The sundecks at Laax were packed today with zinka-smeared, sunglassed, vacationers soaking in the rays. The local kids even got the day off school to come watch the Superpipe finals. Today's conditions were perfect for a pipe contest … and for taking in the views. Man, these Swiss know how to enjoy life to the fullest.
The format for today’s Superpipe finals was three runs all judged with an overall impression score. Before the contest got going, the head judge talked to the riders about what they wanted to see, stressing that it wasn't a spin to win contest—it's about style, variety, and progression—riders were wondering, should I do my back to back 10s or throw in a old school grab instead—but you know what, in the end, the most technical runs (read spins) won.
The 22-foot pipe (instead of eighteen) was in near perfect condition. It was the first 22-footer the riders had been in this year—the next will be at the X Games next weekend. From what Kelly Clark explained to me, the extra vert allows riders more time in the air to spin, so those sevens, nines, and tens flow longer and spins can get styled out instead of forced. It's just a matter of adjusting your riding style to be patient and carry more speed up the walls. Kelly and Kevin's style of riding both obviously benefit from the extra vert.
Besides the enormous pipe, the other noteworthy thing was that a lot of riders were missing the transition on the way back in. Most runs had a moment where the rider was either going to be able to suck up the lower trannie impact or blow out—with the exception of one run—Kevin Pearce's. He started off the contest with a "wicked" bail on the last hit of his first run. He went for his front 9 and caught his edge on the way in, whiplashing his head on the flat bottom. Ouch. He shook it off, but it wasn't until his final run, after every other rider had gone, with Shaun in first and Iouri in second that Kevin threw his run together perfectly touching down high up on the transitions, somehow sucking up enough on his bottom front 9 to not suffer the same fate … it looked like it could have gone either way for a nanosecond. Kevin's winning run started with a massive Crail into a McTwist, followed by a frontside 1080 tailgrab, Cab 1080, sticking that Frontside 900, and ending it with a safe frontside grab. Victory! Shaun's second place run was mixed up a bit from the usual, noticeable absent was the back to back 10—he went huge stalefish, into a lofty McTwist followed by a frontside 720 Mute, a Cab 1080 tailgrab, and ending with a backside alley oop rodeo 540—keep in mind that Shaun’s final run was before Kevin’s. Iouri Podladtchikov placed an impressive third in his 7th BEO—it wasn’t that long ago that he stood on the podium as the 2005 BEO Junior Jam pipe champ— a real Open success story.
The women's contest was really no contest—Kelly Clark had it from the beginning, but even on her victory run, she decided to add a trick, just to 'see if she could.' She starter with a Kelly-sized frontside 720 tail grab followed by a Cab 720 (this back to back 7 combo up top was new—be on the lookout for her to pull it out at the X Games), then she went frontside 540, backside 540, and ended with a lofty frontside air. Kjersti came in second with a strong run, and third place finisher Paulina Ligocka kept things interesting starting off with a front 900 and pulling an impressively technical run before falling on the last hit. Keep an eye out for this new face in women's pipe.
On a side note, this was the 10th anniversary of the BEO, and it just happened that the first snowboard Olympics was 10 years ago in Nagano … (and Kevin Pearce was 10 years old)—wait, I've got a point here, Gian Simmen and Nicola Thost, the two Olympic halfpipe gold medal champions from the first snowboarding Olympics were here competing. Even though it had been five years since she'd been in a halfpipe, Nicola was able to put together a sweet run including a front 7—she also milked that pipe for more hits than any other riders ending in fifth place! Gian Simmen, a Swiss national hero, got the crowd on their feet and also put together three solid runs in the finals ending up in 9th place. Very cool.
Kjersti Buass and Shaun White both won new Volvo XC 60s for best overall female and male BEO riders. The Open series continues in two weeks at the first ever Canadian Open February 2-8—the fourth event in this season's Burton Global Open Series. Prost to good weather and Swiss chocolate. Auf Wiedersehen.
Women's Halfpipe Finals Results
1. Kelly Clark (USA) Burton 94.17
2. Kjersti Oestgaard Buaas (NOR) Roxy 85.33
3. Paulina Ligocka (POL) Roxy 81.17
4. Linn Haug
5. Nicola Thost
6. Sarka Pancocchova
7. Lisa Wiik
8. Cilka Sadar
Men's Halfpipe Finals Results
1. Kevin Pearce (USA) Burton 95.50
2. Shaun White (USA) Burton 92.33
3. Iouri Podladtchikov (SUI) Volcom 89.33
4. Mathieu Crepel
5. Peetu Piiroinen
6. Mason Aguirre
7. Markku Koski
8. Markus Malin
9. Gian Simmen
10. Roger Kleidval