Van’s Triple Crown gets under way | VailDaily.com

Van’s Triple Crown gets under way

Richard Chittick

For most of the day Friday, several dozen snowboarders milled around the top of Breckenridge’s brand new superpipe.

While a few had their eyes on the steep walls of the halfpipe, most were looking up the hill.

In front of them was the rest of Breck’s terrain park, and it was the focus of Friday’s Vans Triple Crown slopestyle qualifiers, a part of the Mountain Dew Pro Nationals.

A talented field of 120 men and 60 women took turns in six heats at throwing 540s and backside 360s and whatever else it took to get one of the few slots available in today’s finals.

When it was all over, only 25 men and 12 women advanced. Norway’s Andreas Wiig and California’s Tara Dakides claimed the top scores. Danny Kass, a 2002 halfpipe Olympic silver medalist, also qualified.

Few of the riders tried any inverted tricks, likely saving them for today’s finals.

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The crowd of 60 to 70 snowboarders at the top of the halfpipe would cheer and whistle as someone cranked out something a little different, like Chris Coulter’s mute-720.

“This is the first competition of the year, so everyone always comes here,” said Breckenridge’s Stephen Fisher, who finished second in last year’s superpipe competition.

Fisher tried his hand at his first slopestyle competition of his six-year pro career. The half-pipe specialist didn’t qualify for the finals, but was glad he tried.

“The course looked really good,” he said after his second run. “I couldn’t pass (the slopestyle competition) up.”

Friday’s qualifiers join eight pre-qualified competitors. The top-five men and top-three women from last year’s Van’s Triple Crown series all received automatic berths.

Meanwhile, as the Slope Style qualifiers were taking place, dozens of riders began practicing in the halfpipe for today’s superpipe qualifiers.

Gretchen Bleiler, who won the overall title in the 2002 Breckenridge Van’s Triple Crown stop, could be seen practicing her tricks in the crowd at the top of the pipe.

Bleiler already has a spot in Sunday’s semifinals based on last year’s rankings, but she didn’t want to take any chances that she wouldn’t be ready.

The $300,000 Vans Triple Crown of Snowboarding will continue with the Built Ford Tough Championships at Mammoth Mountain, Calif., Jan. 23-25 and at the Vans North American Championships, March 5-7 at a location to be determined.

For more information, visit http://www.vans.com.

The Breckenridge event will be televised Jan. 17 at 1:30 p.m. on NBC.

Watching the Slope Style finals

While the terrain park is closed to the public during this weekend’s event, there are two great places to watch the slopestyle finals today from noon to 1:30 p.m.

The best view is just to the right of the competitor’s gate on 4 O’Clock Run. This is accessible from Peak 8 via the Colorado SuperChair and from Peak 9 via the Peak 8 SuperConnect.

A limited view is also available at the base of the course by taking Lift 7 to the Twister Trail and following it to the junction with the Dyersville Trail.

BOX:

Mountain Dew Pro Nationals Schedule

Breckenridge

Dec. 12-14

Today

Superpipe qualifications, 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Slopestyle finals, Noon-1:30 p.m.

Rail Jam, 2-3 p.m.

Sunday

Superpipe semifinals, 8:30-11:10 a.m.

Women’s superpipe finals, 12:30-1:20 p.m.

Men’s superpipe finals, 2:15-3:15 p.m.

Final awards, 3:30-4 p.m.*

*Subject to change

Richard Chittick can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at rchittick@summitdaily.com.