PARK CITY, Utah – The FIS Snowboard World Cup tour makes itslone domestic stop this week asthe X Nix Countdown to Gold rolls into Park City Mountain Resort March1-4. It will be the third season in a rowthat Park City has hosted the event.
It will be the last opportunity for the athletes to check out the venuesthat will host all of the snowboard events atthe 2002 Olympic Winter Games. The event is also crucial to worldwidenations as they are trying to obtainmaximum quota spots for the Olympics.
The World Cup begins Thursday with the halfpipe competition in ParkCity’s new superpipe, located in EagleRace Arena. The pipe was shaped by Planet Design’s Pat Malendoski (whohas also been retained to build theOlympic superpipe next year) and will be the first time the Countdown toGold (and the Olympics) has featured asuperpipe. The pipe opened to the public in mid-January and has garneredrave reviews.
The superpipe contest should draw a world-class field as the athletesare pumped up to ride the Olympic venue.U.S. Snowboard Team rider Tommy Czeschin (Mammoth Lakes, CA) won lastyear’s event and is coming offhis first World Cup win of the season Feb. 25 in Asahikawa, Japan. Thesilver medal winner at this year’s XGames, Czeschin seems to go bigger and bigger each time he drops into asuperpipe.
Park City local Ricky Bower, Rob Kingwill (Jackson, WY) and Zach Horwitz(Carbondale, CO), all members ofthe U.S. Snowboard Team, are scheduled to ride. Olympic bronze medalistRoss Powers (S. Londonderry, VT)will also be on hand to test out the huge transitions in the Park Citypipe.
Tricia Byrnes (Stratton Mt., VT), who also won last season’s Countdownto Gold, is ripping this year as she hascollected a World Cup victory, two Chevy Truck U.S. Snowboard Grand Prixwins and took the season’s firstVans Triple Crown superpipe event.
Byrnes will have plenty of competition to worry about, including ’98Olympian Michele Taggart (Salem, OR) andCanadian Natasza Zurek, one of the only females to throw inverted 540sin the pipe.
The parallel giant slalom finals will be held Sunday on CB’s Run inEagle Race Arena. Again, the top riders inthe world will compete as the PGS, like the superpipe, is an Olympicdiscipline. Top U.S. riders include RoseyFletcher (Girdwood, AK), Chris Klug (Aspen, CO) and Sondra Van Ert(Ketchum, ID).
Fletcher has recorded seven World Cup podium finishes this season, mostrecently a second in PGS on Feb.24 in Japan. She currently sits third in the World Cup parallelstandings behind Italian Carmen Ranigler andFrance’s Karine Ruby.
For Klug, a ’98 Olympian, it has been an amazing return to action thisyear as he had a liver transplant just thispast June. He has podiumed in his last two World Cup races and won aparallel giant slalom in Italy back inJanuary.
U.S. Team racer Van Ert owns an impressive career resume and is one ofthe most experienced racers on thecircuit. A ’98 Olympian, Van Ert finished just off the podium in fourthin a World Cup PGS race in Sapporo,Japan.
Friday night, an exhibition quarterpipe event will be held under thelights at the base of the superpipe.Competitors will launch themselves off the kicker to try for the $3,500top prize. The field will consist of 18 menand 10 women.
An invitation-only contest, Powers, JJ Thomas (Golden, CO) and JaimeMacleod (Andover, NH) are slated tojump. Thomas won the Grand Prix slopestyle at Okemo Mountain, Vermont,while Macleod won the slopestylegold at this year’s X Games, as well as the slopestyle at the OkemoGrand Prix.
X Nix Countdown to Gold Snowboard World Cup
Thursday, March 1
9 a.m.; superpipe qualificiations
1:30 p.m.; superpipe finals
Friday, March 2
7 – 7:45 p.m.; quarterpipe warm-up
8 – 9 p.m.; quarterpipe event
Sunday, March 4
9:30 a.m.; parallel giant slalom qualifications1 p.m.; parallel giant slalom finals