By Jennifer Sherowski
Over the years, the U.S. Open halfpipe finals have been seemingly blessed with a sort of preternatural good weather, but the slopestyle event has not been so lucky. In fact, the U.S. Open slope is usually running under intense if not downright treacherous weather conditions. While that doesn’t make for a pro-rider stroll through the park competition-wise, it does make it interesting.
Anyway, this year? Rain several nights ago followed by sub-zero temps, leading into Vermont blue-ice conditions coupled with a mighty wind coming down off the wilds of the Canadian tundra. Good times. The Snow Park Technologies slopestyle course, which included a series of poppy booters preceded by a box and kinked rail garden, held up like the bombproof bit of frozen snow that it was, and so it was really the wind that made it difficult for competitors throughout the day. However, the ones who stuck it out and attacked regardless were the ones who earned the dough-twenty grand for first place in both men’s and women’s, plus another crack at winning the Burton Global Open Series title and the TTR series title.
Now, several of the women who you’d expect to see in a pro-level slopestyle finals were absent from today’s top roster after a tough morning of falls, sketches, and burly blasts of wind. Torah Bright, for instance, who later confessed to me that the wind definitely instilled fear in her today, fell on both her semi-finals runs, as did Canadian ripper Spencer O’Brien. However, the finals were still stacked with heavy hitting names like Jamie Anderson, Cheryl Maas, and Kjersti Buaas.
The very first run of the women’s three run finals saw Ms. Buaas put down a nice big frontside 720. Yep, it was a big move right off the bat and one of the only sevens attempted by a woman today (the other one was courtesy of Jamie Anderson who didn’t ride away from it). The judges rewarded Buaas’s trick supremacy and, let’s face it, balls with a top-of-the-heap score, which held up throughout the finals and put her straight at the top of the awards podium. Other ripping came by way of Jamie Anderson, who set down a styled out run of smooth rail tricks, a frontside 540 and a Cab five, and a super slick backside 180 lien. Simply landing a run at all got you somewhere today, and by landing a run like that, Jamie got second place. Now, there were a lot of riders riding hurt today, and Brit Jenny Jones, the current Global Open Series leader, was one of them. Jones fractured her tailbone in yesterday’s training and instead of skipping out on finals like any normal human would, she stomped several clean runs full of front threes, back threes, lofty straight airs, and above all, no butt drags. Can you imagine the pain of an icy kicker landing meeting an already toasted tailbone?
The men struggled with the same consistency issues as the women today. After the first of their three finals runs, there were only a handful of riders who had landed clean runs, including Tim Humphreys, who gapped to back lipped and smoothly spun his way into second place on his very first go-round. Finnish rookie Peetu Piiroinen was another stomper, setting down a backside 900 into a huge 1080 that was, after Tim’s run, only the second clean run of finals. However, consistency issues somehow don’t seem to apply to Shaun White, or at least not lately. In the face of an icy course being blasted by icy wind, Shaun clocked in nothing less than the cleanest of clean runs-a 270 onto boardslide up top, a Cab 900, a backside 900, a switch backside 900, and a frontside 1080. Phew. After all that, White went back up to the top and put down a second run of Cab 1080, switch backside nine, front 1080, and a mellow backside 720. He was switching it up and keeping us all on our toes, and for that, he won. Again.
There was, of course, other ripping going down on the course today. The U.S. Open always seems to have a rookie story, and thhis year’s slopestyle rookie was Charles Reid, a young rider out of Montreal who’s been making a name for himself on the East Coast. Reid earned himself third place on the award podium with cool, calm, consistency and styley Cab 900s. Also, last year’s slope champ Chas Guldemond clocked in a lofty and dynamic run that included a switch backside 900, a backside 1080, a big ol’ backside rodeo 540, and a Cab 1080 (that he sorta reverted around). The judges docked Chas severely for the revert and a hand drag on his back ten, but deep down he still knows he rips.
Anyway, the weather for tomorrow is calling for clear skies, calmer winds, and maybe even a gentle thawing of sorts. I mean, the halfpipe finals are tomorrow, so, of course, it would, right?
1. Shaun White
2. Tim Humphreys
3. Charles Reid
4. Ville Uotila
5. Peetu Piiroinen
1. Kjersti Buaas
2. Jamie Anderson
3. Jenny Jones
4. Sina Candrian
5. Cheryl Maas