Finch and Teter Dominate US Grand Prix at Park City

JJ, Danny, Ross, Kelly?all the Olympians showed up to make sure the level of riding at the Park City Grand Prix Superpipe event was on par with 2002 Games Superstardom. And Olympic pipeshaper Pat Melondoski saw to the Supertransitions, meaning there was no way the finals of this contest was going to be anything but completely Super. Which it totally was.

Anyway, at the beginning of the week, I’d heard the Park City halfpipe described as “early season,” “tight,” and even “snow-snakey” (although I’m not exactly sure what that last one meant), but by 7:00 p.m. on the night of the Superpipe finals, it was perfect. But let’s step back a few, because the qualifiers served to foreshadow the heated battle in the evening’s spiffed up halfpipe. I mean, in the men, you weren’t making the top sixteen cut into the paycheck stacks without a couple sevens and a 900. In the women’s category, it took something spicey like an invert or a frontside seven. And NO falls. With that said, little Luke Mitrani was one spot out, Danny Kass missed his start completely, and even Canadian powerhouse Natasza Zurek fell short of the finals marker. In other words, a lot of really good riders didn’t make it.

But the ones who did make the cut? They were hyped, and I honestly think they were most hyped about riding such a completely perfect halfpipe. “You can go so big in this thing,” said Kelly Clark. And as she was telling me this, Andy Finch was flying around upwards of twenty feet over our heads. So it was when I saw Mr. Finch ride in practice that I knew he was gonna take it. But there were a few who gave him a run for his money.

Sixteen-year-old Mason Aguirre was one of them, clocking in a brilliant run in his bright green jumpsuit that included two explosive 900s (one of them Cab) and an inverted 720. Also, Mason’s fellow newcomer Steven Fisher, the man with the best backside spins in the business and winner of last weekend’s Breckenridge Triple Crown, floated a super clean run that included a huge backside 540 into a frontisde nine, then on to an inverted seven. And of course, there was Ross Powers, who rode with his usual powerful command and even landed the first 1080 of the evening.

On into the top three, Abe Teter, in a surprise attack from the back, won over the judges with really gigantic airs and his signature off axis Crippler spins. Shaun White, the kid who could very seriously be considered the world’s best all around rider right now, turned in a slow spun fronstide 900 along with the prerequisite 720 and even an alley-oop seven afterthought at the bottom. Smooth stuff. So what did Andy Finch do to beat that? He went HUGE. Sevens. And an insane inverted 900 Finch-style at the bottom. He was on fire, for sure.

The women went nuts in the pipe of perfection, too. Especially girls like Anne Molin Kongsgaard and Torah Bright, who might lack a little in the consistency but always put on a good show. Bright had nasty falls on both runs, but she?s perfected a wicked McTwist that’ll definitely get her places in the future. Anne powered through some near casings with the deck to earn a stomped run with a McTwist and a fronstide five stalefish. But it was the sister-half of the Aguirre brother-sister team who earned third place on this night. Five, seven, and Cab five?she pulled them with air and style. Second placer Kelly Clark challenged Hannah Teter’s lethal 900 with a backside five to fronstide seven combo. Sweet, but not sweet enough, according to the judges. Teter still won it with amplitude, a frontside 540 to start, and yup, the 900.

Well, there you have it. Words don’t really do something like snowboarding justice, so don’t forget to check out the video. Oh yeah, and happy winter holiday thingy.

Park City, Utah ? Dec. 19
Men’s Halfpipe Final
1. Andy Finch, Fresno, Calif., 44.7
2. Shaun White, San Diego, Calif., 43.7
3. Abe Teter, Belmont, Vt., 42.1
4. Ross Powers, South Londonderry, Vt., 41.9
5. Mason Aquirre, Duluth, Minn., 40.3
6. Steve Fisher, St. Louis Park, Minn., 39.7
7. Tommy Czeschin, Mammoth Lakes, Calif., 38.3
8. Wyatt Caldwell, Sun Valley, Idaho 38.1
9. Chris Nelson, Mammoth Lakes, Calif., 37.2
10. Luke Wynen, Reading, Pa., 32.5
11. Tyler Emond, Dorset, Vt., 32.1
12. Keir Dillon, East Stroudsburg, Pa., 31.7
13. Kevin Pearce, Norwich, Vt., 31.2
14. J.J. Thomas, Golden, Colo., 24.9
15. Michael Goldschmidt, Stratton, Vt., 22.9
16. Aaron Woodard, Boyne City, Mich., 16.4

Women’s Halfpipe Final
1. Hannah Teter, Belmont, Vt., 44.3
2. Kelly Clark, Mount Snow, Vt., 39.2
3. Molly Aguirre, Duluth, Minn., 36.5
4. Anne Monlin Kongsgaard, Norway, 30.9
5. Torah Bright, Australia, 21.8
6. Channel Sladics, Newport Beach, Calif., 18.6