Did you know that there’s a contest in snowboarding Shaun White hasn’t won yet? Well, there is … at least, there was. The truth is, until today, Shaun White had never, ever won the U.S. Open, but after the winningest season in his own personal history, it wasn’t hard to predict that White would be the man to put an end to Danny Kass’ three-year-long winning streak and take home the antlers, the prize money, the whole damn thing.
This year’s superpipe was the biggest in Open history, one of those “super duper pipes a looming six feet above the normal Stratton pipe. And I’d be lying if I said the walls weren’t icy. But these riders are professionals and by finals time a few of the usual suspects were firing up close to 20-foot airs on every hit. Andy Finch was riding injured and still boosting. Kevin Pearce threw a McTwist the size of a double-decker bus. Tyler Emond did an air so big that photographer Dano Pendygrasse threw out his hip trying to get the shot. New comer Brad Martin actually hucked around an inverted 1260 or two, the only rider today to attempt such a feat of rotational prowess.
However, the thing that really made people stand out was style. Sure, plenty of shredders can do 1080s, but what do they look like? It was riders like Mason Aguirre, who’s fully tweaked-out frontside 720 Japans were the sickest thing I’ve seen all season, that make watching a halfpipe contest truly a thing of beauty. Both Danny Davis and Mason spin 1080s in all directions with a sort of slick, square style that squashes your traditional pirouette-type spinning. And so styled-out combinations like Mason’s ten to front nine into frontside seven, then back nine back into frontside 1080 and Danny’s insanely huge inverted 1080 off the first hit directly into another 1080 and more spins on down the pipe got these boys exactly where they should be—on the podium.
Shaun White’s run was huge, smooth, and “better than the Olympics, according to one or both announcers: backside 900, front 1080, Cab ten, and the biggest, slowest, nicest looking frontside five in the history of halfpipe riding I reckon. He won it after the very first run and so it was just victory laps after that. Unfortunately, Danny Kass didn’t make this year’s finals after a few sketches and bobbles in semis early in the day, or he would’ve definitely given Shaun a run for his money, but regardless, the name on the top spot probably would be the same. White is hard to beat these days.
As for the ladies, the size of the pipe was a definite factor for these riders who weren’t going quite as huge as I’ve seen them go, but still attacking it nonetheless. Elena Hight juiced some big ol’ backside airs and consistently landed frontside niners and sevens. Gretchen Bleiler pieced together her unbreakable contest run of Crippler into backside five, and on into silver medal greatness. Even Molly Aguirre threw some bad-ass backside spins. But it was Ms. Torah Bright who’s teched-out pipe approach deservedly landed her on the top podium spot. She started off her run with a nice big air to fakie, always a risky move—it’s easy to loose speed on those things! Then on to a Cab seven, the backside 360 into switch backside 540, those last two hits being some of the most difficult and technical the womens’ pipe event saw all day. Good stuff out of Torah, she doesn’t do what everyone else does, but she does do it with style.
I heard someone on the side of the pipe ask if this might be the most boring U.S. Open in history, but you know what? I’d have to say it wasn’t. Some exciting stuff went down. Rookies showed up big dawgs, people struggled to go large, and Shuan White laid claim on every last tattered corner of our snowboarding domain. No yawning out of this seat, anyway. Take a look at the video and see what I mean.
US Open Halfpipe, Final Results
Saturday March 18th, 2006
1. Shaun White
2. Danny Davis
3. Mason Aguirre
4. Markku Koskii
5. Michael Goldschmidt
1. Torah Bright
2. Gretchen Bleiler
3. Elena Hight
4. Paulina Ligocka
5. Tricia Byrnes