In the belly of a tropical Pacific storm cloud is where we find our Grand Prix halfpipe competitors in this chapter of the Mt. Bachelor Grand Prix, held January 4-6. Ross Powers has just won the first run of the finals (possibly securing a spot on the U.S. Olympic Snowboard Team), and Kelly Clark has finally found the combination to a run she’s been in search of all season. Although some contests have a clear winner–someone who obviously dominated the field with a certain trick or overall run–this event was not one of those. The top four finishers for both the men and women were really tight, and the final result was a seriously close call.
First, there was Magnus Sterner traveling a bus-length down the pipe with each hit, destroying the pipe in five huge maneuvers. Then we have Ross “The Boss” Powers, navigating his usual run with some extra speed and fire. The backside 360 was late and styled, the switch McTwist was smooth, and the frontside nine was spotless. Todd Richards, who’s had trouble putting together a solid run in the past few Grand Prix, finally did it with an amazing combination of inverted spins, including of course the Wet Cat nine. This run was definitely a contender for first place, but with only two straight airs, Todd’s Standard Maneuvers scores suffered a little. Second run saw Andy Finch pull out his signature, layout inverted 900. And take a look at the video of Tommy Czeschin’s impressive run to see how close he came to winning this event. But in the end, no one’s scores could beat those of Powers’ first run.
In the women’s division, a frontside five and a big McTwist put Kelly Clark on top after the first run, but Gretchen Bleiler nailed a solid Crippler to backside five that, since it was a more difficult combination, debatably should have pushed her ahead of Clark. Tricia Byrnes also stepped up by sticking a McTwist for the first time in competition. Cara-Beth Burnside was also in the running with smooth alley-oops and backside 540s, Alisa Mokler was busting big airs, and Michele Taggart had a mean back- to frontside five combo.
All in all, there were a lot of people riding well who couldn’t put it together in their contest runs–Luke Wynan, Bjorn Leines (who could have easily qualified for finals with the backside 900s he was doing in practice but sketched on both qualifying runs), and Chris Nelson. But while there’re still two more Grand Prix left, one thing’s for sure–Ross Powers is going to Salt Lake.