The first of five halfpipe practice days kicked off this morning (Tuesday) in Bardonecchia, Italy. Most of the 47 men and 36 women from nineteen countries rode in at least one of the two organized sessions at Melezet.

U.S. riders made their way up from the Olympic Village by van-the pipe venue is about a mile from where they’re staying. Shaun and Mason took laps most of the day, and Danny Kass did his usual cruising through the pipe. Andy Finch didn’t ride until after lunch, when he made just one run-he’s trying to heal a hurt foot from X-Games.

Kelly Clark has turned on. Since her make-or-break run at the Mountain Creek Grand Prix and the X-Games win last week, she’s been riding with confidence and going bigger than any other girl. Just wait.

Oh, you want me to call it already? Practice doesn’t mean much, especially when most of the riders arrived just the day before yesterday. Shaun doesn’t have anything to hide. He rides a contest run almost every run … and he still never falls. Other riders won’t actually throw down until later in the week or in Sunday’s event. Even then, there are tricks that will be saved for the finals.

The Finns and a Japanese rider or two will most likely challenge Shaun, Mason, Danny, and Andy. On the women’s side, there’s no particular country that’s as strong as the U.S., but individual riders like Australia’s Torah Bright and France’s Doriane Vidal could take up some space on the podium.

You’ll be happy to know that most of the major obstacles of this Olympics are now out of the way: I’ve found a place to do my laundry, finally. I’ve broken down and bought an Italian cell phone so that I can be in touch with riders and coaches, and I’ve located a wireless connection after driving around town all afternoon with my laptop in the passenger seat of the car.

Tomorrow On twsnow.com:

We’re getting into the Olympic Village, where riders from all over the world are holed up together. We’ll see where they eat, sleep, and get their hair done. Of course, we’ll also see where Mason and Danny play video games.