Words, Photos, and Captions: T. Bird
As has been the case for the past few Olympic qualifying years, the road to Sochi 2014 inevitably winds through the sleepy town of Copper Mountain, Colorado. There's no doubt that Sochi will be a show, and since slopestyle's inclusion in the 2014 Winter Olympics is just over a year from now, nothing is set in stone. One thing is certain though, and that is the fact that there are hundreds of hungry kids across the globe looking to be a piece of the puzzle in order to get a piece of the pie come a year from February.
However, it all started today, and the spectators and industry-ites in attendance today at Copper for 2013's first Grand Prix and Olympic qualifier got a taste of which countries would stand atop the podium in Russia. Jason George and the Copper Mountain crew pushed up a killer course for the contenders, consisting of two rail features and three jumps. Up top, the first feature afforded the riders a down box and similarly, a wide down bar. That feature fed into a bus stop-style jib on rider's left and a lightpole jam to the right. After exiting the top rail zone, the competitors faced a three pack of kickers to round out the setup. Let me just say this, and that is if Jason George, the legendary Copper terrain park kingpin pushed up a private slope setup for me, I would invariably be incredibly stoked, as right now, he's hands-down one of the best in the game. Needless to say, I heard no complaints from the riders.
One factor that caused a bit of concern was the speed. With dark clouds overhead and snow spitting from the sky intermittently throughout the morning, velocity was a paramount issue on the course. In fact, during the women's qualifiers (the men had already gone through their qualifying runs days prior) the last jump was closed due to speed issues, and the conditions certainly held the field of 64 women back a bit, yet they managed to put on a great show. With a harsh cut from 64 to 8, the ladies were doing their best to put down a run that would grant them a qualification into finals. Personally, I was disappointed that three women failed to make the cut. Jenny Jones, Hana Beaman, and Torah Bright couldn't advance to the finals, but the silver lining is that I got to see Jenny Jones, Hana Beaman, and Torah Bright compete in a slopestyle contest. Good job, ladies. You rode great.
With the field cut down to 8, the women joined the men, going heat-for-heat, back-to-back in the afternoon. The format was two runs, best run counts. With a field consisting of Roope Tonteri, Seppe Smits, Torstein Horgmo, Kjersti Buass, Jamie Anderson, Mark McMorris, Ståle Sandbech, Eric Willett, Chas Guldemond, Isabel Derungs, Sarka Pancochova, Spencer O'Brien, Peetu Piiroinen, Yuki Kadono, Sven Thorgren, and more, the field was varied both by country and in the realm of modern-day snowboard superstars. Throughout the finals, the men were putting down double corks while the ladies opted for smooth, stylish spins and both the rail and jump sections went off. Jamie Anderson was dominant. McMorris unfortunately fell on both of his runs, as did Yuki, the reigning Air & Style champion. Chas was seemingly unstoppable. Seppe and Roope spun like crazy and landed, per usual. Those two are good. Spencer was as stylish as ever, with super sick and slow-spun rotations. Peetu reinforced the fact that he might be the best all-around competitive snowboarder alive today. Hometown boy Eric Willett fell on his runs also, and looked disappointed, but he's not out of the race for one of the four Olympic slope spots we'll most likely get…not at all.
Overall, the Copper Grand Prix was a spectacle, as always. With some of the best park jumpers in the world sessioning the same setup, it's bound to be a show. Later in the afternoon the sun came out and the speed seemed to be dialed in as the top three men and top three women showed exactly why they should've stood atop that podium. For the women it was (surprise, surprise) Jamie Anderson, who is officially the most dominant women's slopestyle rider in history. At this point, Jamie is unstoppable, and she looks to be so for quite some time. Personally, I already see a gold medal hanging around her neck. Norwegian badass Kjersti Buass took second with a plethora of style. Kjersti rips, and I really like watching her snowboard. Third place went to veritable newcomer Isabel Derungs, who boasts the best backside rodeo in female riding. Congrats, ladies.
For the men, it was New Hampshire buzzard and Truckee transplant Chas Guldemond who took first place. I would love to see Chas go to Sochi, and as it stands, I think he has a pretty damn good chance. With a handful of double corks, Chas was the most consistent rider of the day, landing both runs and even besting his first run score with his second. Well done, Chas. Second place went to Finnish phenom Roope Tonteri. This kid is the real deal, and much like today's third place finisher, he rides halfpipe pretty damn well, too. And that person in third was Peetu Piiroinen. Peetu and Roope helped quell the recent Norwegian dominance in the contest circuit and proved to the world today that Finland is a true contender.
The 2013 Copper Mountain Grand Prix slopestyle went off today, but we're not done yet. Men's and women's pipe finals are tomorrow morning, so be sure to check back to snowboardermag.com for all the news on what's going down at Copper this weekend.