The X Nix USSA National Halfpipe Championships Okemo, Vermont

It was a day of victory laps at the US Snowboard Championships at Okemo, Vt. Both Ross Powers and Shannon Dunn won their respective divisions in their first runs, and with the reverse running order, each went last on their second run. So basically, all each had to do was make it to the bottom of the pipe to become the champion.

Okemo is to be commended for not only transforming their pipe into one with transition for the contest, but also keeping it in perfect shape all the way until Ross dropped in the pipe for his final run. This was done with about 100 pounds of salt and a bunch of skiers to slip the pipe every fifteen or so runs. It’s funny that the people who complained for years about snowboarders pushing the snow off the trails are now the one pushing the snow around in the pipe.

The thing about the USSA and their contests, is that anyone with money to burn and a bunch of free weekends can do them. It was no different in the championships, with everyone from Mike Michalchuk, to the kid who got last place in every Green Mountain series in it. This made for about 20 runs per division from people who had enough FIS points, but couldn’t quite clear the lip. Once this fiasco was concluded thought, the real show began, for both men and women.

Although most of the women’s runs are a blur, Karla Gembarowski’s sticks out in my mind. She not only went inverted, but did so twice in a row, with a McTwist into a Crippler, however, this only earned her 5th. Tricia Byrnes flawlessly performed her back to back three’s which have made her famous, and then threw in a 720 to clench second place. It was Shannon Dunn who again showed why she should have won the Open, with her runs that are making McTwist’s and 720’s essential to winning a women’s contest. In third was the first of a string of fine local Okemo showings, Sarah Thompson. The men put on an excellent show. The local spirits were at an all time high, with the helmet posse in full effect, (although most were sans helmet, and instead bringing back the 80’s with the over the eye look). While those who were used to the particularly narrow pipe had no trouble soaring head high, it seems some couldn’t handle the quick transition. This showed in places three through seven, all belonging to Okemo team members, OMS students, or locals.

After his first run, Danny Kass was somewhere in the high teens, and was pretty much ready to take off for Colorado for the Jr. Nationals, however, he put it all together during his second run. The 16 year old OMS student combined back-to-back McTwists with huge straight airs and a perfect spin to wind up in second. But he was still four points below Ross Powers untouchable first run score.

Although it looked like Kass would remain undisturbed in second, Michalchuk threw down his second run, successfully performing the double back, and moved into second place only two points behind Ross. Although the remaining competitors tried, none could dethrone Powers, and without even having to go, he was unofficially declared the winner.

After the pipe, there was still a four way tie for the winner of a car, (the overall points champ of the series wins a new Chevy truck). Powers, Michalchuk, Mark Fawcett and Jasey Jay Anderson will all have to duke it out in the boaardercross for the keys, however, if none take first in the event, the truck will go the Michalchuk, who had the strongest overall finishes. Let’s hope he can convert Mph to Kilometers.