Grand Prix Series Set, Selects Olympic Team

PARK CITY, Utah — The $400,000 Chevy Truck U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix, the premier snowboard competition series in this country, returns for a sixth season with three weekends of competition before culminating with the Grand Prix Finals during the X-nix U.S. Snowboard Championships in March, the U.S. Snowboard Team said Saturday. Olympic halfpipe berths will be determined by Grand Prix results.

U.S. Snowboard Team Coach Peter Foley, who again will be the Olympichead coach, said the first three events of the Grand Prix would form thesole selection events for halfpipe riders on the 2002 Olympic Team; riders will count their best two of a potential five results. In alpine,the lone PGS race in the early Grand Prix events will be part of the PGS selection criteria, along with designated international races in North America and Europe — and, as with halfpipe, riders will use their best two of up to five results — before the U.S. Snowboard Team is announced in late January, according to Foley.

The 2002 Grand Prix schedule, with television coverage on NBC and ESPN, includes:

** Dec. 12-16 — Mammoth Mountain, Calif. (two halfpipe events plus anexhibition event; broadcast on NBC Dec. 23 at 2 p.m. EST)
** Jan. 4-6 — Mount Bachelor, Ore. (parallel giant slalom, halfpipe andan exhibition; broadcast on NBC Jan. 13 at 4 p.m. EST)
** Jan. 9-13 — Breckenridge, Colo. (two more halfpipes and anexhibition; broadcast on NBC Jan. 26 at 3 p.m. EST)
** March 28-31 — Northstar-at-Tahoe, Calif. (snowboardcross, slalom,halfpipe and PGS; broadcast on ESPN April 13 at 2 p.m. EST)

“Having an Olympic Team spot as a reward should help make theseoutstanding Grand Prix competitions,” Foley said. “Athletes will sizing-up where they are in the battle for Olympic spots and the fact the winner of each event will earn $10,000 just adds to the excitement.”

The Yahoo! Sports Big Air&Style exhibition events again will be featured at the first three Grand Prix stops where an invitation-only field will compete for $15,000 in prize money.

The U.S. championships at Northstar-at-Tahoe again will be the final events for the Grand Prix. Defending champions halfpipe riders Danny Kass (Hamburg, NJ) and Kelly Clark (Mount Snow, VT), a pair of halfpipe riders, will be among the top contenders for Olympic berths along with, among others, Tommy Czeschin (Mammoth Lakes, CA), former World Cup champion Tricia Byrnes (Stratton Mountain, VT) and ’98 Olympic medal-winner Ross Powers (South Londonderry, VT). The alpine field will be led by three ’98 Olympians: ex-world champion Sondra Van Ert (Ketchum, ID), ’01 World Championships silver medalist Rosey Fletcher (Girdwood, AK), the reigning U.S. PGS champion, and men’s defending champ Chris Klug (Aspen, CO).

“Things are gonna rock this season. The Olympics bring out the best of the best,” Foley said. “It’ll be intense.”