The 2014 Burton U.S. Open
The U.S. Open wraps in Vail
The Burton U.S. Open entered its 32nd year with the calm assurance of an elder statesman with nothing to prove. After the intensity of the past year's loud and hectic march to the Olympic circus, the vibe was a welcome change for snowboarders looking to get back to the friendly, community-infused gathering they've become accustomed to with this event. Here Louie Vito takes a personal moment, as he throws a trademark crail into a fun run during practice before the main event begins.
Taylor Gold ~ Men's Pipe Winner
Taylor Gold (right) has had an interesting season. Like his friend and riding buddy Ben Ferguson, he hadn't made a pro-level podium before this season. Then this year he was invited to his first X Games Aspen, and landed a spot on the U.S. Olympic halfpipe team. Unfortunately, he was off his game in both contests. He more then made up for that here. Gold won the U.S. Open with his first run, coming out of the gate with the biggest, most beautiful Terje-inspired (left) method air on his first hit, and mixing up technical tricks like a Cab 1260 and a crippler with fun, unique grabs like a chicken salad and roast beef. Asked why he chose to throw grabs not seen in snowboarding since the early '90s into his contest run, Gold responded, "I saw Danny [Davis] and Sage [Kotsenburg] doing different [tricks] and I just wanted to do as much as I could to make my riding a bit different, too."
Taku Hiraoka ~ M's Pipe Second
It feels redundant to comment on how high riders were getting out of the pipe on Saturday -- since every single rider was boosting -- but Sochi Olympic silver medalist Taku Hiraoka really did impress with massive technical airs, like a frontside double cork 1080 with a stalefish to melon grab, landed perfectly. Besides coming away with the second-place spot at the Burton U.S. Open, Hiraoka also won the TTR World Snowboard Tour Halfpipe Champion title.
David Hablüetzel ~ M's Pipe Third
David who? We know, we had to look it up, too. Though Switzerland's David Habletzel went to the Sochi Olympics this year and finished an impressive fifth, he is new to pro-level podiums. "It was amazing," said Habletzel. "I just came to have fun and ride. And then third place just happened. I'm so stoked. This was the best pipe I've ever ridden."
Ben Ferguson ~ M's Pipe Fourth
This season young gun Ben Ferguson came from never having landed on a pro-level podium before, to becoming one of the most exciting riders to watch in a halfpipe. With stylish tricks like his massive first-hit double crippler, frontside 7 nose grab and alley-oop tuck knee, Ferguson is definitely a new crowd and rider favorite. Expect great things from this guy.
When Is A Poach ...
... not a poach? Answer: when they sanction it. Poaching the pipe in between runs is a long-standing tradition at the U.S. Open. But there was a time when a poach was more akin to streaking the quad, whereas this current form is more like a halftime entertainment show. Still, with Danny Davis, Terje Haakonsen and Scotty Lago taking tandem runs through the pipe, no one is complaining.
Kelly Clark ~ Women's Pipe Winner
Kelly Clark's list of accolades is so long even she must have a hard time keeping track of them all. Her win Saturday at the Burton U.S. Open was her seventh, which gives her the record for the most U.S. Open titles held by any snowboarder, male or female. Clark crushed it on her first run, throwing a massive 1080 on her first hit and following it with the biggest airs of the women's contest the rest of the way down. There was speculation as to whether she would be throw her Cab 10 -- which would have her ending her contest season as the only woman to get two 1080s in a contest run. It looked like she was going to throw it on the last hit of her victory lap, but, "I just ran out of pipe," explained Clark. "It didn't seem very safe, so I backed out at the last minute." Aside from her U.S. Open title, Clark is leaving Vail with the TTR World Snowboard Tour Women's Halfpipe Champion title.
Queralt Castellet ~ W's Pipe Second
Queralt Castellet is known to go big in the pipe, but doesn't always put down her runs clean. In competition she's a bit of a loose cannon, which makes her fun to watch but doesn't always land her on the top of podiums. That changed Saturday at the Open, however. Queralt struggled through practice and switched up her run right before finals. She won with a trick combination she'd never done before, and rode to second place with technical tricks like a first-hit 900 and spins that were huge and smooth. "It's been a tough, intense season," said Castellet, who went to the Olympics for Spain but wasn't able to land her run there. "I expected this would be a similar pipe from last year, one that I could have fun in. I was really looking forward to finishing the season with a fun event."
Chloe Kim ~ W's Pipe Third, TTR Overall Champ
Fourteen-year-old sensation Chloe Kim blew minds Saturday when she started her technical, stylish run with a switch method, and ended it with a switch frontside air. Asked whether switch method innovator Danny Davis was her inspiration, Kim answered, "I guess it could be a Danny thing. [He threw] the best switch method I've ever seen and I was like, 'I want to do that, too.'" "Can I say something," interjected Kelly Clark. "We were riding in New Zealand this summer, and Chloe said she couldn't wait for the new month to start so she could ride regular again. The girl was sending it, riding switch for months. That's where it came from, I think." Because Kim also competes in slopestyle competitions from time to time, her podium here at the Open, combined with her slope and pipe contest finishes from the year, landed her the TTR World Snowboard Tour Overall Champion title. She is the youngest snowboarder to ever win a TTR Tour Champion title.
Hannah Teter, Jake Burton
Jake Burton spent the day hanging in the sun at the bottom of the halfpipe, giving out hugs and smiles to all the competitors. It must feel pretty amazing to watch a contest you started 32 years ago living on and showing no signs of slowing down.
Mark McMorris ~ M's Slopestyle Winner
It was clear from Mark McMorris' 50-50 to backflip out on the second rail in the 2014 Burton U.S. Open slopestyle finals that he intended to win with his first run. The 2013 defending champion surely would have taken it had he not sent it too deep on his triple cork off the final jump, which forced him to sit on the landing. He nailed his second run, however, and the points stuck, allowing him to make his third and final run a victory lap. "The last time I had a victory lap was here, last year," said McMorris. "I've had some crazy ups and downs this season. To end it at an event by snowboarders, for snowboarders, with a first place was really cool. Before I dropped in I was like, 'Thank you Lord that this season is over.' Now I'm going to go do methods and enjoy myself to the best of my ability."
Ståle Sandbech ~ M's Slope second
Thanks to the transparent, easy-to-understand scoring of the SLS system, it is clear that Stle Sandbech -- who posted the top three highest scores on the first jump with this Cab 12 stalefish, as well as the top two highest scores on the second jump, and the second-highest triple cork 1440 score of the day -- might have won today had he gotten more technical in the rail section. "I was changing up my rail run in my head," Sandbech said about his final run. "I tried to do a different trick on my first rail but I couldn't get my weight over. So I kind of just messed up and couldn't keep going the way I was planning to, and the way I maybe could have gotten a higher score. So, uh, it ended up like this. For sure I wanted to try to get one step higher, but Mark rode so well. We were close up there."
Max Parrot ~ M's Slope third
The most confusing thing about watching the 2014 X Games slopestyle gold medalist drop in for his second run was realizing it was a virtual copy of the one Mark McMorris had thrown just before him. Though it's common for riders to throw similar tricks in a run, it's relatively unheard of for them to throw a near replica. "It was similar, but our first rail was different. But it was a coincidence," Parrot said when questioned about the similarities in the post-event press conference. "When I saw his first run doing the backflip on the second feature, I thought I was the only one who was going to do it, so I was kind of surprised. "It was really important for me to finish on the podium at the last contest of the year. And I am, so I'm really stoked."
TTR 2014 Slopestyle & Overall Champ
Stle Sandbech may have gotten the bridesmaid spots in the past two contests he's been in, but he is finishing the season with not one, but TWO 2014 TTR World Snowboard Tour champion titles: Men's Slopestyle and Overall. Though he didn't advance to the finals, Sandbech sealed his Overall title by competing in halfpipe on Thursday. The Slopestyle title, however, came down to the wire, as Max Parrot's slope gold from X Games Aspen made him a front-runner in the World Tour points race. "We were really close, me and Max," Sandbech said. "I was up there on the top, dropping after him. And when he landed that run I was like, 'Ohhh,' just waiting for the score. I was already kind of celebrating before I took my last run. Kind of like the way Mark [celebrated], except he won the contest. [Laughs] Congrats, Mark."
"When I woke up this morning it was like dj vu from last year," Sandbech said of the stormy weather that has plagued the U.S. Open slopestyle contest in Vail the past two years. "It was so sticky, when I dropped into my run last year I knew I was going to knuckle the jumps. But this year we had speed and they built the course good, so it worked out in bad weather as well. How they built that third rail feature to get speed into the first jump in case of these conditions was really smart. We were able to do our best, and that was really fun."
Seb Toutant ~ M's Slope fourth
Seb Toots had the third spot on the podium until Max Parrot finished his final run. For some reason the judges didn't reward tricks like this backside rodeo off the second rail feature with a high score, but those of us watching from the peanut gallery sure thought it looked great anyway.
Darcy Sharpe ~ Honorable Mention
Though Canada's Darcy Sharpe came in sixth in the men's slopestyle finals Friday, he deserves credit for his rail performance. Sharpe's single-feature scores for his 50-50 to frontside 270 to boardslide on the first rail and boardslide to boardslide to 270 out on the second rail stood in the top spots throughout the contest. And though Sharpe bobbled on his last run, on a day when every competitor with a mid-run flub ended his run with a method thrown on the final jump for good style measure, Sharpe's method stood out as one of the finest of the day.
Jamie Anderson ~ W's Slopestyle Winner
It wouldn't be a women's slopestyle final without a snowstorm, and Mother Nature didn't break her streak on Friday at the Burton U.S. Open. Though semifinals for both pipe and slopestyle went down under warm bluebird skies, on Friday riders awoke to powder and storm conditions. Weather didn't hold Jamie Anderson back, however, as she rode to first, stomping almost the exact same run that she used to win snowboarding's first women's slopestyle Olympic gold in Sochi last month.
Spencer O'Brien ~ Second, W's Slope
Last year's U.S. Open slopestyle champion Spencer O'Brien came in a heavy second, with an impressive frontside 720 off the toes to back 720 melon on the final two jumps. "The back 7 was my Achilles' heel in Sochi," said O'Brien, whose failed attempts to land the trick during the Olympics kept her off the podium. "I've had that trick for a year and a half -- I got it at X. So I was stoked to be able to land that run and come in second."
Isabel Derungs ~ Third, W's Slope
Switzerland's Isabel Derungs has been on fire this week. She qualified for slope finals in the second spot on Wednesday, and then kept it together through adverse conditions, stomping a switch board to regular on the first rail and frontside 7, back 7 and a massive backside rodeo 540 in the jump section to take third place. "It's one of my favorite tricks," Derungs said of the rodeo that helped cement her spot on the podium. "I have to know the speed for the jump, but once I know that I can do it on anything -- and I love to do it on anything." "Give me some pointers!" said Jamie Anderson. "I've wanted to do that trick forever."
Jamie Anderson: Women's TTR Tour Champion
With the win here at the Burton U.S. Open, Jamie Anderson nabbed the TTR World Tour Slopestyle champion title out of Silje Norendal's hands. Norendal had been the front-runner for the title after her wins at X Games Tignes 2013 and X Games Aspen 2014, but she failed to advance out of the semifinals on Wednesday. Anderson, who hadn't been paying attention to the TTR points list due to her focus on making the Olympic team, was happily surprised by the win. She is one of two Olympic gold medalists making an appearance here in Vail. "I almost didn't come," said Anderson. "But then I thought: I have to come support the people who support us. I can't just do FIS events all winter!"
Ståle Sandbech ~ Slope Semis
It was only a matter of time before Norwegian wonder Stle Sandbech hit his competitive stride, and it appears that time is now. The Olympic slopestyle silver medalist qualified for slopestyle finals on Wednesday in a solid first place, and then used his second run to put on a "good style" demonstration.
Danny Davis ~ Pipe Semis
"This is a contest built by snowboarders for snowboarders, and the Olympics are a contest built for TV by skiers, unfortunately," explained Danny Davis, when asked about the difference between his Olympic and U.S. Open experiences. "The two aren't even comparable. Here everyone's having a good time, the weather's beautiful, the pipe's perfect, and everyone's chillin' at the bottom having fun. I wish that's what the Olympics had been like, but it just wasn't."
Torstein Horgmo was on the start list for Wednesday's slopestyle semifinals. Unfortunately, after a few practice runs he decided to pull out of the contest as he doesn't feel 100 percent recovered from the injury he sustained in Sochi. He still hung around to watch and give support to the rest of the competitors, though.
Ben Ferguson ~ Pipe Semis
"It's just a timeless event and it's always been my favorite," said Ben Ferguson, who qualified for the finals with one of the most stylish, boost-heavy runs of the contest. "Ever since I was a kid I've been coming to the Burton U.S. Open, first doing the Junior Jam. Now to be here with my little brother Gabe and I both as professional athletes going to the finals in the elite contest, it's just awesome. This year the Open feels even more mellow than ever, I think, just because everything earlier this year was so hectic."
Old-school purists and lovers of the crazy parties surrounding the U.S. Open "back in the day" sometimes lament the lack of chaos in the event's current, more mature iteration. No, this is not "the cage" of legend, but there's still fun to be had on the pipe decks between runs.
Jamie Anderson ~ Slope Semis
Jamie Anderson took a break from her post-Olympic gold media marathon -- which has included appearances on everything from "Ellen" to "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" -- to come show the crowds in Colorado why she wins just about every slopestyle contest she enters.
Chloe Kim, Kaitlyn Farrington ~ Pipe Semis
The future of women's halfpipe snowboarding has arrived in the form of 13-year-old Chloe Kim. Though seeing her name in one of the top two spots on a results list has started to become a common sight, thankfully so has seeing her laughing and smiling at the bottom and top of the halfpipe she is starting to dominate. Here Kim plays around with newly-crowned Olympic halfpipe gold medalist Kaitlyn Farrington during the women's halfpipe semifinals on Thursday.
Ståle Sandbech ~ Pipe Semis
Stle Sandbech is one of the few snowboarders who chooses to compete in both pipe and slopestyle. And though he has been absent from pipe contests this season to focus on the Olympics, he made the pipe finals at the 2013 U.S. Open, and chose to drop in this year in a bid for the TTR World Snowboard Tour "Overall" title. Alas, he didn't advance past the semis.
Yiwei Zhang ~ Pipe Semis
China's Yiwei Zhang came out of the gates swinging in Thursday's halfpipe semifinals, posting the highest Run 1 score of the group -- which held all the way through the competition -- until he beat himself with his Run 2 score. As is the honor of the top qualifier, Zhang will be dropping last in the halfpipe finals on Saturday.
Brandon Davis ~ Slope Semis
Had Shaun White decided to pull out of Olympic slopestyle before he arrived in Sochi, it is likely that this gentleman, 18-year-old Brandon Davis, would have gotten his spot. In case there was any doubt as to whether he deserved it, Davis powered through his second run in the slopestyle semifinals on Wednesday and qualified in the second spot.
Kyle Mack ~ Slope Semis
Kyle Mack was also in the running to make the U.S. Olympic snowboard slopestyle team. He rode to a stylish fourth place (out of 32 riders) in the qualifiers on Wednesday.
Ryo Aono ~ Pipe Semis
Ryo Aono was sitting in 13th place when he crashed into the wall of the pipe on the second hit of his second run and knocked himself unconscious. After a scary pause in competition, he was taken off course in a sled. "I'm okay," Aono later said, through his Burton Japan team manager, when asked about the severity of his injury. "Thanks for worrying about me."
Spencer O'Brien ~ Slope Semis
2013 defending U.S. Open slopestyle champion Spencer O'Brien is one of the most outspoken advocates for snowboarders competing on the FIS and TTR tours. In competition, however, only her riding does the talking. And what it says about style could be a conversation that goes on for days.
Roope Tonteri ~ Slope Semis
Finland's Roope Tonteri gaps onto one of the rail features en route to qualifying in the third spot in Wednesday's slopestyle semifinals.
Kelly Clark ~ Pipe semis
"I think for a lot of sports the Olympics are the pinnacle of everything -- that's the only event they have that anybody pays any attention to," said newly-minted Olympic bronze medalist Kelly Clark in a pre-event question-and-answer session about her Sochi experience. "But here we are, two weeks later ... at the longest-running event in snowboarding that we get to be a part of every year, and we're all just happy to be snowboarding."