Burton US Open slope champion: ‘Who knows what we’re going to see in finals’
Burton Open Schedule
Free concert — Gramatik and Lizzo
VAIL — Kyle Mack is watching the 35th Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships this week from his Silverthorne home, wishing he could defend his slopestyle crown in Friday’s finals.
“It’s definitely a lot harder to watch,” said Mack, who is missing this year’s competition — the fifth in Vail — due to an ankle injury. “This happened to me a couple times, so there’s been a lot of watching the U.S. Open the last couple of years wishing I was there competing, definitely after last year.”
Mack tried competing this year and even practiced the course, but a gnarly crash at Copper Mountain a few weeks ago — his binding separated from his board upon landing — left him with a few strained ligaments and fluid buildup in his ankle.
With the Burton Open men’s slopestyle title up for grabs Friday, there’s plenty of excitement around the new-look course, getting away from the traditional rails-to-jumps format and mixing them together.
“They did a really good job with the build,” said Mark McMorris, who qualified second. “Every feature is super different. A lot of times it’s just three jumps in a row to end, so it’s cool to have jump, jump, rail, jump. It switches everything up.”
There’s also a rail slide cannon on the course, shooting the riders high in the Rocky Mountain sky with the Gore Range behind them.
“We’ve seen some cannon boxes before, but never that big,” said Sebastien Toutant, who qualified eighth. “Overall, the course is really fun.”
‘Run by snowboarders’
With a technical course and smooth transitions, Mack says he expects to see some big tricks in the finals, especially since many of the riders were still piecing together their runs hours before dropping into the course for Wednesday’s semifinals.
“It takes a clean run top to bottom with some of your most banger tricks,” Mack said. “The U.S. Open is, in my eyes, one of the biggest, most progressive contests in snowboarding, so who knows what we’re going to see this year in finals? It could be some crazy new tricks that people have been working on for a while that they’re ready to throw out here.”
That’s easier said than done.
“Just to land a run was my biggest goal,” said Mikey Ciccarelli, who qualified third. “That’s why I love competing. You can’t get that feeling from anything else. It’s just the craziest rush, landing a run.”
The slopestyle finals are today with the women beginning at 11:10 a.m. and the men dropping in at 2 p.m.
Sven Thorgren and Mark McMorris are the top two qualifiers for the men after Wednesday’s semifinals, and Jamie Anderson narrowly topped Anna Gasser in the women’s semis.
“The U.S. Open is run by snowboarders, and we’re here riding a course that’s the best, so I feel like the U.S. Open is the most legit contest for sure,” Ciccarelli said. “And it’s not like they only invite 12 people; they invite 30 riders, so a lot of people get a chance to come and show their skills.”
Today, the best slopestyle snowboarders in the world will be doing what they do best, right here in Vail.
Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2915 and email@example.com. Follow him on Instagram @colorado_livin_on_the_hill.