Burton US Open brings back Junior Jam | VailDaily.com

Burton US Open brings back Junior Jam

Eagle resident Taiaroa Tait, 14, flies out of the halfpipe while practicing for the Burton U.S. Open Junior Jam, taking place Tuesday in Vail. The event starts at 10:15 a.m. in Golden Peak.

VAIL — One of Shaun White's first big introductions to the world of snowboarding was the Junior Jam, a kids-only event that used to be part of the Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships.

White participated in the event as a kid and caught the eyes of Burton, a company he would go on to represent for many profitable years.

In the U.S. Open's many changes over the years, the Junior Jam became lost in the shuffle. Some fans missed it.

"The Junior Jam was always my favorite," said Michael Cohen, who watched the Junior Jam every year starting in 1995 when the Open was at Stratton Mountain in Vermont.

Now in Vail, the Burton U.S. Open will bring the Junior Jam back for its 34th annual event. The event is today from 10a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

"As a snowboard community, we're super hyped to have the U.S. Open show some support back to the youth," said Brady McNeil, a longtime coach with Ski & Snowboard Club Vail's snowboarding program. "We're super privileged to have it, one, at our home mountain in Vail and, two, to get some of our local athletes involved in the junior jam is an awesome exposure for them, another opportunity and another avenue for them to display their talents."

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One of McNeil's standout athletes, 13-year-old Jack Coyne, is among the 10 boys and five girls to earn invites.

"We couldn't be more proud to have Jack be a part of this," McNeil said. "He's been working his butt off, honoring the opportunity, and he's excited not only to get to compete but to ride and practice alongside some of his idols that he's grown up looking up to."

TAIAROA SET TO GO, AGAIN

When the Junior Jam was in Stratton, Vermont, 9-year-old Taiaroa Tait got the honor of competing.

"I used to live at Stratton so it was right up the road," he said. "I was barely getting out of the pipe … but it was a really awesome experience."

Now 14 and living in Eagle, Tait will once again get to compete in the Junior Jam at a location right up the road.

"It's been at my home mountain twice now," he said. "I've been lucky to be able to get to a few Junior Jams, so that's awesome."

Tait, who rides for Minturn-based Weston Snowboards, earned his invite based on his 2015 United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association standings, current form and past competitions, according to Burton. The kids will get three runs in Vail's halfpipe today and the rider with the highest scoring run will be awarded a spot in semifinals Thursday to compete against the pros.

"That would be crazy competing with all the big guys," Tait said. "I just want to be able to get onto the podium. … It's really cool being part of a competition with such a long history behind it."

Also representing Eagle County will be Jack Warble, of Edwards.

INVITED ATHLETES

BOYS

Athlete, Hometown

Griffin MacFayden, West Dover, Vermont

Hans Huber, Stowe, Vermont

Hunter Goulet, Park City, Utah

Jack Coyne, Avon

Jack Warble, Edwards

Jake Canter, Evergreen

Judd Henkes, La Jolla, California

Slater Johnson, Park City, Utah

Taiaroa Tait, Eagle

Valentino Guseli, Red Hill, Australia

GIRLS

Isabella Gomez, Issaquah, Washington

Kailey Bogart, Hauula, Hawaii

Lydia Silber, Winter Park

Payton Bacca, Ketchum, Idaho

Tessa Maud, Carlsbad, California