The North Face Masters of snowboarding entered its fifth season with many difficulties. "We had a challenging year with low snowfall in the western United States," explained competition director Patrick Brennan. "We had to reschedule [two] events and we used weather days at two out of three events."
Even with these setbacks, every stop of the tour was held in ideal snow conditions -- and the final stop at Snowbird, Utah was no exception.
The weather leading up to the event was dismal. The sun had been blazing at Snowbird over the past week, but with cooling temperatures leading into the weekend a nice firm glaze of ice on the venues was created, which worried the competitors and event staff alike.
But, as if there was a script to follow, the clouds moved in and blanketed the Wasatch. Close to three feet of fresh snow fell throughout the event.
It all came down to Saturday: the grand finale of the 2012 North Face Masters of Snowboarding. The race for the men and women alike was heated, and in the end the deciding factor in who came out on top really seemed to come down to experience.
Shannon Yates, the overall 2010 champion from Utah, knows competition well and had no problems laying it down at her home mountain. She charged the North Baldy face with total confidence and control, decisively taking the top spot for the day and winning her second overall North Face Masters Tour Champion title. In second was fellow Snowbird local Beth Wiessman followed by Cindi Lou Grant in third and Casey Lucas in fourth.
The men had a rough go, with intermittent clouds, fog and blizzards keeping us at bay for hours on end. Even though there were only 35 competitors, the entire event took nine hours to run due to a long afternoon of window-shopping. Many of the men were sure the event would be postponed or even cancelled, but the event staff knew what they were up against and were determined to make it happen.
Sammy Luebke is no doubt one the most talented snowboarders in the world. When things finally got going, he basically ran the show, shredding at autobahn speeds, riding through rocks, tweaking methods, and stomping huge technical airs. His winning run earned the overall Tour title, a total of $6,500 in prize money, a katana samurai sword, and a giant howitzer shell trophy.
Jamie Rizzuto of Fernie, B.C. qualified first at the previous two NFM events, but was unable to make it to the podium in the finals in either. But he had his time today, coming in with a second place finish consisting of big airs and a quick back flip toward the bottom for good measure.
In third was tour veteran Brian Bozack out of Sugar Bowl, Calif. Brian surfed through the venue with style taking a unique line and stomping two technical airs.
Jackson Hole local, Blake Paul, who qualified in first place, and tied me for sixth in the finals (we couldn't bear to be separated), also took home the overall Young Gun award given to the most impressive rider under the age of 21.