Words: T-Bird
Photos: Huggy

Stratton Mountain, Vermont played host to what might be the best pipe contest in years. If not the best, at least it was the most progressive. Under sunny skies and minimal wind, 16 men and 8 women took to a slushy pipe that required more maintenance than a fat girl with diabetes and a separation complex. Seriously though, the crew that kept this pipe intact deserves praise. They had their hands full as the day progressed and the temperature rose. Thousands of people turned out for the Men's and Women's pipe finals, and they were not disappointed. Neither was I.

The women went first, and after semi-finals, 8 were chosen to move on to the big show. With the unexplainable absence of Gretchen Bleiler, Kelly Clark was clearly the favorite, but there were a few women in the field who held the fortitude to give her a serious run for her money. Steamboat Springs local and the youngest girl in the competition, Maddy Schaffrick qualified in second place behind Clark, but in the finals, she couldn't put a podium run together. However, this girl is the future face of competitive women's halfpipe snowboarding. Switch backside spins mixed with insane combos will soon blend with amplitude and young Maddy will more than likely be a force to be reckoned with. Aside from Maddy, Kelly Marren landed a few backside nines but couldn't quite find her board with her hand. Regardless, she put together some impressive runs. Kaitlyn Farrington finally landed herself a podium appearance at the Open with a second place finish. Kaitlyn goes huge and rides like Torah. Technical, big and with tons of style. Worth mentioning Hannah Teter, another favorite to take down Clark on her home hill, who qualified for finals yet failed to show for any of her runs. I'm sure the message boards were lighting up on webcasts the world over. Ellery Hollingsworth rounded out the podium with an impressive run and a well-deserved third place finish. And yes, it was Kelly Clark's run consisting of back-to-back sevens and an overhead front nine that creamed the competition. After Kelly's first run she had it in the bag, but that didn't prevent her from attempting a massive front ten in her victory lap. Kelly Clark rules, and she gained the respect of everyone in attendance by the day's end.

As for the men, it's almost impossible to put into words exactly what happened. First of all, the seemingly unbeatable Shaun White opted out of the contest. He was on the start list, yet when it came time to drop, White failed to do so. Apparently, the Vancouver gold medalist wasn't feeling well and chose not to ride, thus opening the door to a slew of contestants to walk away with US Open hardware. The 16 men battled it out for over an hour, kicked off by Iouri Podladtchikov's first run which consisted of two double corks, one of which has only been landed by Shaun himself–the double McTwist 1260–dubbed by mainstream media as "the most dangerous trick in snowboarding." The crowd went nuts and Ipod's 90-plus score forced the remaining riders to step it up, and they certainly did. It was Louie Vito's birthday, yet the tiny dancer treated the spectators to a present when he unveiled his new double cork that is yet to be named. Louie landed three doubles in his run and took the lead, but it was Kazuhiro Kokubo's second run that would topple Vito's lead and he would hold on to the win, even though Ipod landed a run of his own with three doubles. Rumors immediately started circulating about Ipod's run being scored low, but we're not judges and we're not in the booth, so we must trust that they know something that we don't. Regardless, all three of the men on the podium turned yet another page in the evolution of competitive pipe riding and I'm not 100% convinced that if Shaun did compete today that he would've won.

Words don't do today's US Open pipe final justice, so wait for the video. It will be up soon, and stay tuned to snowboardermag.com for all the photos, videos and behind-the-scenes coverage of the 2010 US Open in Stratton, Vermont.

US Open Halfpipe Results:
March 20, 2010
Stratton Mountain, VT

1 Kazuhiro Kokubo JPN
2 Louie Vito USA
3 Iouri Podladtchikov SUI
4 Markus Malin FIN
5 Janne Korpi FIN
6 Scotty Lago USA
7 Tore Holvik NOR
8 Christian Haller SUI
9 Manuel Pietropoli ITA
10 Ross Baker USA
11 Brett Esser USA
12 Peetu Piiroinen FIN
13 Ben Watts USA
14 Luke Mitrani USA
15 Scotty Pike USA
16 Matt Ladley USA

1 Kelly Clark USA
2 Kaitlyn Farrington USA
3 Ellery Hollingsworth USA
4 Hannah Teter USA
5 Rana Okada JPN
6 Elena Hight USA
7 Kelly Marren USA
8 Madeline Schaffrick USA