“History in the making. Announcer Mark Sullivan’s favorite phrase couldn’t have been more appropriate today as dirty Jersey’s Danny Kass reeled in his third US Open halfpipe title; the Japanese powerhouse of Takahiro Ishihara, Kazu Kokubo, and Takaharu Nakai smacked North America straight in the grill; and Ross Powers, um, didn’t make the podium.

Now, I don’t want to bore you by mentioning the weather, but it has so much to do with US Open that I can’t help it. Yesterday I heard someone in the lodge say, “It’ll be sunny tomorrow, it’s always sunny the day of the US Open halfpipe. Thanks to that jinxing bastard, a lovely snow storm kicked up towards the end of finals–at least it gave some life to the day’s nasty Vermont graybird. Riders were faced with some pretty flat light as well as extremely firm pipe walls. “I was scared in that thing, I’m not gonna lie to you, said second place finisher Steve Fisher. But hey, life’s not all sunny days and buttery pipes, now is it? And he seemed to manage just fine.

On to the action, because there definitely was some. The finals format was new this year: an hour-long jam for the men and likewise for the women. On the ladies’ side, Vermonter Kelly Clark aimed and fired for pretty much the entire hour. You could tell she was going to win just by her attitude in the pipe: explosive and controlled. Consistent twelve-foot airs and gigantor frontside seven melons were a few of her winning ingredients. Judging who placed where behind Kelly was a tough call though, because the nine other women all ripped it in one way or another. Second placer Tricia Byrnes stomped tech-trick combos that included frontside sevens, fives, Cab fives, and even switch straight airs. Third placer Stine Kjeldaas was smooth and consistent, Aussie Torah Bright boosted a brilliant McTwist in an equally brilliant last run, and although Japanese newcomer Junko Asazuma was a bit inconsistent, she blew doors on the amplitude scale and did the coolest quarked backside five/McTwist thingies of the day.

The men’s finals hour entertained what Competition Director Greg Johnson called “controlled poaching, meaning the likes of Terje Haakonsen, Heikki Sorsa, Abe Teter, and DCP served as proverbial rodeo clowns for the crowd while the other riders sucked wind in between runs. Like I said before, Japan made a serious presence at this year’s Open with three riders making the finals; all of them almost too explosive for themselves and the pipe, but looking to be real threats for the future. Sixteen-year-old Mason Aguirre rode amazingly, he has such good style and owns the 1080, too. Keir Dillon boosted as always but has tossed an inverted 900 into the mix recently and was rewarded with a podium place for steppin’ it up. Chief technician Steve Fisher spun the hardest way you can (switch backside) like it was a walk in the park for second. Danny Kass rode mellow in the morning’s semifinals, but he must’ve pushed the afterburner button somewhere along the way ’cause I saw him do a double-head-high 1080 with my own eyes. He also did back to back 1080s and lofty stalefish straight airs that could probably be spotted from the observatory all the way down in Manchester.

It felt strange to not have Ross Powers on the podium at the Open. I mean, he is from Vermont, and hey, he did back to back 1080s, too. But the calls were close and an hour of riding is pretty hard to judge. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to see Shaun White ride in the afternoon. He came out of a flat landing in his semifinals run holding the knee he injured at the X-Games, and although he qualified for the finals, he chose not to ride. We hope he’s okay.

Results

Womens
1. Kelly Clark
2. Tricia Byrnes
3. Stine Kjeldaas
4. Hannah Teter
5. Clair Bidez
6. Torah Bright

Men
1. Danny Kass
2. Steve Fisher
3. Keir Dillon
4. Mason Aguirre
5. Ross Powers
6. Kazuhiro Kokuba