By Jennifer Sherowski
The day? Saturday. The place? Park City, Utah. The World Superpipe Championships kicked off in a massive and massively smooth 22-foot superpipe. Most of snowboarding’s competitive community had just jumped back over the pond from Japan where they were competing in the Nippon Open. Word on the street was that the Nippon pipe was fairly small (16 feet) and fairly verty. What greeted riders in Park City, however, was something entirely different-an ultra-huge halfpipe with mellow, almost laid-back walls. That being the case, there was definitely an adjustment factor at play as the pros got their superpipe legs back under them. But they’re pros, of course, and so they did just that.
With the threat of snow looming over the day (ah, spring in the mountains-sunny one second, hail-fueled blizzard the next), the women got up early and got their practice on before the sky decided to open up and puke. Which, oddly enough, it never did. But that’s beside the point.
From the get-go, the women’s event was pretty much a Torah vs. Kelly battle. Yep I’d seen Kelly Clark boosting out of the pipe during yesterday’s practice, and in fact, she assured me this morning after her runs, “I’m a fan of the 22-foot superpipe.” But then again, Torah Bright was there yesterday, too, honing her precision tricks with signature technical prowess. It’s a tough call by anyone’s standards, but this is how the three-run finals session today shaped up. Kelly dropped in and went undeniably huge, rocking a big ol’ inverted backside 540 and front seven. Torah then threw down a packed run that included a lofty air to fakie into a quarked-out Cab seven and several other teched-out spins on down the pipe. Run number two, Kelly went even bigger, and despite going so big she actually landed flat on a frontside 540, she still proceeded to boost the biggest and raddest looking frontside 900 I’ve seen a woman do with my own eyes (and the only one thrown by a lady in today’s event).
The aforementioned sketch cost Kelly some points, however, and so it was definitely Torah’s second run that brought home the win for the Australian lass-air to fakie into a Cab seven, followed by a front five, a backside 360, and, an intensely difficult and sweetly executed switch McTwist 720 on her last hit. Phew, it was just one big combo the whole way down. Amazing. Of course, there was other ripping going down in the pipe alongside Kelly and Torah, mainly courtesy of Japanese schralper Soko Yamaoka and the clean McTwists and inverted front sevens that earned her third place, as well as up-and-comer Ellery Hollingsworth and her spin-tastic run that included back to back sevens followed by back to back fives.
Now, as the men took their practice runs the sky miraculously lightened up instead of doing the opposite like the forecast said it was going to, which was nice for pretty much everyone involved, including me. Some obvious standouts right off the bat were young Louis Vito, who flung back to back 1080s right at the top of pipe on his very first run before anyone was actually awake enough to process them, as well as Keir Dillon, who rode with his usual lofty airtime and technical fluidity. Finnish powerhouse Janne Korpi also put in an impressive first run comprised of back to back tens and a sweet alley-oop backside rodeo at the bottom.
Once the real ripping got underway, the top three shaped up as this: Shaun White in first after a banging run of 1080s, 900s, styled out straight airs, and screaming fans. Mason Aguirre in second with a stacked combo of sweet quarked spins, including the mandatory two tens. And Keir Dillon in third with the aforementioned stylish amplitude. However, it was young Luke Mitrani that upset this triumvirate on his second run by putting down (in addition to a switch backside 900 and a litany of other sevens and nines) an insane switch double backflip on his last hit. Ridiculous! It totally defied physics. A boosty third run by Janne Korpi, however, finagled Mitrani out of the top three into fourth place.
Anyway, the event came to a close with another Shaun White victory lap-he was sitting in first for all three runs, no doubt about that. Everyone was glad to be out boarding in the mountains with their friends, and all seemed to rejoice that it didn’t get all cold, crappy, and icy like it could have. “It actually go super soft for my second run,” Mason Aguirre told me over the salad bar at lunch. So yeah, a 22-foot pipe ridden, some airtime bagged, some money earned. That’s how it goes in the life of a pro snowboarder.
1. Shaun White
2. Mason Aguirre
3. Janne Korpi
4. Luke Mitrani
5. Keir Dillon
1. Torah Bright
2. Kelly Clark
3. Soko Yamaoka
4. Ellery Hollingsworth
5. Sophie Rodriguez