Summer riding is always rendered a little more exhausting by virtue of the slush, which takes extra energy to plow through, and the fact that you’re wearing heavy ass snowboard clothes in the summer heat. I mean, you could wear a bathing suit riding, but if you were hucking at the level of the world’s top pros, you’d be down with some serious raspberries on your elbows, knees, and who knows where else. Yep you really got to hand it to all of today’s superpipe contenders who hiked the steep, deep High Cascade Superpipe for run after run in the mid-day heat. I bet all their boots were really sweaty and their pant legs were sticking to their legs. But I digress!

The really big deal was how absolutely huge everyone was going in the huge halfpipe shaped by Pat Malendoski. Yesterday’s ladies highest air winner Kelly Clark was using some of that same magic today and boosting her way down the pipe, as well as polishing off some frontside 720s. Japan was repping again today, too, with big airs and McTwists from the likes of Junko Asazuma and Yuki Furihata. Strangely enough, Janna Meyen actually participated in today’s, marking her first halfpipe contest since 1993! She’s always been a hero in my book, and it was great to see her rad, styled out frontside airs poked straight into the gaggle of paparazzi. Good stuff.

However, as the women’s finals session grew to a close, it was clear to all that the 900 was the trick to have. Elena Hight rocked a frontside niner, as well as a backside one later down the pipe, and young Claire Bidez lofted a huge nine off her first hit, earning the best trick award in the process. But it was Gretchen Bleiler’s ultra-smooth, super-tech run that took the trophy today. It was, in fact, a run I’ve never seen Gretchen do before—you could really tell she was pushing herself and the judges rewarded her for it. A massive alleyoop off the first hit into back to back frontside and backside spinners, all silky smooth and way up high. It made me really stoked to see what her contests runs are going to look like next year.

The very second the women’s session drew to a close, a barrage of male riders dropped in for their practice runs and went totally ballistic. The likes of Mason Aguirre, Louie Vito, and Scotty Lago completely unleashed on that practice pipe and it was like watching a bomb go off. Or something. However, once the real deal contest was under way, some of these same riders were having a hard time staying IN the pipe. Although the airs were huge, a lot of decking and washing out went down—simply a sign that the contenders were pushing past their comfort zones.

Once the speed and angles got dialed, though, it was on. Luke Mitrani boosted alley-oop spins and other styley maneuvers, Takahiro Ishihara was getting crunched by the compression on his massive air to fakies, and Keir Dillon reached his usual level of ginormousness on some signature alley-oops and McTwists. Also, I saw more 1080s in ten minutes watching today’s event than I saw in nearly all of the 2005 season. Aguirre, Pearce, Lago, Kass—all the usual suspects tossed their carcasses around 1080 degrees and it was a thing of beauty. But it was Danny Kass’s explosive run of inverted 720 into Cab 1080 followed by frontside 900 that won it—a heavy, heavy run, no doubt about it.

Results:

Women’s
1.Gretchen Bleiler
2.Kelly Clark
3.Claire BidezBest Trick: Claire Bidez, big ol’ frontside 900 off her first hit.

Men’s
1.Danny Kass
2.Kevin Pearce
3.Scotty Lago

Best Trick: Keir Dillon, massive alley-oop floater thingy.