Mark McMorris came out swinging in the men’s slopestyle finals at the Burton U.S Open in Vail, Colorado. On the second feature of his first run he slammed down an impressive 50-50 to wildcat out and continued with a run that had all the makings of a gold-medal performance. Coming into his last hit it was obvious what he was about to do and he almost did it. Throwing down a massive backside triple cork, he almost got away with it, but he overshot the landing and slipped just enough to void run from gold-medal contention. Surprisingly, his wildcat out on the second feature was not even close to the best score on that feature after the first runs were complete. But that didn’t stop him from following his near perfect run with an even better one. This time, he landed the triple cork cleanly, which was enough to launch him into first place after two runs and nobody could touch him from there. Norwegian Stale Sandbech came close, finishing just 0.30 points behind, but missed a few rail attempts that could have boosted his score. Stale failed to capture the U.S Open slope-style crown, but his riding was enough to capture him the World Snowboard Tour Slope-style and Overall Champion title. Max Parrot held down third place with a few runs that were slightly criticized for being a little too similar to McMorris’s runs. Maybe it’s a Canadian thing…
The women’s slope-style results were a little more lopsided but not necessarily unexpected. Jamie Anderson continued her dominance over the slope-style category with a commanding 87.55 score. The closest score was silver medalist Spencer O’Brien at 80 flat. Anderson took home her 4th U.S Open gold medal as well as becoming the entire Tour Slope-style Champion. Spencer O’Brien was on a mission after a disappointing performance in Sochi that ended with heartbreaking falls on both her finals runs. Isabel Derungs also netted some redemption, coming in third after an 8th place performance in Sochi. After Derungs, nobody was even close.
The event judged riders on 6 features of rails and jumps that were scored out of 10 points. Additionally, there were 40 possible extra points for “Flow” score, which should be self-explanatory. This course was especially awesome because it featured the work of the Snowpark Tech Shape Crew, who was involved in a little competition of its own. Snowpark Tech Shape Crew was facing off against the crew from Laax, Switzerland, where the Burton European Open was held. Both crews put everything they had into their slope-style creations in hopes of walking away with a sweet $5,000 cash prize. The catch is that they have to incorporate a full-sized MINI (if that makes sense), into their features. SnowPark Tech’s course included all kinds of different rail features crazy walls, and a gargantuan 20-foot wall mounted at the top of a quarterpipe with a MINI nestled smack in the middle. Although Elliot Cone of Snowpark Tech Shape Crew conceded that he thought the Laax guys were probably going to have the upper hand, its tough to imagine he was surprised when the Americans came home with the prize. “We started with the idea that we wanted something that looked really gnarly that actually performed like something the riders would see in a park setting. It WAS gnarly, and it took a minute for everybody to warm up to it but really, we’ve seen a lot of tricks. I mean we just watched the girls finish. They’re looking great. We’re really proud of what the outcome was.” McMorris was amped on it too, saying, “The MINI feature was a lot of fun! It allowed for ultimate creativity and was a great way for me to separate myself from other riders.”
People seemed to be pretty stoked about Snowpark Tech’s halfpipe construction, too. Event co-organizer Donna Burton Carpenter commended Vail and all the contest participants saying, “You know it’s really amazing to think about 26 years ago and the pipe that we were riding on. And looking at what they’re doing now, the progression has been unbelievable. I think riders like Kelly (Clark) and now Chloe Kim are continuing to progress the sport and its so exciting. And Vail is such a great showcase…Vail is Perfect.” Clark and Kim both medaled at the women’s halfpipe finals, Clark coming in first and Kim third. Sandwiched in between the two Americans was Spanish snowboarder Queralt Castalett. For Clark, it was her 7th U.S Open halfpipe title. She also secured her 4th World Snowboard Tour halfpipe title. The Open has always been special to Clark. “I grew up nine miles away from the U.S Open,” said Clark, speaking about the contest’s former home of Stratton, Vermont. “It really holds a near and dear place in my heart. If I could pick a contest to win, it would be this one. I’m really happy I was able to put down my run today.” And put it down she did, throwing down an impressive 89.33 gold medal run. It looked like this. Frontside 1080 indy, Cab 720 mute-grab, indy to mute-grab, backside 540 tail-grab, frontside 900 indy, and a backside air. Although the halfpipe crown was easily locked down by Clark, fellow American Chloe Kim was hunting for her own title, which she secured with her third place halfpipe finish. At 13 years old, she became the youngest World Tour Overall Champion, capping off a remarkable year that put her on the map.
And then Taylor Gold showed up. Shitty puns aside…never mind. It looked like this. A huge method air that Jack Mitrani called his “favorite method of the week”, frontside 1260 tail-grab, double michalchuk, frontside double cork 1080 indy, cab 1080 taipan with a sneaky roast beef, and rounded out with a nasty crippler roast beef. That method was pretty massive and Gold was forced to explain himself at the end of his run. “Well I wanted to do a method like Terje’s and Ross because so many people do the new method, and I’ve always done them that way, and I was starting to learn how to do ‘em the new way and then I was like…No. I just like the style and I think it feels better. It’s not as forced. It’s just like, freedom.” Japanese rider Taku Hiraoka and Swiss rider David Habluetzel came in second and third respectively. Olympic bronze medalist Hiraoka also took down the World Snowboard Halfpipe title.
A big story from the day aside from the incredible medal runs was the poachers. Everybody was talking about style. Terje Haakonsen and Danny Davis gave the kids a treat showcasing some incredible style with no holds-barred train poaching runs. Snowboarding legends and up and comers alike all got in on the action and that is the true spirit of what the U.S Open really is: a snowboarding competition run by snowboarders for snowboarders. Although it is truly the premier snowboarding event in the world, the fact that it is the last event of the season really creates a laid back, fun-first vibe, parallel with high caliber competition. After the dust settled and our 2014 champions were crowned, Capital Cities performed a free show for fans and an official U.S Open closing party went down with performances from DJ Jazzy Jeff and A Tribe Called Red. Wrapping up a successful sophomoric effort in Vail, CO, the U.S Open seems to have found its new permanent home.