The second Olympic qualifying event at a CSCUSA resort took place this past weekend. I had the chance to watch some of the USSA Grand Prix at Copper Mountain on Friday. If you ever have the chance to watch a snowboard competition from the lip of the halfpipe, do it. It is from this perspective that the unbelievable athleticism, talent and skills of the riders can really be seen. Not only does this perspective give appreciation to the athletes, but also the terrain. A 22 foot halfpipe is steep, icy, hard, and takes precision to sculpt which is why it is called a superpipe.
Ski Country has two superpipes, Copper and Buttermilk.
The Grand Prix at Copper is the second Colorado Ski Country USA resort to host an Olympic qualifying event this season. The first was Aspen, who hosted the Women’s World Cup Winternational, next will be the LG Snowboard FIS World Cup in Telluride happening this weekend, and December 23 and 24, Steamboat will host the US Ski Team trials where a total of five U.S. Olympic Team spots in moguls, aerials and nordic combined will be up for grabs.
Copper was the first resort in Colorado to open a superpipe and from the day it opened the US Snowboard Team held daily training sessions in the pipe leading up to the USSA Grand Prix competition last weekend. All the practice seemed to pay off because on Saturday, Shaun White (Carlsbad, CA) and Kelly Clark (Mt. Snow, VT) landed runs that propelled them to first place in this the first of five Olympic qualification events for the US Snowboard Halfpipe Team.
As soon as I got to Copper, I road the lift up and snowboarded down to the pipe. I lucked out and ended up riding the lift with Juliane Bray, a pro rider from New Zealand sponsored by Burton. I asked her about the pipe and how it was riding (as if I had ever ridden in a pipe and would know a good one from a bad one) and she smiled and said in her endearing down under accent, that it was “really really great and riding so nice.” This was her first time to Copper and she was loving it.
During the whole event there was this buzz among spectators about the latest trick that seems to be the brass ring to getting onto the team the double cork 1080. A cork 1080 is an off-axis flip with one or more full twists. A double cork 1080 is that trick on one wall of the pipe immediately followed by the same trick done off the opposite wall of the pipe. Everyone knew that White and Vito could both do it, but was there anyone else? When would they do it? Who would do it first? Who would do it best?
After watching two and a half heats of riders, we saw the first and second double cork. Vito went first and White went second in both their heats and the overall qualifications for the U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix. As is typical in the snowboard world, riders push each other to do their best and this was no exception and it’s only the fist of the series of qualifiers. Can’t wait to see what the Games will have in store when a gold medal is on the line.
2010 U.S. SNOWBOARDING GRAND PRIX
Copper Mountain, CO – Dec. 12, 2009
1. Shaun White, Carlsbad, CA, 47.00
2. Louie Vito, Sandy, UT, 45.60
3. Zack Black, Breckenridge, CO, 44.10
4. Fredrik Austbo, Norway, 41.20
5. JJ Thomas, Golden, CO, 41.10
6. Greg Bretz, Mammoth Lakes, CA, 40.00
7. Steve Fisher, Breckenridge, CO, 39.40
8. Tore-V Holvik, Norway, 34.80
9. Ryo Aono, Japan, 34.00
10. Jack Mitrani, Mammoth, CA, 28.80
1. Kelly Clark, Mt. Snow, VT, 44.50
2. Gretchen Bleiler, Aspen, CO, 42.60
3. Soko Yamaoka, Japan, 40.20
4. Quera Castellet, Spain, 30.50
5. Ellery Hollingsworth, Stratton, VT, 35.80
6. Madeline Schaffrick, Steamboat Springs, Co, 35.50
7. Holly Crawford, Australia, 24.00
8. Clair Bidez, Minturn, CO, 13.60