature's tenacity has remained and on Friday, produced a Rocky Mountain-worthy snowstorm, blanketing the resort in inches on inches of fresh at the 2013 Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships.
New snow is hardly anything to complain about, but it's not the best news for a slopestyle competition. Friday morning, as big, fluffy, flakes fell from the sky, twelve of the best competitive riders in the world headed to the top of the slopestyle venue, fresh waxes on their boards in anticipation of slow course speeds.
Snow Park Technologies outdid themselves once again and built a slopestyle course fitting for a Vail debut. A skate-influenced upper section led off with a down rail into a 20-foot high wallride that allowed riders to stall and then reverse direction to hit one of two smaller wallrides uphill, before continuing down the course. Below were more rail options, including a pole jam and a crowd-pleasing flat-down perfect for gapping. A large jumpline rounded things out with three kickers measuring 60 feet, 65 feet, and 75 feet respectively.
As the contest began, the snow continued. Though visibility wasn't terrible, the riders had to contend with fresh inches in between features with every new run. Getting and keeping enough speed to make it from take off to landing was a huge issue, and many guys were unable to clear the jumps, even when pinning it down the hill. In what has, so far, been a monumentally progressive year for slopestyle competition, this slowed things down a little; there were fewer corks than spectators have grown accustomed to of late, but crappy conditions tend to force consistency and ability to shine under pressure and arguably, no lesser talent was exhibited on this day than during other, less wintery contests. Really, this is snowboarding, and variable conditions are nothing new for this group of riders. Vying for a spot in the winner's circle was top qualifier in semis, Torstein Horgmo, along with Mark McMorris, Chas Guldemond, Yuki Kadono, Eric Willet, Sage Kotsenburg, Peetu Piiroinen, Jamie Nicholls, Stale Sandbech, Max Parrot, Darcy Sharpe, and Ryan Stassel.
Many riders fell victim to the conditions, but a few were able to tackle the course considering. British upstart, Jamie Nicholls, had a strong second run, which included a cab 270 on 270 off on the first rail, and a frontside 720, backside 1260, and cab 1080 on the jumps, landing Nicholls in fifth. Peetu Piiroinen ended one spot short of the podium, with a clean run made up of a backside double rodeo 900 to cab 900 to backside 1080.
Chas Guldemond was one of the few riders that didn't have a problem getting lofty over the jumps. His second run showed his ability to contend regardless of weather, as he put down a 50-50 to a big backside 180 tail grab on the flat-down and went backside 720, cab 1260, and backside 1080 in the jumpline. Though it wasn't the triple he had been planning, it was big and awesome, and earned this New Hampshire buzzard third place.
The battle for first was between Mark McMorris and Torstein Horgmo from the start, as their initial scores were only separated by a half point. Torstein's first go was his best, including a wallride to switch frontside boardslide 270 out in the rail section, and a switch backside 540, frontside 1080 doublecork, and backside 1080 doublecork on the jumps. Though Torstein had elements in his next two runs to potentially raise his score, he wasn't able to link everything together to pull ahead. During his second run, he landed the sole triple cork of the contest, unfortunately offset by an unbalanced landing in the rail section causing him to accidentally veer off his line into a powder turn on the side of the course (though remarkable that he was able to regain speed for the triple). Torstein's last run included what may have been the strongest showing in the rail section, but he fell in the jumps. The result was that neither run was enough to bump Horgmo above McMorris, whose first score set the pace and held for the duration of the competition.
It is safe to say that Mark McMorris has had a banner year, and this win at the US Open adds another accomplishment to his growing list of contest finishes. Dropping second-to-last for his first run, Mark handled the rail section with 270s and lipslides and continued into the jumps with a double backflip, frontside 1080 to backside 1080. Clean landings and considerable style earned him high marks and allowed him to pop open a celebratory bottle of sparkling cider as the winner of the inaugural US Open Men's Slopestyle at Vail Resort (after a requisite victory lap of triple methods).
As Men's Slopestyle wrapped up, the snow continued to fall, and the US Open organizers were forced to cancel the women's event. Unfortunately, conditions dictated an anti-climactic day for the ladies, who had been riding well during semis. Awards were decided based on semifinal results, earning Spencer O'Brien first, Jamie Anderson second, and Brooke Voigt third.
Tomorrow, Halfpipe Finals take the stage at the 2013 Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships.
1st – Mark McMorris
2nd – Torstein Horgmo
3rd – Chas Guldemond
1st – Spencer O'Brien
2nd – Jamie Anderson
3rd – Brooke Voigt