Every March, the world’s best riders migrate to Stratton, Vermont for snowboarding’s most anticipated event – the Philips US Open. This year, the event will be held from March 14th-16th and will feature four different events – the all new Friday Night Rail Jam, the Superpipe contest on Saturday and Slopestyle and Junior Jam events on Sunday.

One year after snowboarding dominated the Olympics, the competition at the Open will be more intense than ever with explosive riders like X Games Champion Shaun White taking on Olympic Medalists Ross Powers, Danny Kass and JJ Thomas. Other Olympians competing at the Open include Gold Medalist and 2002 US Open Halfpipe Champion Kelly Clark and Olympic Silver Medalist Dorianne Vidal.

In addition to halfpipe riders, top handrail and slopestyle riders will be at the Open for the new Friday Night Rail Jam and second annual Slopestyle competition. Getting the event off to a good start, Jeremy Jones and Chris Coulter will be at the Philips US Open’s Friday Night Rail Jam. David Benedek, who was recently named Rider of the Year by Snowboarder Magazine, plans to attend the Rail Jam and Slopestyle event as does Zach Leach and Travis Rice.

Sixteen-year-old Shaun White may just be the rider to watch at this year’s Open. He dominated the recent X Games, winning both the Superpipe and Slopestyle events, as well as the Outstanding Athlete award, which scored him a Jeep® Wrangler Rubicon. If he keeps up his winning streak at the Open, he could walk away with his second Jeep® of the year, which will be awarded to the Philips US Open’s Overall Winner. Not bad for a guy who just learned to drive.

But there are others with their eye on winning the US Open Halfpipe competition – a title that has been a huge honor in snowboarding for decades. Keir Dillon, who placed third at last year’s Open, has had his sights set on the Open halfpipe title for years. “Winning the US Open would be insane,” says Keir. “I’ve been going to the Open for the longest time…getting 100th place, then 80th place, 60th place…then third last year. To win it on the east coast, where I’m from, and with so many kids there who support me and who I support would be cool.” Keir’s signature smooth style also earned him second place in last year’s Quarterpipe.

And then there’s Danny Kass, the 2002 Olympic Silver Medalist. He’s won the Open two years in a row now. If he wins it this year, he’ll be the first rider in Open history to win three consecutive US Open halfpipe titles.

Also featured is the fifth annual Junior Jam, which showcases tomorrow’s stars. Kids like Luke Mitrani have come through the Junior Halfpipe event and become contenders in both the kids’ and men’s events. The Junior Jam will also have an international presence this year, with young riders like Olivier Gittler, Mikkel Bang and Takahiro Ishihara traveling to Stratton from Europe and Japan.

On the women’s side of the events, younger women like Hannah Teter, Torah Bright and Elena Hight have been stepping it up, giving the 2002 Olympic Medalists a run for their money. The 2003 Philips US Open has drawn a competitive field of top women pros to the Halfpipe and Slopestyle events. There could be quite a battle between reigning US Open Halfpipe Champion Kelly Clark and Gretchen Bleiler, who has recently earned first place victories at the X Games, the World Super Pipe Championships and the Vans Triple Crown. 2002 US Open Slopestyle Champion Annie Boulanger will be back to defend her title in a strong field of women that includes Jaime Macleod, Hana Beaman and others.

One thing is for certain – whoever wins a 2003 Philips US Open title will join the ranks of other snowboarding greats like Craig Kelly, Terje Haakonsen, Shaun Palmer, Jeff Brushie and Shannon Dunn. And that’s an honor worth far more than a $10,000 to $20,000 first place award.

If you can’t make it to Stratton, you can catch live action of the Philips US Open finals on Outdoor Lifee Network (OLN). For more information on the US Open, including event schedules, sponsors and press credential information visit www.opensnowboarding.com