Photography by Dave Lehl

By Steve Hemphill

On a perfect day at Copper Mountain a field of 32 men and 19 women tore apart the Open Class Halfpipe at the 2010 USASA Nationals. Riders from all over the US from ages twelve to twenty-eight were ready to throw down their best runs and compete for the title of 2010 USASA Halfpipe Champion. Starting off the day after a quick practice session, each rider had two qualifying runs to showcase their skills and try to impress the judges to get into the finals.

Qualifying saw huge airs and some even bigger tricks. Making a valid effort to get into the finals, riders were throwing a plethora of 5s, 7s, and 9s. On the men’s side of things Mal Prior of Ketchum, Idaho was busting out huge frontside airs and on his first hit, flying higher than anyone in the field-he also stomped a clean backside 9 to earn himself a spot in the finals. “I’m just happy to be here, the pipe is so good and I’m just trying to have a good time!” Prior said. Another qualifying standout was Brett Esser from Silverthorne, Colorado. Esser cleanly landed big front and backside spins. After his second qualifying run Esser said, “The pipe is running really well and the competition is stacked for a USASA event. It should turn out to be a really good comp. I’m stoked.” Other notables from the men’s Open qualifying were Chase Josey, Benjamin Farrow, Jarryd Williams, and twelve-year-old ripper Kyle Mack who represented for the Midwest.

Along with the men, the women put on quite a show. The young women’s Open field lit up the pipe with runs that could be best described as crisp and clean. Possibly the “crispiest” and “cleanest” runs were laid down by two young women out of Northern California. Describing her experience at USASA Nationals as the “time of her life” Jenna Dramise of Truckee, California said, “I love competing, and the competition is pretty tough, everyone is laying down a solid run”. One of those solid runs she was talking about was from her teammate Kelly Marren who spun her way into the top qualifying spot. Loaded with young talent (Arielle Gold, 13 years old, Ty Walker, 13 years old, and Summer Fenton, 15 years old) the women’s halfpipe qualifying showed that there is a bright future for women in the pipe.

After qualifying concluded the top ten men and top six women headed back up to the top for a best of three runs finals. The girls kicked things off  throwing 7s, handplants, and even McTwists. Thirteen-year-old Arielle Gold was one of the first riders to drop in and said, “I wanted to just put down a fun run, ride my best, and go for it”. Go for it she did, Gold’s all out mentality landed her on the podium and in third place. Coming in second was Jenna Dramise who put down a smooth run with a memorable handplant at the bottom. However, airing out of the pipe higher than some of the men, Kelly Marren from Hillsborough, California took the title. “It was a fun day, great conditions, great pipe, and nationals! It was fun to see the girls sending it”, Marren said after her winning run. She sent it too, throwing down a gigantic frontside air on her first hit, then back-to-back 5s, and a stylie air to fakie.

Taking some notes from the girls the guys came out and threw down some sick runs. Casey Peltz from San Ramon, California came in third with a solid run which included a big backside crail, front 5 tail, back 9, and front 9. Peltz who was stoked to come in third noted, ” There was an amazing pipe, amazing riders, and everyone threw down”. One of those who also laid down solid runs all day was Taylor Gold from Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Gold’s runs were packed full of style, spins, and air which earned him second place. Throwing down harder than anyone though, and coming in first was Brett Esser. Esser carried his momentum from qualifying into finals with runs that consisted of huge 1080s, backside and frontside 9s, and double grabs. At the end of the day Esser said  “It feels good to hang out with my friends, put together some good runs, and have fun”. Not only did Esser take home gold but he also got a chance to ride in the Monster Mash later in the afternoon with the likes of Chad Otterstrom, JJ Thomas, Danny Kass, and a surplus of other pros.

Esser and Marren didn’t only win the overall competition but they also took home Best Trick title, which was accompanied by a very large bottle of Cholula. Esser was recognized for his backside 7 double grab, while Marren was awarded for her huge first hit. Overall, the 2010 USASA Open Halfpipe did an outstanding job showcasing the skills of the nations top amateur riders.