words: Mary Walsh
photos: Peter Cirilli

Barely an hour and a half north of Salt Lake City, just past the university city of Ogden sits Powder Mountain, a 9,422-foot tall peak that gets 400+ inches of natural snowfall every winter. Just outside of the bubble of SLC, Powder gets the precipitation, but not often the crowds, making it a burnished gem in the expanse of the Wasatch. Good snow, fast laps, and as of last Saturday, January 23rd, home to a remarkably creative hit-loaded halfpipe, open and accessible to everyone that signed up for stop number four of the Burton Qualifiers.

For the 2016 winter, Burton reinvented their grassroots contest series and gave it a new name apropos of the opportunity up for grabs for best in show. At each of the seven stops of the Burton Qualifiers, the top six are awarded entry into the finals, held March 26th at Seven Springs in Pennsylvania. Once there, the assembled competitors are vying for a hefty prize: a spot to compete in Burton Rail Days in downtown Tokyo (in addition to prizes and a cash purse). It's a lucrative proposition, only enhanced by the fact that each Quals stop has a theme decided by Burton and the hosting resort, so not only can each mountain utilize the resources it's known for, the park crews can get creative.

At Powder, the diggers unleashed unto the snow for Burton Qualifiers: Mystery Hits. Rider's right off the top of the mountain in Hidden Lake Park, a sizeable halfpipe had been carved into the trail and a litany of jibs ran down the length of the decks, including a down rail, pyramid box and tilted c-box on rider's left and a mailbox and massive tube on rider's right. Additionally, the corduroyed tranny yielded even more opportunity for transfers and gaps when eyed up by a seasoned shredder. At the bottom of the course was the coup de grace, a hand-cut medium-sized quarterpipe with step options on the left side. For the freestyle-minded Earth surfer, the course was a thing of beauty.

The time and ingenuity put in by JP Goulet and his staff was not lost on the sixty-plus snowboarders that showed up to drop in on Saturday. As practice commenced under graybird skies, Grant Giller, Tristan Heiner, Gravedigger, Jill Perkins, Logan Whitemyer, Carson Powell, Ben Strause, KC Russell, Cody Lee and more dropped in and picked apart the different features stacked on the pipe walls, feeding off the organized frenzy of the Qualifiers and upping the creativity of their tricks with every run.

As snow flurries filled the air, the 15 and Under division was the first to hit the double-walled white wave and if the tenacity of the youngest of these groms is any testament as to the soon-to-be talent in the Wasatch, then we can rest easy that there will be kids on the come up of the come up for the next decade here in Utah. From the high schoolers to the littlest ripper, Logan "Termite" Wass, the kids were in it for the win. Frontside airs were stock. Backflips needed no tranny (nor airtime). There was an astonishing double back off the pyramid that defied normal laws of gravitational pull, but somehow turned out all right. The heart was there and when all was said and done, Logan Whitemyer, Hunter Ward and Carson Powell took first, second and third, respectively. Props to Jade Thurgood showing up for the ladies and taking fourth overall and to Antonyo Fridal and Logan Wass rounding out the top six.

By early afternoon, as the savory scents of Lucky Slice Pizza (Ogden's finest) broke through the winter air and encircled riders hiking back up the deck of the pipe as they scarfed complimentary pepperoni slices, it was time for the Open Division to take to the drop in. Utah legend, Alex Andrews and Burton's Four Horsemen Sales Rep, Trevor Brady were taking turns on the microphone in between taking laps in the stunt ditch. Between the rad pipe set up and AA and Trevor setting the tone over the PA system, the froth level was real high.

The talent level among the Open competitors was impressive. Giller was boosting off the medium-sized QP like it was of behemoth height. Kevin Court was spilling a decidedly East Coast sensibility on everything he touched. Tristan Heiner put down some proper lip tricks on the quarter and a nice one-footer. Ben Strause was coyly smooth all afternoon. Cody Lee, whose possesses a humble ability to go upside down with no problem was throwing down and impressing. But it was Zeke Greer, whose all-around ability was well tailored to the variety of the jib-able halfpipe and whose flat out destroying of the snowy arena netted him first place, a stack of cash, and a spot in the Burton Qualifiers Finals.

Wintery weather, good commentary on the mic, a seemingly unlimited amount of pizza, and a hazmat suit-clad skier wearing a gasmask who mumblingly introduces himself as Eggroll are all signs of an awesome day on hill and a solid grassroots event. But on Saturday, it was clear that stop number four of the Burton Qualifiers was a success because once the contest was over and the judges left their posts to decide the winners, kids kept riding. The course was covered in tranny-finding tracks, but there were still more lines to discover. Much of the fun of riding a jib-filled halfpipe is figuring it out. Edging quick between the mailbox and the pyramid then following up with the flat tube—and potentially going purposefully off course to tranny find requires a finesse that takes time to eek out. Saturday was a true session for everyone that came out; the efforts and dutiful rake time of the Powder park crew and the Burton crew yielded an all-time day in the Wasatch.

Thanks to JP and his crew, Lucky Slice Pizza, the Four Horsemen crew, and everyone that turned out to Powder Mountain to froth.

RESULTS

15 & Under
1st          Logan Whitemyer
2nd        Hunter Ward
3rd         Carson Powell
4th         Jade Thurgood
5th         Antonyo Fridal
6th         Logan Wass

Open Division
1st          Zeke Greer
2nd        Grant Giller
3rd         Jack Wiley
4th         Kevin Court
5th         Jesse Ramirez
6th         Justin Aday