Some of the world’s greatest riders congregated on the Southern Hemisphere for the 2006 Burton New Zealand Open, kicking off Burton’s Open World tour and culminating in the greatest snowboard competition this action sports Mecca has ever seen. With strong contingencies from the U.S., Japan and New Zealand, a charge of stoke permeated through both the crowds and competitors at Snow Park NZ, leaving much in epic anticipation.

Day OneThe slopestyle event kicked off on August 3rd with an imposing wall of fog creeping up the hillside, suffocating the Cardrona Valley. Luckily, the looming 500-foot long halfpipe never let the fog impede on the course, leaving the three-rail urban stair set, series of flat rails, 46-foot (fourteen meter) jump and 59-foot (eighteen meter) jumps quite huckable. The riders could then finish off their runs with either a wall ride, an up-box or a gap to down-rail.

First place men’s went to Vermont-native Kevin Pearce, who took the honors by dropping in with a front board on the under-used down-flat-down rail, landing switch into a backside nine followed by a huge 1080, then cleanly finishing it off with a 270 boardslide onto the kinked down-rail. Hana Beaman took it for the women after boosting huge all day, with a 50-50 on the super technical high rail, followed by a boardslide into a half-cab mute, a huge corked out backside 360 and a capping 50-50 on the gapped down-rail.

Other notables were runner up Scotty Lago and third placer, sixteen year old Norwegian Mikkel Bang, who ripped the course with a backside cab 7 to a switch backside 9 and then a backflip over the final rail gap. Almost as stylish was his porch-climb to bar-ejection at the after party later that night. Speaking of underage, 2005 Rookie of the year, fourteen year old Ellery Hollingsworth scored third place leaving everyone confident that the future of the sport definitely lies with the young guns.

Day Two

ay two of the Open consisted of the halfpipe qualifications and an evening Quarter pipe invitational of thirty men and twelve women. The halfpipe—which was constructed by the legendary Snow Park Technologies team—was built to the exact same specifications as the Winter X Games pipe: 500-foot long with seventeen-foot walls. The qualifiers were capped at 100 riders, split into three heats each with two runs, all battling for only ten male and five female spots.

The bluebird was out in full force without a cloud in the sky, allowing the spectators to focus their attention on the thrilling runs needed to make it in to one of those coveted few spots. The main event for the day was the evening quarter pipe jam and the crowds came out around sunset to watch colossal airs on the thirty-foot (nine-meter) quarter pipe. This was an event for the fearless only, with riders hardly checking their speed as they plunged down one of the halfpipe decks and launched in excess of twenty feet above the quarter pipe.

The jam format allowed riders to build off each other, and kept the crowds entranced with hit after hit. Repeat winner Mason Aguirre took home the oversized check after consistently stomping a combo of technical tricks including a huge backside 9. Scotty Lago won the best trick award with a backside 1080 and Takahiro Ishihara won the big air with after boosting fifty feet in the air—just over twenty above the deck. Kelly Clark’s consistency and her stylish backside airs brought her the dough while young Elena Hight lived up to her last name and clinched the big air award with a triple over-head launch (she’s five feet tall), airing fifteen-feet above the deck. Another representative of the skilled Japanese mafia, Junko Asazuma took best trick with a flawless backside 5.

Day Three

The halfpipe and main event proved to be the culmination of all the mammoth and twisted airs that had been pulled over the last two days and attested to the legendary status of this years Open among kiwi competitions. Largge crowds turned out and the beats of Downtown Brown from the Subculture club in Queenstown got everyone’s blood flowing.

With three scored runs, the competitors only needed one epic score to take the cake. You could tell adrenaline was pumping as people starting going huge right out of the gate. Everyone was vying for that purse and too many riders over tweaked their massive airs or over corked their spins resulting in impressive tricks but few spotless first runs. After getting the bugs out, the second run was truly breathtaking. Not only were people going for the win, but they were stomping everything and linking super technical tricks. The bar was set sky-high when Louie Vito, dropped in switch and busted out back to back 10s, then a backside 7, then back to back 9s, then a gracefully slow 3 and finished it off with huge cab 9. It was eventually enough to score him second place, and more than enough to open some eyes and drop some jaws. With a performance like that, there was a silent recognition among the crowd that it was going to take an Olympic-worthy run to win this event.

The next rider looking to push that envelope was Mason Aguirre, who dropped in low and boosted right into an aired out rodeo, followed by a backside 5. He then linked back to back 10s followed by back to back 9s and a crowd pleasing tweaked out stalefish as icing on the cake. Seconds later Danny Davis dropped in, looking to somehow one-up Aguirre, with back to back 9s then back to back 10s and an alley-oop rodeo. But fate was not on his side, and Mason Aguirre took home the bacon, with Danny’s run placing him in third. Everyone in the field was pulling off amazing tricks, and a few too many butt checks and a chunked pipe wall in the third run prevented any upsets of this dynamic trio. Rob Kingwell took best trick with his self-invented Sato flip, which is a fully inverted frontside 540.

Apparently sushi makes you fly, because Kazu Kokubo and Takaharu Nakai were airing higher than anyone, sadly their ambition got the best of them as wipeouts seemed to be the norm coming down off most people’s fourth hits. Olympian Kelly Clark took it for the women, boosting up into the stratosphere and throwing down a sick winning run linking a huge frontside air, a backside tail grab, an aired out 7 to a cab 3, ending it off with a tweaked out nose grab to method and a huge frontside 5. Sophie Rodriguez took second, connecting a big 7, a cab 3, and a frontside 5. Soko Yamaoko rounded out the bread winners with solid runs and that Japanese-trademarked amplitude we saw all contest long.

After it was all over Canadian Crispin Lipscomb wasn’t quite satisfied and hiked a few runs till smoothly stomping a mind-blowing 1260 and driving the crowds wild.

So the big winners at the 2006 Burton New Zealand Open were Mason Aguirre and Kelly Clark, who not only killed it in both the halfpipe and quarter pipe events, but defended their titles from last year. The high caliber riding seen at Snow Park guarantees to make this year’s competition one for the record books and if this Burton Tour opener is any signifier of things to come, get amped for an epic year.