words: Pat Bridges
photos: Ryan “Huggy” Hughes and Peter Morning
In less than three decades, halfpipe riding has evolved from sideways-standing stoners like Terry Kidwell, Keith Kimmel, and Alan Armbruster mimicking their skateboarding idols behind the Tahoe City Dump, to become the most-watched discipline of the Winter Olympics. Sure, the banners that line the decks of these modern day, made for TV stunt ditch spectacles, promote the wares of fortune 500 conglomerates and there are super agents trolling the finish corral looking to pimp out the next prodigy, but an air of angst can still be found if one dulls out the commercial stimulus and allows themselves to focus on the raw expression that is making a resurgence. Even the most vitriol hungry halfpipe hater can appreciate Danny Davis' switch straight airs, Ben Ferguson's 360 melon carve "shithook" afterbangs, and Chloe Kim's McTwists. Over the past four days in Mammoth, tricks such as these have not only earned cheers from the crowd but also high scores from the judges, and in turn showed the snowboarding world that when it comes to contests, style seemingly still has a place. Thank god for that.
With four contests having already been decided and only a handful of US Olympic Halfpipe Team spots left to fill, half a dozen male and female riders still remained in the hunt as we went into Sunday’s fifth and final LCQ. Similar to Friday's first two Grand Prix Olympic Halfpipe Team Qualifiers at Mammoth Mountain, California, 2010 Vancouver Olympic silver medalist Hannah Teter came out swinging with a consistent mix of wall-to-wall combos, including linked five-to-five and seven-to-seven spins before concluding with a backside 900 to again be recognized with a third place result. Despite sending an overhead 1080 on her first hit, following it up with a cab 720 and at no point peaking below overhead status West Dover, Vermont's Kelly Clark would have to settle for second today. The resurgence of rewarding style and originality that has made the men's events in Mammoth so notable finally seeped into the women's side of the showdown as Sun Valley, Idaho's Kaitlyn Farrington found herself atop her first Grand Prix podium of this season by throwing a backside 900, alley-oop 540, backside melon to fakie, switch backside 720, backside 540 and a corked frontside 720.
"This year I was working on bringing my technicality back because that's what I needed to make the team," Kaitlyn explained. "I was struggling just doing the same old runs. This year I wanted to do other things. I did that and it shined through." With today’s results both Farrington and Teter were able to earn places alongside Arielle Gold and Kelly Clark on the team that will represent the United States in women's halfpipe at the upcoming Sochi Olympics.
Back at the Copper Mountain Grand Prix event in December, Ben Ferguson was still considered a rookie wildcard, yet today he took to Mammoth's 22-foot Superpipe as a more seasoned contender. For this final attempt at making the team, Ben's aesthetic approach to the pipe last Friday, which included overhead alley-oops, was replaced with a collage of acrobatic doublecorks, showing that not only does the Mt. Bachelor local have an appreciation of our sport’s pedigree, but the ability to push technical progression as well.
It has taken Danny Davis four years to achieve redemption for the events that transpired four seasons ago as his path to the Vancouver Olympics took an unfortunate turn, but for those of us that have yearned for the type of snowboarding that Danny Davis signifies to be seen on our sports grandest stage, I say better late than never. Once again, Davis' diverse bag of tricks, which included a double overhead switch method, cab 1080 double cork and switch alley-oop backside rodeos, yielded the result needed for him to fulfill his Olympic Team-making destiny alongside Shaun White, Taylor Gold, and Greg Bretz. "This year I landed runs that I wanted to do," Danny stated after stepping off today’s podium. "There were certainly people that were just like 'man, you should just spin.' Shit, that's not what I wanted to do."
While he is certainly the most polarizing figure to ever be called a pro snowboarder, Shaun White is also the most talented. How he chooses to channel those abilities is by going bigger than everyone else while doing tricks that are often more difficult to boot. On this date, the first rider to secure a spot on our nation’s Olympic Slopestyle Team took to the transitions with nothing to prove to anyone but himself and by doing 1440 and 1260 doubl corks he emerged victorious once again. "It is one thing to sit on the couch and say you are going to the Olympics, but to actually make the team is that next step. It's real now!" explained a contented White. "I'm pumped. I did some runs that I really wanted to put down in competition and now it's just shotgun to the Olympics." When asked what his program would be between now and the Games, Shaun dropped a bombshell, "it is now so demanding with slope and pipe that we're gonna skip X Games this time around."
After the day’s event awards, the onsite crowd made their way to a makeshift stage in front of Mammoth’s Main Lodge for the official US Olympic Freestyle Snowboarding Team announcement where Jamie Anderson, Ty Walker, Sage Kotsenburg, Chas Guldemond, and Shaun White were granted their Burton-designed patchwork uniforms to signify their role as America's slopestyle representatives in Russia. Next Kelly Clark, Arielle Gold, Hannah Teter, Kaitlyn Farrington, Taylor Gold, Greg Bretz, Danny Davis, and once again, Shaun White, came to the stage to receive their respective halfpipe uniforms. Having survived the trials of the past two months to arrive at a place where they have the opportunity to do their country proud is an unparalleled opportunity in sport. Having seen firsthand the talent America will have on tap in Sochi and knowing the capabilities of the other countries, the show that is sure to be put on at the upcoming Olympics will make the long four years since Shaun White and Torah Bright were the riders who ruled the rings well worth the wait. Keep surfing to Snowboardermag.com for extensive X Games and Olympic coverage over the next few weeks.
Men’s Halfpipe Finals 3
First – Shaun White
Second – Danny Davis
Third – Ben Ferguson
Women’s Halfpipe Finals 3
First – Kaitlyn Farrington
Second – Kelly Clark
Third – Hannah Teter
Riders named so far to the US Snowboard Team:
Greg Bretz, Mammoth Lakes, CA *
Danny Davis, Truckee, CA
Taylor Gold, Steamboat Springs, CO
Shaun White, Carlsbad, CA *
Kelly Clark, W. Dover, VT *
Kaitlyn Farrington, Sun Valley, ID
Arielle Gold, Steamboat Springs, CO
Hannah Teter, Belmont, VT *
Sage Kotsenburg, Park City, UT
Chas Guldemond, Reno, NV
Shaun White, Carlsbad,
Jamie Anderson, S. Lake Tahoe, CA
Ty Walker, Stowe, VT
* Competed in past Olympics