|A crowd gathers in the sponsors village for the product toss
(Photo: L. Voskinarian)
Snowboarding on the east coast just doesn’t get any bigger than the US Open. If you want to feel the vibe you better be in Vermont in mid-March when some of the worlds best riders take over Stratton Mountain.
The Open is more than just a place to watch snowboarding, tens of thousands of snowboarders head to Stratton for the competition as well as special events like the a Ladies’ Morning Ride with Shannon Dunn, a village of sponsor tents to grab some swag, and of course the Burton demo tent where you can try out next season’s boards. Plus everywhere you turn there’s another pro – in the lodge, on the lift, in the parking lot (Shaun White will you please stop following me?).
|Pipe view from the village (Photo: L. Voskinarian)|
For the second time, the Open finals kicked off with a Rail Jam. The park crew kicked it up a notch from last year by adding new features including a gap rail inspired by The White Album. The rail jam included many of the usual suspects, but an early fall knocked Shaun White out of the contest.
The ladies really stepped it up from 2004, where most of the tricks were boardslides and 50/50s. The girls took some gnarly spills as the really went for it on the challenging setup. In the end, it was Leanne Pelosi claiming her second title. Leanne’s night began a bit rough but she managed to buckle down and pull out the win with several smooth tricks on a variety of features. Alexis Waite claimed the SoBe Sick Trick prize with her 5-0 on the down ledge.
|The Rail Jam setup (photo: L. Voskinarian)|
For the lads, Eddie Wall won the mens title with tricks like a tail press to backside 180 out on the down-flat ledge and a 270 on to the 30-foot down ledge to 270 off. But once again, Vermont local Chris Rotax took home the best trick award with a backside 450 on the flat-down ledge. Chris spent a good part of the night trying to get this trick down before (props to Luke Shelley for calling it) finally nailing it.
At the awards ceremony Eddie Wall started another mini-riot by tossing his board into the crowd. The worst-kept "top secret" rumor ever was proved false when, despite the crowds’ chants, Motley Crue did not make an appearance. The crowd wasn’t disappointed by the performance Taleb Kwali put up, so everyone was happy.
|The ladies get the bubbly flowing. (Photo: L. Voskinarian)|
Saturday dawned warm and sunny..quite unlike last year’s grey sleet and rain. The warm weather caused some problems, as one side of the pipe began melting. This led officials to ditch the intended last man standing format in favor of a best of 3 run contest. Either way it was better than the jam format, which made it difficult to figure out exactly who was in the pipe and took away a lot of the excitement of figuring out who was on top. The crowd at the pipe was unbelievable, making it¬†difficult to even get around¬†the pipe¬†to get anywhere.
|The 2005 US Open Halfpipe Champs (Photo: L. Voskinarian)|
The women took their runs first. Lindsay Jacobellis got it started, taking the place of Kelly Clark, who made the finals but pulled out due to injury. For the ladies, the 900 was the trick du jour with most of the women throwing at least one clean one down. Gretchen Bleiler, the top qualifer, quickly established herself as the leader. Tricia Byrnes grabbed 4th with her consistently clean runs, marking her 16th consecutive US Open appearance.
Gretchen Bleiler held on to her top spot after the first two runs, leaving it up to the rest of the ladies to take up the challenge. Hannah Teter went for broke on her last run throwing down a super smooth 900 but deck checking on her McTwist, taking her out of the running for first. Torah Bright bumped Hannah into third with a smooth run featuring the big stylee McTwist which also nabber her the Nintendo DS Best Trick Award.
Which left only Gretchen to take her victory run, rather than just taking it easy she threw down her best run of the day. Gretchen dropped in with a frontside 9 (for the first time ever!) frontside 9, backside air, crippler 5, backside 5 and frontside 5.
Gretchen said afterward that she had "made a decision that I would do it [her run] no matter what. I’d never done a 900 first before and it was fun."¬† Her win was especially sweet after coming back from a knee injury that "took a lot more time [to recover from] than I thought, more mentally than physically."
|Danny Kass on the top of the podium, again. (Photo: L. Voskinarian)|
The men’s competition was a battle between some old open faces and some new. Reigning US Open Halfpipe champ, Danny Kass, threw down an incredible first run quickly grabbing the top spot. The crowd was also curious to see the performance of the "Flying Finn" Annti Autti who’s been taking US competitions by storm this season.
Well as usual this season, the top spots came down to the back to back 1080s. Danny Kass claimed his 4th US Open Halfpipe title on a clean run with back to back 1080s, frontside 7, ally-oop 360 and a switch backside rodeo. Autti and Andy Finch were battling for 2nd with Finch pulling it out in his last run.
Danny Kass told reporters that "it feels pretty good [to be US Open Champ]. It tingles in certain areas…your brain, and your pants, and your hand from high fiving people."
Meanwhile Keir Dillon wowed the crowd with some of his huge signature McTwists, newcomer Danny Davis was impressive with his runs, and Abe Teter once again proved he goes huge with some insanely big airs. Abe also snagged the Nintendo DS Best Trick award with a huge frontside inverted 900.
The slopestyle competition took place on sunday afternoon. Janna Meyen returned to the open to claim her first title since winning the halfpipe in 1991. She beat out Leanne Pelosi and Natasza Zurek to with a run of a frontside 5, backside 5, Cab 3 and Cab 7. Her smooth Cab 7 also nabbed her the Tylenol Best Trick Award. For the men, it was Risto Mattila making a splash again this year by winning the slopestyle with a switch backside 7, Cab 9, frontside 9, Cab 5 and a frontside boardslide on the flat ledge. Jussi Okansen picked up second and the Tylenol Best Trick award. Andreas Wiig took third.
|The US Open goes to the dogs? (Photo: L. Voskinarian)|
Besides the individual event and best trick awards, two special awards were given for Best Overall Performance and Outstanding Rookies. Leanne Pelosi and Risto Mattila both took home brand new Volvo V50 Sport Wagons for their Performances. For the Rookies it was Spencer O’Brien and Danny Davis taking home Ski-Doo Summit Adrenaline 600 sleds. The Open weekend was full of great crowds and great weather, and trying to pack in partying, riding and spectating is enough to leave anyone (including me) very happy but exhausted.