Words: T Bird
Photos: Adam Moran
Captions: Pat Bridges
For the first time in my life, I am drunk off of Hot Toddys. The fabled après drink for the social elite has always been a strong reference used in my everyday on-hill vernacular, for mainly sarcastic purposes, but to be honest, I really had no idea what was in them. To be even more honest, I still don't, but I can tell you that it has whiskey in it (I think) and until I came to Europe, I didn't know how much I liked them.
Funny story. Terje Haakonsen was in Laax today at the Burton European Open. I fanned out, and by no means will I ever try to deny that. You would too. I got caught taking a photo of him with my BlackBerry (along with another professional snowboarder that will remain anonymous), and although in my photo it is blatantly obvious that I had been ousted, these warm, wonderful Hot Toddys rendered it irrelevant. You see, I've been drinking in Europe, and it's a glorious experience. No one looks down on you. In fact, they only do so if you're NOT having a few (eight or so) beverages when you've wrapped up your day on the slopes. So back to the point. I saw Terje, and it was awesome. Within 200 feet in any general direction of where I snuck my not-so-sneaky smartphone photo of "The Sprocking Cat" stood Iouri Podlatchikov, Chas Guldemond, Kazuhiro Kokubo, Kelly Clark, Markus Keller, Peetu Piiroinen, and a handful of today's top talent, but I was relatively unfazed by their presence. It sounds rather irrelevant to a contest coverage piece, but I'm still pretty stoked that today, in Europe, I saw Terje Haakonsen.
So yeah, the 2011 Burton European Open halfpipe finals went down today on top of a mountain in Switzerland called Laax. The big show. A 22-foot superpipe stood before some of the world's best pipe riders. Omen's semifinals transitioned straight into finals, with 21 riders automatically advancing due to weather delays. Kelly Clark rips. She won. Not only did she win, but on her last run, a relative victory lap, she chucked herself into one of the biggest front tens (and one of the only ones I have ever seen a woman attempt in a contest, save Ellery Hollingsworth last year), though she unfortunately fell. However, the mere fact that Kelly tried it is a testament to her devotion to progression. Oh yeah, her run was insane. Front nine, back five, Cab seven, etc. Second place went to Spain's Queralt Castellet. She's small. Super small, actually, but she goes huge, and her first hit frontside nine was enough to get her onto the podium without the accompanying fives and sevens. Queralt proved that her first-place qualification in Vancouver last year (before she got hurt in practice before the event) was no fluke. She's the real deal. Ever heard of Yuki Furihata? Me neither. But at the ripe age of 26, she's practically an embryo in the Japanese women's snowboard scene. She tossed out a second-hit McTwist that secured her a spot on the podium come the event's end. All in all, it was a final to remember. That is, until it was time to après. Oh, the European après…
The men's final, which saw the likes of Scotty James, Arthur Longo, Benji Farrow (the lone US competitor in the event), Markus Keller and Malin, and Iikka-Emilie-Lauri (or something like that) whittled down to three American-monikered talents: Peetu, Kazu, and Ipod. Iouri Podlatchikov took third with a few tens and a double McTwist 1260 (wrongly titled by USA Today recently as "a trick that can only be done by Shaun White). Read that on the plane ride over here. Regardless, Ipod had one last run to take out Kazu and Peetu, but he ate shit. Possibly the most universally-liked snowboarder on the planet, Kazuhiro Kokubo was the only rider in the top three whose run didn't involve a double cork, which was refreshing. Back-to-back tens, an alley-oop frontside three, and of course, the McTwist that made him famous a few years back at the US Open was all that it took to put Kazu in the top three. Kudos to Kokubo. Lastly and bestly, Peetu Piiroinen took home his second straight win in the pipe at the Burton European Open, and with his second place finish in slopestyle yesterday, he's a sure lock for the World TTR Numero Uno. Alley-oop back rodeos, double cork tens, and back nines secured his number one spot. At the awards ceremony, Peetu was so shocked at his strong finishes at the European Open that it looked as if he had seen a ghost. I found this weird, 'cause I would assume he was used to the attention after all of his global successes. I guess he's still just a humble Laplander after all these years.
Well, that's about it. My job's done. Off to some electric laser light binge drinkathon 'til the wee hours of the morning. Until next time. Au révoir, from the greatest continent on planet earth. Europe.