U.S. Snowboarding's Kelly Clark (West Dover, VT) had quite the season last year, winning 10 of the 12 halfpipe contests she entered and landing the first-ever 1080 in women's competition at Winter X Games. But one that eluded her was the Copper Grand Prix. After falling in the first run, Clark dropped into the Copper Mountain halfpipe as the second-to-last competitor Saturday and laid down a run with her signature amplitude and slow rotations to take the podium's top step, winning the season's first Sprint U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix just ahead of rookie teammate Maddy Schaffrick (Steamboat Springs, CO). In the men's competition, Luke Mitrani (Stratton Mountain, VT) put down a huge run to win. Pro Halfpipe Team member Greg Bretz (Anaheim) placed third behind defending champion Louie Vito (Columbus, OH) in a contest full of upping the ante, as riders put down frontside 12s and a even few back-to-back double cork 10s while afternoon shadows moved over the Copper halfpipe.
"It's never ideal to fall first run in finals. It definitely puts the pressure on, but I just tried to stay focused and I really looked at it as an opportunity to overcome instead of a threat to take away my goal for the day. I knew exactly what I did wrong my first run and I went out there and fixed it in my second run.
I was so impressed with the level of riding today with the ladies. I thought it was one of the most progressive qualifiers and finals that I've seen and I'm really excited for the rest of the season. Seeing these girls ride so well is inspiring and it makes me want to be a better snowboarder."
"This is crazy because I didn't even snowboard this summer. I just skateboarded a lot and took my mind off snowboarding, so to jump back into it is crazy to win a contest. I'm shocked. My strategy was to just focus on my riding and feed off of other people. When someone does something big it makes me want to ride even harder for myself."
"I don't even know what to feel right now—I'm kind of crying, kind of laughing. I wanted to land a run for myself, so landing a run and getting into finals was incredible. I was kind of going into finals like 'whatever happens, happens' cause I've gotten this far. It's really cool to get even farther!"
"It was a heavy contest for the first of the year. There were a lot of big tricks thrown down. I'm stoked for all the riders and stoked for the podium. I'm happy with a third, you always wish for better, but I'm stoked to be on the podium."
"This was a pretty intense day. Everyone was throwing down and riding super well. But that's what's great about riding with everyone and having the Grand Prix. There are so many good riders and it pushes you to step it up. You have to just keep pushing yourself and stay with the progression because you have to stay at the front of the pack. There are a lot of tricks I want to learn. The season is long and I just like to get some time to keep stepping up every contest."