‘Seeing the sport progress in front of you’
Ryan Summerlin February 25, 2013
VAIL – In examining the history of a sport, one of the best places to start will always be with its early competitions.-
Snowboarding, while it is a highly evolved sport, is not an old sport, and its oldest competition is still alive and well. –
Indeed, the history of snowboarding has been written with the same pen that signed off on the Burton U.S. Open, in all its various incarnations dating back to 1982 when it was called the National Snowboarding Championships.
Over the years the event has featured racing in slalom, GS and even downhill and super-G, not to mention the Olympic sport of snowboard cross. It saw one of the first halfpipe competitions in 1988, setting the standard for halfpipe comps to follow, but also featured a highly competitive and progressive quarterpipe event for many years.-After the International Olympic Committee announced in 1996 halfpipe snowboarding would be an Olympic sport, the Burton U.S. Open halfpipe comp began attracting an average of 10,000 spectators.-Big air came along in 1995 and rail jams and slopestyle followed in the aughts.-
These days, it’s been paired down to the bare essentials — halfpipe and slopestyle — the most high-flying of the Olympic snowboarding sports.-
Elijah Teter has been on the front lines throughout a large period of the evolution, both snowboarding’s and the Burton U.S. Open.
Part of the Teter family of snowboarding royalty here in the U.S., he’s from Vermont, and grew up with the Open in his backyard.-
For the last few years he’s been the halfpipe coach for Ski and Snowboard Club Vail’s highly-respected program, which seeks to qualify athletes to events like the Burton U.S. Open.
Now that the U.S. Open is in his backyard once again, he can’t help but reminisce on the good old days.
“It was the best crowd that I can remember,” says Teter. “It was always the last contest of the year, you’re usually riding your best because you’ve been training all year, and you definitely want to put on a good show because all your friends were there.”
In 2005, Elijah Teter made halfpipe finals along with his siblings Abe (older brother) and Hannah (younger sister) – a history-making moment as no family had ever went that deep in a snowboarding comp before. A year later, Hannah would win gold in halfpipe at the 2006 Olympics.-
“This is the event that I grew up watching,” Hannah Teter said of the U.S. Open, speaking from Vail on Sunday. “Before I even started snowboarding I’d go up and watch my big brother Abe compete and think that he was so cool, and that sprouted a dream of mine to one day compete at the Open, and be that good.”
Abe Teter had a lot of good years at the Open, nearly winning a few times.-
“He would go there and try so hard to do well that he would fall,” Elijah Teter recalls. “So then he’d just poach the finals and go bigger than everybody, doing straight airs with grabs you don’t see anymore. He’d always be there, but he’d always be poaching afterwards or even during he’d jump in there in between the runs and go huge.”
In 2001, Abe Teter took second in halfpipe by two-tenths of a point to Danny Kass. The following year, in 2002, the event would draw more than 30,000 people. This led to the event being televised live for the first time-In 2003, when Hannah Teter won best overall rider, driving away in a brand new Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. The following year, snowboarding legend Terje Haakonson, who wasn’t competing in halfpipe finals, took a page out of Abe Teter’s playbook and treated the fans to some huge poached runs during finals. A U.S. Open regular and fan favorite, Terje had been attending since 1990.-
“The magnitude of professional riders that trained and came to Vermont season after season was incredible,” says Michael Cohen, who has attended every Burton U.S. Open since 1995. “People starting going from 360 spins to 540s, 7s, 9s, to 10s, to 12s and now back-to-back 12s,” he said. “Going every year, you were seeing the sport progress right in front of you.”
While the double invert is now the trick driving the sport of halfpipe snowboarding, it’s nothing new to fans like Cohen who have been attending the U.S. Open every year. In 1998 Mike Michaelchuk landed a double backflip in the halfpipe, and this was back when the pipe only had 12-foot walls. The following year was Cohen’s favorite year, when hometown hero Ross Powers won the halfpipe competition with his huge “McTwist” off-axis spins. A decade later, Shaun White would unveil the Double McTwist, and last year he used that trick to win his fourth U.S. Open halfpipe comp.-
“I have high hopes for this year’s event,” says Cohen, who will be attending the U.S. Open this week for the 18th consecutive year. “Stratton couldn’t support it anymore, and Vail seems like the perfect place to keep it moving forward.”