This is the U.S. Open story. It seems a little bit silly to offer a real play-by-play of the event, considering the fact that anyone who’s interested enough in the contest to read this story would’ve already seen it on TV a good five or six months ago. For those who didn’t, however, the results are at the end of the story—and try to pay attention next year. Anyway, this is what it feels like to be at the most respected snowboarding contest in the world. For some reason, every year when the Open comes to Vermont, I start getting very edgy. I don’t really know why it happens; it’s not like I’m competing or organizing it or anything. A lot of other people feel it, too. You know that gut-gnawing, spine-tingling, anticipation feeling that comes in waves. It’s the same sort of feeling I used to get when I was going to a really good concert without a ticket, knowing I had to find a way to sneak in. I knew it would be all right, somehow it would pay off, and I’d have a great time. All it would take is a bit of faith and the willingness to go with the flow.
I can’t explain exactly why I get the same feeling from the U.S. Open. I mean, hopping the fence into some Guns ‘N’ Roses concert, with a buttload of security dudes chomping at the bit to bust anyone for any minor infraction is one thing. The closest I normally come to brushes with petty authority at Stratton is when I can’t figure out how to work the lockers, can’t find the bathroom, or something.
It doesn’t make any sense why I’d feel any amount of anticipation in making a yearly trek to one of the most family-friendly places outside of Walt Disney World. My only conclusion is a single common denominator shared with the concert sneak-in: chaos. Anything can happen. There’s a great haze of willful chaos that hangs over Stratton for those few days in March. A lot of people have great stories of crazy shit happening to them at the Open. There are also a lot of people who haven’t ever experienced anything extraordinary and are trying like hell to make something happen, which isn’t going with the flow. True chaos cannot be forced. Such was the case at the 1999 Open, when a bunch of chaos-starved asswipes started throwing bottles and hurting people. If someone ever says to you, “Yeah, dude. I was the guy who threw the bottle that hit Ross Powers’ mom,” do the world a favor and punch him in the ear real hard.
Anyhow, nothing like that happened this year. The 2000 Open was well organized, safe, and fun. It seems the two major barricades for avoiding chaos at the halfpipe competition worked well. The first barricade was the major one: no alcohol. That calmed the potential chaos fabricators down. The second barricade was the long hike it took to get to the Superpipe, which needed more slope than the old pipe location had. If you weren’t really determined to get there, you could’ve spent 45 minutes trekking up to the corral at the bottom of the pipe.
In all honesty, though, I’m not even sure those factors made this U.S. Open what it truly was, which was the best Open ever. It really was. I don’t think there’s a spectator who would disagree. And, I think the credit has to go to the riders, who were putting on the greatest show I’ve ever seen take place in a halfpipe. Every rider seemed to be going several feet higher than we spectators expected, and they all landed so solidly. Trevor Andrew and Adam Petraska were stoking out the crowd with insanely big, stylish airs. Tommy Czeschin was spinning huge on both walls, and Ross Powers and Guillaume Morissette were locked in a neck-and-neck race for first place. The battle was made more even exciting by the Jam format that allowed each athlete to take as many runs as competitors could fit into a 50-minute period.
The jam format is one of those things that can bring a contest to the next level. Instead of the usual best two out of three runs, in a jam format a rider could conceivably fall on four runs and still win the contest, if he stomps two great ones. So, the athletes can really push themselves to nail the perfect halfpipe run. Oh, and I think that’s part of why there was no cross-pipe snowball fight this year; with the riders coming down so regularly and going so high, there was a distinct possibility of creaming the guy you were rooting for. Then you’d be the guy who took out Luke Wynen or somebody, and you’d be a real a-hole.
Even the kids in the newly instituted “Junior Jam” were excellent. Kids with skills like these should be sent to special schools and studied for future bioengineering purposes. Not really, but the young men and women competing in the Junior Jam halfpipe contest were throwing down some serious runs that took a lot of people by surprise. I look forward to seeing these little humans graduating up to the superpipe in future years. !Viva los niños!
So, I want to thank Burton for once again putting on an epic Open, one that’s never had an equal. Thanks to Vince LaVecchia for throwing the Friday night hoedown featuring Tony Touch and The One Slick Rick. And to all of you who don’t know what the hell I’ve been talking about throughout this whole article, come to the U.S. Open. You won’t be disappointed. Or, at least watch it on TV next time it rolls around.