Qualifying wrapped up Sunday in Pennsylvania for the U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships in Vail later this month, with a slew of impressive young riders earning the chance to test themselves against best-in-the-sport superstars like Shaun White, Kelly Clark and Mark McMorris
Ten men and five women in both halfpipe and slopestyle moved on after a weekend of qualifying at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania. Grant Giller and Karly Shorr won the men’s and women’s slopestyle events on Saturday, followed by Taylor Gold and Summer Fenton in the men’s and women’s halfpipe events on Sunday.
Those riders will compete against the world’s best Feb. 25-March 2 in both superpipe and slopestyle at a spectacular new venue at Golden Peak as Burton’s U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships move to Vail for the first time after a 30-year run in Stratton, Vt.
“One of the things that’s made the U.S. Open special is that it is truly an open – anybody can go and anybody can compete in it,” said Clark, a Vermont native who recently won her fourth superpipe gold medal at the Winter X Games in Aspen.
“Having such a large event with such immediate access to such a large city like Denver will bring a good crowd and maybe give the local kids around here some inspiration,” added Clark, who won a gold medal in halfpipe at 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and bronze in halfpipe at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. “I know for me the U.S. Open in Vermont was a tremendous inspiration where I could go and see and meet the people I looked up to.”
White, who just won his sixth straight superpipe gold at the Winter X Games in Aspen, has won the U.S. Open halfpipe event four times, including a victory in 2012 after several years away from the event. After signing a sponsorship deal with Vail Resorts, the two-time Olympic gold medalist in halfpipe (2006 and 2010) trains at the company’s Northstar resort at Lake Tahoe.
“The U.S. Open is one of snowboarding’s legendary events, and some of my best competition memories are of competing at Vail, so for me, bringing the two together is all-time,” White said in a press release. “I’m excited to compete in Vail's new pipe and see everyone come out for the next evolution of this contest.”
Professional riders fondly remember the Honda Session snowboarding event that ended a six-year run at Vail in 2008. McMorris, who just won the slopestyle gold at the Winter X Games in Aspen in which White finished fifth, recalls the Vail event had four of the largest consecutive jumps ever built for a competition. He expects more of the same from the U.S. Open.
McMorris said he would rank a U.S. Open win with the biggest victories of his young career.
“Obviously, the U.S. Open would be huge. That’s the biggest contest, and it’s been around the longest,” he said. “Maybe in the past it was [more of a priority to win X Games or Olympic gold], but the U.S. Open is growing for the better now.”
Burton Snowboards founder and owner Jake Burton, a Vermont native, told the Vail Business Journal that moving the Open to his longtime western resort retreat in Vail was all about progressing the sport to the next level.
“Ever since we announced the move [last summer], we’ve gotten so much positive feedback from the snowboard industry and the riders about changing things up,” Burton said.
For a full schedule of events for the Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships Feb. 25-March 2, go to www.burton.com.