All Photos: Nick Hamilton
After qualifying ninth on Wednesday it was clear Mark McMorris was hungry for victory at the 2014 Burton US Open slopestyle. The three-run contest format meant a rider could do a safety run, post a decent score, and step it up from there if they wanted. But Mark wasn't holding back. On his first run he threw a technical jib line with a 50-50 to wildcat out and a backside triple cork off this last hit but sat on the landing. The next run he got the full line he was looking for, landing his triple cork clean. That was enough to put him firmly in the top spot and hold him there. By posting the top score on his second run Mark was able to drop last on his final run, giving him the chance to watch all the other riders' go. By the time it was his turn he knew he had won and could take a victory lap.
Mark McMorris’s winning run.
"When I dropped in I was just like, 'Thank you lord that this season is over, I'm going to do methods and enjoy myself to the best of my ability,"' Mark said. Methods are exactly what he did, kicking out a 50-50 to method, followed by back-to-back methods on the last two jumps. The last time he got to do a victory lap like that was exactly one year ago when he won the 2013 Burton US Open Slopestyle.
As an Olympic year it's been a long and grueling competition season for Mark, full of ups and downs, which included breaking his ribs at X Games right before Sochi. "But it's all been pretty positive," he said. "I've been able to jump on the podium at each event I've entered. To end it at an event for snowboarders by snowboarders with a first place win was really cool. I'm going to Hawaii on Tuesday." The $45,000 he picked up for winning today will be a nice addition to his vacation fund.
Stale Sandbech had hoped to improve on his silver medal performance from Sochi but came in just 0.30 points behind Mark. Stale had one final chance to close the gap on Mark with his third run but tried a different rail trick on his first hit and couldn't connect with the rail properly. "I kinda just messed up on the first rail and couldn't keep going in a way I could have got a higher score," he said. "We were close out there.”
But overall Stale had his best competitive season, also picking up the World Snowboard Tour Slopestyle and Overall Champion titles today.
Stale Sandbech’s second place run.
Max Parrot got third with an odd choice of runs as they were almost identical to Mark's and Mark and had dropped first. It’s true that many riders do jumps lines that are nearly the same, often separated only by grabs but the similarity between Max’s runs and Mark’s on the both the rails and jumps prompted some observers to comment that it looked like xerox boarding and that Mark and Max were playing a game of SKATE. When asked why he did such a similar line to Mark, Max said it was coincidence. "When I saw his practice run in the morning, I saw him doing a backflip on the second feature, I thought I was the only one going to do it so I was kind of surprised," Max added. "It was kind of a similar run." He then repeated that the run choice was a coincidence.
If you have a run planned for sure it’s difficult to switch it up last minute, but in an age where contest runs are often criticized for being too alike already, finding a unique and individual approach to trick selection is becoming increasingly important to keep things fresh. Although he finished ninth today, falling on both of his runs, a shout goes out to Brandon Davis who kept it creative with a frontside 720 indy crossrocket grab combo. With riders reaching the limits of how many spins and flips are possible, innovative grabs and approaches to tricks will continue to help set riders apart.
Max Parrot’s third place run.
As for the course, overall the men had less issues with the falling snow than the women but they felt part of that was due to how well the setup was built. "When I woke up this morning I was like "Shit,'” Stale said. “It was like Déjà vu from last year. Last year it was so sticky. But this year I had speed and they built the course good so it worked out in bad weather as well."
He added that the course builders were really good about side slipping and shaping the take-offs when they had time, which got rid of the sticky snow. The third rail feature was also constructed in a way that made sure riders would come out of it with enough speed to clear the first jump in any conditions.
2014 Burton US Open Men's Slopestyle Final Results
1. Mark McMorris — 87.50
2. Stale Sandbech — 87.20
3. Maxence Parrot — 84.30
4. Sebastien Toutant — 83.35
5. Roope Tonteri — 81.70
6. Darcy Sharpe — 78.05
7. Tyler Nicholson — 72.60
8. Emil Ulsletten — 60.95
9. Brandon Davis — 38.55
10. Kyle Mack — DNS (Injured during practice.)