VAIL — Semifinals begin today in the Burton U.S. Open halfpipe contest, and if you think a few missing names will dampen the competition, think again.
With a tip-top venue, good weather and the nerves of the Olympics behind the competitors, look for runs that push the barriers of the sport here at Golden Peak beginning today.
A 2014 Olympian, Taylor Gold says he’s been working on unveiling some new material, and with a repertoire that includes the “double cork” 1260-degree spins that won the Open for Shaun White last year, who knows what Gold could be working on next.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of guys riding the best they ever have, and I think it will still be super competitive even though Shaun (White) and Ayumu (Hirano, last year’s runner up) aren’t there, I think it will be really fun to watch,” Gold said. “I just learned a new trick in the pipe here at Vail on Monday, the pipe is amazing right now and I think it’s conducive to really good riding and progression. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are other riders who are pushing themselves, too.”
Halfpipe competitor Ben Ferguson, who hit the podium in a couple of the Grand Prix Olympic qualifier events leading up to Sochi but narrowly missed the team, says he’s feeling the same way.
“I have some ideas for some new stuff I want to do, not bigger stuff but more creative,” he said. “It’s not necessarily the biggest trick, but tricks that are technical and hard and that you have to relearn a little bit of the basics to do. Snowboarding has gotten to a point where we need more new stuff, you can’t just spin any more. It’s changing, for sure.”
‘Usually DUDES DON’T DO THAT’
Ferguson and Gold both say one of the competitors to look out for, and who they look up to, at this year’s Burton U.S. Open is 25-year-old Danny Davis.
“I watched him yesterday take a couple just switch straight-air laps in the halfpipe,” Ferguson said. “Usually dudes don’t do that before a halfpipe contest.”
Gold said it’s Davis’ “Switch Method,” a trick that’s often done to show amplitude in a rider’s strong stance (Davis is doing it “switch,” or from his weak stance), is one of the tricks he’s most impressed with right now.
“Anyone can do a small switch method, but to do it 15 feet out of the pipe is a whole different animal,” Gold said. “I think it’s very challenging, I know I couldn’t do that run with that amplitude, it would take me a while to figure it out.”
Davis said learning the switch method involved getting back to the basics.
“It was basically mimicking exactly what I was doing regular, only backwards. So if I put one hand in a certain place, I tried to put my other hand in that exact same place,” he said.
Today’s halfpipe semifinals begin at 10 a.m. for the women and 12:30 p.m. for the men at Vail’s Golden Peak.