ASPEN, CO (March 27) – It’s time to get a bigger driveway as two shiny, new Chevy S-10 ZR5 trucks will be awarded when the U.S. Snowboard Finals Powered by Chevy Trucks close out the Grand Prix series April 3-6 in Aspen. As the Aspen Spring Jam headliner, the finals are just one part of a week packed full of free nightly concerts, the fourth annual KickAspen Big Air and excellent snowboarding in the historic Colorado village.
“Adding the U.S. Snowboard Finals to our Spring Jam line-up makes this one of the most exciting weeks of the entire season” said David Perry, senior vice president, Aspen Skiing Company. “World class competition, world class music and the non-stop party that goes on in Aspen/Snowmass will make this an event not to be missed.”
Converging on the Rockies are the hottest single-plank riders in the country, all gunning for coveted national championship honors in superpipe, parallel giant slalom, slalom and snowboardcross. Alpine events will be held at Aspen Highlands, while superpipe and SBX are on the slopes of Buttermilk.
With the addition of SBX to the 2006 Olympic program, U.S. Snowboarding has upped the national championship ante by sanctioning the race through the FIS, allowing the nation’s top riders to start earning valuable FIS points as they move toward 2006 and Olympic qualification. Top names to look for are World Championships silver medalist Seth Wescott (Farmington, ME) and 17-year-old phenom and Stratton Mountain School rider Lindsey Jacobellis (Bondville, VT), who nabbed the SBX gold medal at the 2002 World Juniors.
Also in the showcase showdown is the testing of new superpipe judging criteria. With constant trick evolution and the ability to build bigger and better competition venues, it was evident the scoring should evolve as well. Therefore, U.S. Snowboarding will test a new scoring system that rewards progressive riding with the rotation judges. The criteria will focus on classic standard maneuvers, amplitude and overall impression, but rotations will be judged by two separate judges, each watching for different degrees of rotations; flat spins and inverted spins.
“The present criteria system used at the FIS World Cups and Olympics is outdated and does not do justice to the riding level we are seeing in superpipe competitions,” explains Greg Johnson of the International Judging Commission. “The expert rider is now dedicating 60 to 70 percent of their tricks to rotations and the criteria system needs to reflect that progression. This new system with the rotational split should address these concerns.”
Pushing the criteria are riders like Mount Bachelor Grand Prix bulldog Andy Finch (Fresno, CA), whose two-story airs have broken way to an inverted arsenal that he stretches the length of the superpipe, linking up to five inverts in a row. Look for Finch to be boosting out of the Aspen superpipe along with ’03 World Championship bronze medalist Steve Fisher (St. Louis Park, MN) and Rob Kingwill (Jackson Hole, WY), who holds two Grand Prix podium spots this season.
On the women’s end, hometown girl Gretchen Bleiler is as hot as it gets, steaming into Finals with seven straight wins, including the Mount Bachelor Grand Prix, X Games and U.S. Open. Right on her coattails is 16-year-old stomper Hannah Teter (Belmont, VT), who has set the precedent for lofty airs and clean 900’s that has taken women’s snowboarding to a level previously unseen.
Putting the speed in Aspen are the alpine riders, who will be ripping the PGS and SL course in search of the overall alpine crown. Leading the pack is Pete Thorndike (Meredith, NH) with wins in both the Park City and Mount Bachelor Grand Prix events, but it’s never safe to overlook ’02 Olympic bronze medalist and Aspen local Chris Klug. It’s a split decision for the women’s crown with Stacia Hookom (Edwards, CO) and Lisa Kosglow (Boulder, CO) each with one Grand Prix win.
For both alpine and freestyle, the national championship title will be awarded to the male and female rider with the best two results from select events throughout the season. But, what it all boils down to is the overall alpine and freestyle crowns – a.k.a., the race for the Chevy trucks that will be awarded to the top rider in each discipline from the Grand Prix series. On the freestyle side, it looks to be a gunslinger showdown between Bleiler and Teter with the Aspen winner driving into the sunset with a new truck. As for the speedsters, Thorndike leads the way with two wins, but it’s not too late to include Hookom with one win and a third place finish in Park City.
“That’s the best part about the Finals,” said USSA event manager Abbi Nyberg. “Nothing is in the bag yet. “Aspen has put together an awesome week with the Spring Jam, we’ve got the best riders gunning for a shot at driving home a new Chevy S-10 – it’s going to be an amazing week.”
Also announced by Nyberg, punk rock legends The Vandals will play an exclusive free concert immediately following the superpipe finals.