VAIL, Colo. -- The most dominant competitor in snowboarding is not Shaun White. It's Kelly Clark, who nabbed the 61st win of her career at the Burton U.S. Open on Saturday. This is her sixth U.S. Open halfpipe win, which makes her the winningest U.S. Open competitor in history and the snowboarder with the most overall contest wins -- male or female. With today's first-place finish, Clark has also secured the 2013 TTR World Snowboard Tour Halfpipe Champion title.
"What an honor," said Clark, of the multiple distinctions bestowed upon her. "What an amazing contest this was here today. Such a great pipe! I had a blast. All the ladies rode great."
The level of women's halfpipe riding jumped to new heights this week in Vail -- thanks in part to a quality-shaped pipe that competitors are claiming is one of the best they've ever ridden.
"This is one of the best pipes we've ridden this year. It's long and steep and really caters to progressive riding," explained Clark of the overall level of amplitude exhibited by the women in Thursday's semifinals and in Saturday's finals. "You're going to see with a pipe that steep that even when people land low on the transition, they're going to get their speed back. And in turn you get to see a bigger run overall."
Clark came in hot on her first run, blasting a massive frontside 1080 to Cab 7 on her first and second hits. The key to her dominance is in technically difficult trick combinations and amplitude that is yet unmatched by other female riders. But the gap between Clark and the rest of the field is rapidly closing.
Third-place finisher Arielle Gold came in with the highest single-trick score of the contest, for a frontside 900 mute grab, which scored higher than Clark's front 10 Indy, mainly because she holds the grab all the way through her trick and Clark has a tendency to grab her board for only a portion of her rotations.
Fellow Olympic gold medalist Hannah Teter is also back to form. Her second-place run included stylish, technical tricks that saw her finish only two points off of Clark's winning run. Kaitlyn Farrington didn't make the podium but threw huge back-to-back 900s and finished her run with a backside 1080 stalefish grab that was impressive even though a hand drag on the finish kept it from counting.
Unfortunately, Elena Hight didn't make the finals of this contest, so the world will have to wait until X Games Tignes to see her double alley-oop rodeo go head-to-head with Clark's run.
For good measure, Clark attempted her new trick, a Cab 1080, on her victory lap. She didn't land it, but for all the women stepping up to challenge her top position, it is a preview of the new run she hopes to put together later this month in France.
"I grew up watching this event. It's what inspired me to be a professional snowboarder," Clark said. "To be the winningest U.S. Open champ is a huge honor for me.
2013 Burton U.S. Open Women's Halfpipe Finals