Pre-Olympic progression at Burton’s New Zealand contests in 2009 and now

Ayumu Hirano Burton High Fives

14-year Ayumu Hirano is one of the young up-and-coming riders who could be a threat to Shaun White at the Sochi 2014 Olympics. Boosting at the 2013 High Fives. Photo: Adam Moran

A look at pre-Olympic progression at Burton’s BGOS New Zealand contests in 2009 and now

Burton's High Fives, the first stop of the Burton Global Event Series, has officially wrapped up at Cardrona, New Zealand. It's one of the first major events in a pre-Olympic season where riders around the world are dialing their runs as they hope to earn a coveted spot on Olympic slopestyle and halfpipe teams. Here's a look at what things were like at the 2009 Burton New Zealand Open, during the lead up to the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

Back then the NZO marked a turning point for competitive snowboarding. Double corks were emerging as the new norm in pipe riding with Shaun White at the front of the pack, doing them back-to-back. For Olympic pipe hopefuls especially, there was a clear frenzy to make the double cork a consistent part of their runs.

In slopestyle, backside double corks were also just becoming the standard for competition. "From that point on, everyone was starting to try backside double cork 10s," says Seppe Smits of the 2009 Burton New Zealand Open slopestyle. "It was a really big step in the evolution."

Since then we've seen a few riders like Mark McMorris and Max Parrot throw the first slopestyle competition triple corks at the 2013 Winter X Games in Aspen. So far that's been the last big leap for slopestyle riding, which wasn't entirely unexpected since triples have been happening in big air competitions for a while. And in pipe, most riders have been simply been trying to catch Shaun White who has kept winning competitions with basically the same run he did at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics with the addition of a frontside double cork 12 at the end.

Torgeir Bergrem 2013 Burton High Fives

Norway’s putting together a solid slope team for Sochi 2014 with riders like Torgeir Bergrem who has a triple cork 1620. 2013 Burton High Fives. Photo: Adam Moran

This year the High Fives was a little different, in part because it was an invitational event and not an Open. And noticeably absent were riders like Shaun White, Torstein Horgmo, and Mark McMorris. Also, the event was created a little differently from the get-go. "The Burton High Fives is not your typical elite level snowboard competition," says Burton Global Event Director Ian Warda. "There's just a different feel at this event. Riders are absolutely taking their road to the Olympics seriously, but High Fives provides an opportunity for these Olympic athletes to continue to dial in their tricks and compete on a high level while maintaining the fun and laid-back vibe that snowboarding is really all about."


After a bronze medal in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, Kelly Clark will be gunning for gold at Sochi 2014. 2013 Burton High Fives. Photo: Adam Moran

As for the level of tricks, Kelly Clark, who came very close to landing her first Cab 1080 in competition on her third run at the High Fives, gives some perspective. "Unlike 2009 I do not think we will see brand-new progressive tricks that have never been done," she says. "We will see tricks done by people you did not know could do those tricks, as there are new younger riders, and as the bar has been raised, more people are adapting to the new norm."

Kelly's words parallel what we've generally seen so far this year compared to 2009, but as the run up to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi continues, you never know what can happen.

 Catch the full recap of the 2013 Burton High Fives here