What I Learned at the 2018 Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships
Words: T. Bird
I've been coming to the US Open of Snowboarding since I was eleven years old and every year, just when I think I've seen it all--from the infamous "Cage" on the deck of the pipe, to Danny Kass linking together back-to-back nines, to Yuki Kadono shocking the world with back-to-back 1620s at the last minute to win slopestyle--there are new storylines that develop, newcomers that burst onto the scene, and legends that are further etched into this hallowed event. 2018 was no different, and as I watched from the broadcast booth as one of the best US Opens in history played out on the monitor for four days straight, I couldn’t help but make some observations.
The Women Have A Voice Here
Wind is always a factor in snowboarding, be it in the pipe or a slopestyle course. This year, the gusts were approaching a dangerous level and with a few of the girls knuckling and overshooting in practice, it was simply too dangerous. In complete contrast to the abomination of Pyeongchang, the coordinators of the Open decided to give the girls a vote and they unanimously favored cancelling the slopestyle final altogether, something that would never happen in an event run by FIS. Good on you, ladies. It was the right call. And good on you, US Open event staff, for allowing them to make the decision. I'm sure it was a tough one, but it was the correct one nonetheless. In turn, Jamie Anderson--who qualified first--took home another slopestyle win at the Open.
Mark McMorris is Superhuman
And he's also still the best slopestyle rider alive, due to the simple fact that the dude can ride through adversity like no other. From snapping his femur on a frontside triple cork 1440 at Air & Style Los Angeles just two years ago, recovering fully, winning a handful of events, and then hitting a tree in the backcountry of British Columbia, recovering fully, winning a handful of events, and then falling so hard on a frontside triple in his second run that he believes he cracked a rib, and proceeding to go right back to the top, drop in, land his run and take the win. The dude is stronger than just about any snowboarder I’ve ever seen and he earned this win 100%. Congrats, Mark. You are a beast.
...So Is Kelly Clark
Kelly broke a piece off her tibial plateau just a few short months ago and has been riding through the pain for the majority of the season. Although she didn't get a medal in South Korea, she went for it and then came to the Open, decked out ridiculously hard, knocked the wind out of herself viciously, and then went back up and threw the frontside 1080 on her last run. Although Kelly failed to reach the podium on Saturday, she earned the respect of every snowboarder at the Open. Oh, and did I mention that she's won this event nine times before? Yeah, there's that, too.
Sal is Back in the Booth!
The voice of a generation for thousands of snowboarders is back! Sal is the Walter Cronkite of professional snowboarding--one of the most respected voices of our culture--and this year, he stepped back in the booth and absolutely crushed it. Welcome back, Sal! We missed you.
Welcome to Pro Snowboarding, Raibu Katayama
If you follow the contest circuit, you've no doubt heard of Raibu Katayama, but if you don't this is your official introduction to the youngster from Japan. The Open has been utilized as a feeder event to nearly every single superstar rider on earth and Raibu stepped up on the world stage, put down an insane run and landed in second place behind fellow countryman Ayumu Hirano, who took home his first US Open halfpipe title on Saturday.
Jamie Anderson Is Still The Best Slopestyle Rider on Earth
Hands down. She's still so dominant, and although riders like Anna Gasser and Julia Marino have been hot on her heels for two seasons now, Jamie is still very much in the driver's seat. Her adaptability, mental and physical strength, and consistency is unmatched. It's going to take a lot from the other girls to fully take the reins on the slope circuit.
We Finally Know The Contents of "The Fridge's" Backpack
Fridtjof Tischendorf very well might emerge from the 2018 Burton US Open as the most talked-about rider, and for good reason. The dude rides with a backpack...all the time. Literally. Always. He does a good job of letting the rumor mill turn regarding what's inside said bag, but we finally found out, albeit partially. During the broadcast, host Jack Mitrani prodded The Fridge and he pulled out three items: A $100 bill, a tiny speaker, and one can of beer. It was unreal.
Ben Ferguson Has The Best Run in Pipe Riding
Top-to-bottom, there is no more complete run in pipe riding from a technical, fluid and difficulty standpoint. Double corks, double Cripplers, a backside three and a switch McTwist. As a snowboarder, I truly believe it's the best run in the world right now.
Scotty James Has The Most Technical Trick in the Halfipe
The switch backside 1260 on his last hit. It's absolutely fucking mental. If he didn't bobble just a bit on it in his run today, the results could've been much different.
Ayumu Hirano Goes Bigger Than Anyone in Pipe Riding
Ayumu took the win on Saturday because he matched technicality with amplitude better than anyone who dropped in. Back-to-back 1440s that were touching on the 20-foot mark and a dive bomb backside air bigger than the 14s. He truly deserved the win on the day and many still believe the same could be said for the outcome in South Korea. I'll leave that to the fans and their personal opinions but there was no denying that Ayumu came out on top today for all the right reasons.