After 27 years at Stratton, Vermont the Burton US Open is leaving the East Coast and moving to Vail, Colorado. With so much heritage behind the original snowboard contest, first held at Vermont’s Suicide Six resort as the National Snowboarding Championships in 1982, before officially becoming the US Open at Stratton in 1985, the shift marks a new era in snowboard history. For a brand that’s based on progression, it’s simply a natural evolution according to Burton’s Chief Creative Officer Greg Dacyshyn.
“We’ve been at Stratton for a long time,” says Dacyshyn. “We feel like it’s time to evolve the event for the riders, spectators, for anyone that’s involved and provide them with the best experience they can have. Vail was the obvious choice. We consulted with a lot of people before making a move like this, it’s a big move, and everyone has been 100 percent behind it.”
The change in venue is part of Burton’s vision grow the Open into not just a contest, but a festival. The plaza in front of the Vail Village Solaris building can hold up to 5,000 people and will host free concerts, live entertainment and a mini-shred park for kids.
On slope, the course location brings halfpipe and slopestyle side-by-side between the Riva Bahn Express Lift and the Gopher Hill Lift at the Golden Peak base area. Slopestyle and pipe are currently the only two events planed but the possibility of a third event, such as a rail jump, is still up for discussion. Overseeing the build is Snow Park Technologies‘ Chris “Gunny” Gunnarson, who has worked on the US Open courses for a decade. The 575-foot Superpipe will be built on the lookers right of the run and end near the top of the Gopher Hill Lift.
“It’s an ideal location from pitch to snow-making to access, and great for spectators,” says Gunny. “Vail is on the heavy pursuit to get approvals to do dirt-work to make the build easier.”
The slopestyle course will start higher to the lookers left, taking up the bulk of the run, and is tentatively planned to split into right and left rail lines with two features each that return to a center jib feature before moving into three jumps. Vail’s average annual snowfall of 366 inches and plenty of snowmaking resources means there should be lots of snow to push up some big jumps.
“It’s going to be steep and fast, says Gunny. “The top will have a pretty creative rail section where we’re doing some things that haven’t been done before.”
“It was cool in Vermont because it was so vintage,” says McMorris. “I’ve been going since I was 14. It meant a lot to me because it was the first contest I ever made a final in and it was the first big contest I podiumed at, when I got second. But it’s still the US Open even though it’s not in Stratton. There’s going to be a lot of new memories made here.”
While the facilities and snow conditions have the potential to be better than Vermont, there will undoubtedly be a void left in the major East Coast contest scene, especially with the Dew Tour reduced to a single Breckenridge event.
“I’m sure there’s going to be different points of view on [the move],” says Clark. “But rather than looking back with regret we should look forward with optimism. It’s moving forward and progressing.”
There are still plans for Burton to hold events at Stratton in the future, although for now it’s not clear what form they will take.
The Burton US Open descends on Vail February 25 to March 2, 2013.
Check the photo gallery for some of the Open’s more recent history. What do you think of the move? Let us know in the comments below.