The U.S. Open of Snowboarding may be moving from its original Vermont home to Vail, Colo. this year, but for those up-and-coming East Coast snowboarders more upset about the contest's switch to an invitation-only format than the move, Burton has done a "make-good."
The new U.S. Open Qualifiers, held at Seven Springs resort in Pennsylvania this Sunday, were created to honor the "open" part of the contest's title by providing a chance for any rider to show up and throw down for one of 30 coveted spots in the main U.S. Open event, taking place in Vail Feb. 25 to March 2.
The field of riders in the qualifiers spanned generations, from groms on the rise throwing corked 1080's to mid-thirties freestyle veterans putting their best old-school methods out there. And in true East Coast fashion the weather conditions were equally diverse. Saturday started out with bluebird skies, with the finely-tuned slopestyle course going from glistening in sunshine to becoming shrouded in a snowstorm. The whiteout continued on into the halfpipe qualifiers, laying down a speed bump of powder between the pipe walls, and demanding a perfect line between hits.
In the end, a dedicated Seven Springs park crew turned out an international-caliber halfpipe and slopestyle course, putting on the first major event that the state of Pennsylvania has ever hosted. That's a little piece of history in and of itself, and of course a nod to the right-coast heritage and attitude that had made the U.S. Open a premier stop in the competition circuit, and more than a few riders' favorites.
In true rags-to-riches fashion, the top 10 men's slopestyle and halfpipe contenders, and the top five women's slopestyle and halfpipe contenders -- a field of relatively unknown competitors -- are on their way to trade laps with the sport's biggest names. Here's who's on deck. Good luck to all.
U.S. Open Qualifiers ~ Men's Slopestyle
U.S. Open Qualifiers ~ Women's Slopestyle
U.S. Open Qualifiers ~ Men's Halfpipe
|6||Paul Brichta||7||Eiju Hirano|
U.S. Open Qualifiers ~ Women's Halfpipe