Vail With one of the biggest half-pipes, there’s no doubt that the best snowboarders in the world in town for the Burton U.S. Open this week are going to throw big runs in today’s semifinals and Saturday’s finals.
At roughly 600 feet long, with 22-foot-high walls and an 18-degree slope, riders are calling the Vail half-pipe build by Snow Park Technologies one of the best pipes they’ve ridden all year.
Kelly Clark, an Olympic gold medalist who has won more in the half-pipe than any other female snowboarder, said the pipe is long and on a steep slope — just the way she likes it.
“If you have both of those components in the mix ... all of your tricks become bigger and faster — the steepness and pitch play a factor, as well as the length,” Clark said.
Clark still is getting six hits — meaning she’s able to do six tricks — on the longer pipe, but fellow Vermont native Hannah Teter said after Monday’s practice that she thinks the pipe could be a seven-hitter.
The women are fired up about the half-pipe. The biggest names in women’s snowboarding right now — Clark, Teter, Elena Hight and Steamboat Springs’ Arielle Gold — have an energy going into today’s semifinal that’s hard to think they could have after such a grueling competition schedule over the last two months.
Gold, 16, also is feeling good. The teenager is getting some well deserved recognition this year after some impressive finishes, including bronze at the Winter X Games behind Clark (gold) and Hight (silver), and a win at the Burton European Open earlier this month.
And at 16, this girl is focused, confident and mature beyond her years.
“Basically, what I was going for in that contest was just to put down a run that I was happy with, which is kind of my goal with every contest,” Gold said about the Burton European Open. “When it works out like that and I end up getting on the podium, it’s just unreal, and first place — I had no idea that was coming.”
Gold suddenly has found herself in the spotlight this season, even though she’s been competing for years. She’s began competing in the Burton U.S. Open as a junior at just 9 years old, she said.
And this Vail half-pipe is a blast, she said. It doesn’t hurt that the event is in Colorado — her favorite place to ride.
“This half-pipe is so much fun. It’s really good — I think it’s probably the best pipe we’ve ridden all year,” Gold said. “So far, it’s making a pretty good impression on all of the people who weren’t too excited about (the U.S. Open) moving here.”
Gold said the girls probably will hit six and maybe seven tricks, but the guys should be getting five or six.
“I think us girls, we’re pretty indifferent about the length of the pipe, but the guys have more further downhill lines than we do, so they get less hits than we do,” Gold said. “A lot of guys will get around four hits (normally), and judges like to see five or six.”
Other ladies to look out for include Kaitlyn Farrington and Ellery Hollingsworth. On the men’s side, Shaun White always is a favorite, but look out for 14-year-old Japanese rider Ayumu Hirano, who got silver in the Winter X Games. Other big names like Louie Vito and Iouri “iPod” Podladtchikov also are expected to put up big scores.