The 22-footer. PHOTO: Annie Fast

I know everyone has been on the edge of their seats waiting for the results of theFIS Snowboard World Cup this weekend … or not. In what we can only hope isn’t an ominous foreshadowing of 2010, the Saturday pipe contest was about half of what the X Games and Dew Tour series have been this winter, with no fault going to the riders themselves. There was alot of mumbling about the pipe being under vert, too short, and chewed up, which might not have totally been the fault of the pipe crew from Arena Snowparks—the same crew that builds the Whistler Pipe and the epic Camp Of Champions summer park. The crew got all of three days to fashion the pipe in the shorter-than-it-should-be dirt shell. The under-vertness made for some harsh deck outs especially on day one practice. The pipe crew also hopefully wasn’t responsible for the location. No Vancouver skyline, no ocean backdrops, just some dark trees. Blah.

Cypress Mountain has been taking some major PR hits recently starting with last weekends Freestyle Ski World Cup where the resort threatened to tow competitors cars and put signs up at the main lodge saying“No Access For Athletes.”Believe it or not. In what is becoming an Olympic locations trend, local riders considered the two other local mountains, Seymour and Grouse, better options for boarders and were pretty surprised when Cypress was selected to host all of the snowboard events.

The women’s podium. PHOTO: Annie Fast

To give you the short of it, in the women’s pipe, Torah Bright made it through her first air-to-fakie before crashing on her cab 700 on her first run—an easy combo for her that won her X Games gold a few weeks ago. Gretchen never really got the hang of this pipe, either, not finding the speed she needed. The always positive and upbeat Torah summed up the scene: “This should have been the best pipe of the season and it was probably the worst.” Ouch. Kelly Clark won the whole things on her first run and 18-year-old Chinese dynamo Jiayu Liu came in second on the podium with Hannah in third. Jiayu looks to be a potential threat for another women’s Olympic sweep.

The men’s podium. PHOTO: Annie Fast

(Shaun had his hand and wrist wrapped up in the finals.)

In the men’s pipe, the Canadians had two riders in finals including Brad Martin, who stuck the only 12 of the day on his last hit, and newcomer Jeff Batchelor—a crowd favorite and definitely one to watch. Scotty Lago also had some great effortless runs, getting the height and finesse as far as I could tell—he just didn’t stick his run in the finals. On their second practice runs Shaun White peeled back his thumb and Iouri Podladtchikov painfully scorpioned, but both came back for victory. Shaun took the lead with a mandatory straight air (FIS rules—more on that later), a back 9, back-to-back 10s and an alley-oop rodeo on his first run and held onto it despite a solid surge from Japan’s Ryoh Aono. Iouri charged from sixth into third on his second run. All three riders stuck back to back 1080s, which is interesting insight into next year’s Olympic judging. In some more Olympic foreshadowing, the mainstream media is trying out some new nicknames for Shaun including “The Robot,” “The Animal” (You heard it here first!) and believe it or not, they seem to still be hanging onto the flying tomato. Brace yourself for it.

While the pipe was hurting, the GS racers (yes, snowboard racing) had it the worst of all. The plan of mowing down the boardercross course and setting up a racecourse in a day didn’t work. The sugary snow didn’t set up, so the hardbooters went home without a race and I’m pretty sure the riders were the ones who made the call to cancel the race, not the officials—an embarrassing situation for the race organizers.

Not to go into details on a situation that has been going on since snowboarding first slammed into the FIS, I’ll just note that the first stop in the long road to the Olympics are everything you could hope they wouldn’t be.  I could go on, but I won’t …

Women’s Halfpipe Results
1. Kelly Clark (USA)
2. Jiayu Liu (CHN)
3. Hannah Teter (USA)

Men’s Halfpipe Results
1. Shaun White (USA)
2. Ryoh Aono (JPN)
3. Iouri Podladtchikov (SUI)

Women’s Snowboardcross Results
1. Lindsey Jacobellis (USA)
2. Olivia Nobs (SUI)
3. Helene Olafsen (NOR)
4.  Maelle Ricker (CAN)

Men’s Snowboardcross Results
1. Markus Schairer (AUT)
2. Mike Robertson (CAN)
3. Seth Wescott (USA)
4. Francois Boivin (CAN)