Click here for Quicktime Video Clip of the Men’s Finals.

Click here for Quicktime Video Clip of the Women’s Finals.

It’s St. Patrick’s day on the East Coast. As two million drunk Bostonians get ready to sing Auld Lang Syne out of tune, the nineteenth annual U.S. Open halfpipe finals are in full swing at Stratton Mountain, Vermont.

Despite fearful predictions of bad weather for the weekend, finals’ day dawned bright and sunny, proving Burton’s contract with the devil hasn’t expired just yet – or maybe it was just a little Leprechaun luck. The men competed in the morning’s semifinals to cut the field down to ten. Keir Dillon definitely had the magic touch in the morning as he calmly pulled eighteen-foot McTwists off the first hit. Gian Simmen was going richter as well, with enough explosive energy to blow out on the deck and hit an unsuspecting Daniel Franck as he hiked up the side. A minor setback for Daniel. He was limping after the incident and needed some recovery time at the top before dropping in for his last semifinal run, but he had no problem making it into the finals, because Daniel is a professional and does what it takes. Jonas Emery was going really big, and didn’t make the finals even though he definitely should have. Due to his lack (or pretend lack) of English comprehension, however, he rode in the finals anyway. With a glance at the results¿Danny Kass in first, Abe Teter in second, and Daniel Franck in third¿it’s easy to tell that much East Coast representing went down in the finals. Although Ross Powers didn’t make the podium, he executed switch McTwists and frontside 900s with ease. And the young Daniel Kass upped the level from the morning’s semifinals with huger airs and fancier combinations. Although Kass rode well, and I’m psyched that he won because he’s the kind of young, blowing-up rider that should be winning the Open, Abe Teter was doing things in the pipe that I’ve never seen done before. In addition to feeding off the crowd and going bigger and bigger each run with his smooth tall-person style, he was doing spins at angles that have yet to be proven physically possible. Abe was ruling.

The women’s field had already been cut down to ten, so the ladies’ competition didn’t start until the afternoon. Shannon Dunn and Natasza Zurek were playing a game of poker with their trick combinations. First, Natasza gambled a frontside 540 and backside McTwist. Then Shannon threw a frontside 720 and backside McTwist into the pot. Natasza upped the ante with a rodeo to the backside McTwist. Shannon saw her bet with a crippler on her last hit. Finally Natasza pulled out the gold Rolex, a huge backside McTwist followed by an equally large crippler, and sprinkled in some lofty straight airs to seal the win. Shannon still collected some winnings for second, though. And Gretchen Bleiler was in the game too, with a big frontside 540 off the first hit and a 720 at the bottom to please the crowd.

“It was really fun, but more like a snowboarding marathon than a contest,” said winner Natasza Zurek about this year’s U.S. Open. “Some riders were riding for four days straight. There were so many qualifications, and then the finals were set up so you rode yourself into the ground.”

After nineteen years, the Open¿more than any other contest¿has a rich history in snowboarding and tradition of East Coast pride. But this year things definitely felt different. For one thing, the halfpipe was moved to the Sun Bowl, an area on the other side of the mountain with its own secluded base area. Having the entire event venue in one place away from the main base area probably made it a whole lot easier to run. But you know, it just doesn’t feel like the Open without the old Stratton pipe on the far right of the resort, where drunken fans of snowboarrding crawl all over like ants, infesting trees and even lift towers, and frightening vacationing families and high-end clientele alike. Come to think of it, that’s probably why Stratton moved it.

But there was also some faces missing in the crowd this year¿Todd Richards and Cara-Beth Burnside to name a few¿that made the event seem a little less like the “biggest contest of the year.” With competition schedules so stacked throughout the winter and such few and precious filming days left in the season, maybe there are better uses of this weekend in the life of a professional snowboarder. After this year, it’s hard not to ask — is the U.S. Open becoming “just another contest”?

Men
1. Danny Kass
2. Abe Teter
3. Daniel Franck
4 Xaver Hoffman
5 Therry Brunner
6 Keir Dillon
7 Ross Powers
8 Giacomo Kratter
9 Gian Simmen
10 Marcel Hitz

Women
1. Natasza Zurek
2. Shannon Dunn
3. Gretchen Bleiler