U.S. Olympic snowboard team qualifiers added

Nate Deschenes

The final stops of the U.S. Grand Prix Olympic qualifiers have struggled with the weather, including a low snow year in California. Pictured is the Mammoth halfpipe on Jan. 6.

The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association will add another U.S. Olympic snowboard team qualifying event to the Grand Prix contest schedule in Mammoth, Calif., this week after adverse weather conditions forced the cancellation of the third of five qualification events last weekend in Breckenridge, Colo., the USSA announced Monday.

Citing International Ski Federation (FIS) snowboarding rules, the results from the qualification rounds in Breckenridge will not be counted as final, and both slopestyle and halfpipe will need to be rerun in U.S.-only events this weekend.

The final two Olympic qualifiers already had been scheduled to take place in Mammoth this week, with the announcement of the U.S. snowboarding halfpipe and slopestyle team rosters to follow. The proposed revised event schedule shows two slopestyle qualifying events running Thursday and two halfpipe events running Friday. The final slopestyle event will take place as planned Saturday, with halfpipe to follow Sunday. After Sunday's final halfpipe qualifier, the teams will be announced.

The plan, approved by the U.S. Olympic Committee, will await any formal appeals to the FIS on Monday or Tuesday.

"The whole contest cancellation is a little messed up, and some riders are upset," said rookie halfpipe competitor Ben Ferguson, who earned his first major-event podium spot at the second qualifier in Copper, Colo., but failed to qualify for finals last week in Breckenridge. "I'm stoked to get another shot at getting good results, though, no matter how hectic the schedule is."

Female slopestyle riders filed a formal protest Saturday to appeal the FIS jury decision to not let results from the qualifying round stand as final. Additionally, the decision to not allow non-U.S. athletes to compete in the make-up qualifier affects athletes such as Norway's Kjersti Buaas, who needed a top-10 finish in an FIS event to qualify for her country's team, under the Norwegian snowboard federation rules. She qualified in the third spot Thursday. A decision on the appeal has not been announced yet.

"Right now I am just trying to be in a positive outlook on this since last week was so crazy," said slopestyle hopeful Sage Kotsenburg. "It's weird enough having two events on the same course in one week. Now we have three? On top of that, it's only a USA event, so no foreigners can compete and redo their event."

"I put my two cents in about how I thought this should go," said Chas Guldemond, who currently ranks at the top of the slopestyle qualification points list and is sitting in a good position to go to Sochi. "But at the end of the day, a group of people got together to try to come up with the best decision for everyone. It is what it is. I'm tired from all this traveling, and this crazy schedule they've got us on, but [at] this point, I'm just going with the flow."

The third qualifying event originally had been scheduled to take place in Northstar, Calif., but was moved to Breckenridge due to an unseasonably dry season that prevented Northstar from having enough snow to build a proper competition venue.

Mammoth has not fared much better in snowfall. Typically at this point in the season, Mammoth has recorded 150 to 200 inches of snow. But with only 48 inches having fallen so far, the resort has had to rely on nightly snowmaking, with the heaviest artillery pointed at this week's Grand Prix slopestyle and halfpipe venues in Mammoth's Main Park.

"It's a little frustrating because we are used to getting quite a bit of snow," said TJ Dawoud, the manager of Mammoth's Unbound Terrain Parks. "But we have an expansive snowmaking system, and under the gun like this, we can make a lot of things happen in a short period of time. We have had 14 people on during the day and 14 on night working on this. ... I've been here eight years, through record snows and droughts. We've had numerous contests and photo shoots, and we haven't failed once."

The marathon run to the ticket-to-Sochi finish starts Thursday. To see where athletes stand in the qualification ranking lists so far, click here.

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