By Jennifer Sherowski
Yep, it happened. The U.S. Open halfpipe finals went down today under miraculously blue skies and in a 22-foot Stratton, Vermont superpipe. The big news today was the hundred grand on the line for the Burton Global Open Series and the 50,000 bucks up for grabs for the men's TTR tour title. Technically speaking, this cash has been on the line all season long. Riders have been earning BGO and TTR points since the Open Series kick-off at the New Zealand Open way back in August. However, today was a last ditch of sorts, where the gloves were thrown off and the last-minute battles fought out. You could definitely feel the presence of all that potential prize money in the intensity of the riding.
As I stood up in the photo corral during this morning's semi finals, I took notice of several things: the pipe was fast, and the riders were fricking flying. I watched young Charles Reid travel nearly half way down the pipe on one air, and Scotty Lago was doing alley-oops off his first hit over ten feet out. In fact, as the men's semi-finals unfolded it became clear that Lago was in it to win it with his giant amplitude and ballistic 1080s. Other contenders from semis (and by contenders, I of course mean contenders to beat Shaun White) included Vermont's own Kevin Pearce, Norwegian Kim Rune Hansen, and young Finnish ripper Peetu Piiroinen. It goes without saying that Shaun White was in first headed into the afternoon's finals.
The first round of the finals kicked off with wicked runs from fellow "Frends" Mason Aguirre and Kevin Pearce. Aguirre threw down back to back tens and some alleyoop magic. Pearce clocked in boosty back to back tens, too, along with an ultra-tweaked out McTwist that was a thing of beauty. Scotty Lago lit up the pipe with the kind of energy it takes to win—a huge alleyoop off the first hit and hands down the day's biggest 1080—but unfortunately, even after two more attempts, he was unable set down a clean run. Scanners Peetu Piiroinen, Janne Korpi, and Kim Rune Hansen fought the good fight, too, with serious style and teched-out 1080 combos, but at the end of the day, the pipe's slightly laid back walls led to a bevy of deck explosions and a below-average rate of stompage.
Once again, it was Shaun White who brushed off any complaints about consistency and laid down three clean runs, the last run being, you know, just another victory lap. Run number one? Frontside 1080, backside 1080, his signature sweet and slow frontside five, a mellow McTwist, and back to back niners. Yep, that clocked in as the winning run and stayed that way for the rest of the afternoon. White's second run, interestingly enough, included a 1080 that looked an awful lot like he meant it to be a 1260 but didn't quite have enough hang time. No doubt we'll be seeing the twelve out of this guy next season.
Now, on to women's, which was a fierce battle of 900s, switch backside spins, and unabashed amplitude. Ellery Hollingsworth, a sixteen-year-old ripper from Connecticut, unleashed her run of back to back sevens into back to back fives for solid standings before squeaking around a backside 900 on her second run—the only BS9 out of a lady today. Claire Bidez threw down boosty frontside 900s all day. But the podium battle was between Kelly Clark, Gretchen Bleiler, and Torah Bright (all of them former U.S. Open halfpipe champs).
Clark brought serious airtime and a big ol' front nine. Bleiler brought a lofty frontside 900 and her signature Crippler. But it was Torah's teched out runs—which included (at least on the third go round) an insanely difficult switch backside 720—that earned her a second U.S. Open halfpipe title. I will say, however, that none of these top ladies set down the run you could tell they wanted, and as the day wore on, conditions definitely got a little more rugged. However, the mere fact that they were throwing down in a hard-roock pipe of that caliber was a true inspiration.
An award ceremony to end all award ceremonies took place directly after the close of the pipe challenge, and literally hundreds of thousands of dollars were given away. Below you will find the complicated set of results that came from minutes upon minutes of painstaking tabulation. Read it and weep.
Men's Results ($20,000 for 1st)
1. Shaun White
2. Mason Aguirre
3. Kevin Pearce
Men's Zune Best Trick Award ($5,000): Scotty Lago, double-cork 1080!
Women's Results ($20,000 for 1st)
1. Torah Bright
2. Kelly Clark
3. Gretchen Bleiler
Women's Zune Best Trick Award ($5,000): Torah Bright, switch backside 720
Burton Global Open Series Titles ($100,000 each)
Men: Peetu Piiroinen
Women: Torah Bright
Men's Ticket To Ride Title ($50,000): Kevin Pearce