Breck’s Otterstrom first in slopestyle |

Breck’s Otterstrom first in slopestyle

Shauna Farnell
Special to the Daily/Brad Odekirk Andreas Wiig boardslides a rail Friday during the men's snowboard slopestyle final at the Winter Gravity Games at Copper Mountain.

COPPER MOUNTAIN – There weren’t many spectators and the average Front Range winter sports fan would have been hard-pressed to recognize more than three names on the start list, but the top riders walked away with a good chunk of change in Friday’s Winter Gravity Games men’s snowboard slopestyle competition.Breckenridge rider Chad Otterstrom was probably the happiest that the likes of Shaun White and other big-name riders were not in attendance Friday, as it helped him pocket $20,000 for winning the event.”They’re on the East Coast,” he said of some of the absent top-name riders. “I’m pretty happy they didn’t show up.”

A considerable number of the world’s best snowboarders are competing in a World Cup halfpipe event this weekend in Lake Placid, NY. Thus, Otterstrom sailed higher than most of the field at Copper, landing a score of 93.7 points after throwing a couple of back-to-back 720s and a 900 on his winning run, then some stylish 180s and shifties on the rails. When asked what he planned to do with his $20,000, Otterstrom first pointed out that after taxes, it’s more like $16,000, and then said, “I’ll spend it all at the bar.”Some of the other riders who placed in the money had more resourceful plans for their earnings.”I’m planning to buy an apartment for myself. So, I’ll save it and spend it on some smart thing,” said Finnish rider Antti Autti, who put himself on the map of snowboarding’s elite when he beat out White, Danny Kass and other favorites to become the surprise champion in last month’s Winter X Games pipe contest in Aspen. Friday’s slopestyle contest, which was only Autti’s second all season, earned him a silver medal and $10,000. He finished second with an 89.3-point run that included a switch backside 540, two back-to-back 900s with tip grabs and some 50-50s on the rails, which Autti said posed the largest problem for him of all the features on the course.”To ride slopestyle, you have to be a good all-around rider – good in rails, good in jumps,” he said. “If you can do good in pipe, that probably helps. But, I had so many problems with the rails on my first four runs. That’s the hardest part for me. I’m stoked how it ended.”

Following the X Games, Autti returned home to Finland for a few days before going to Italy to qualify for next year’s Winter Olympics. From there, he went to Japan “to ride powder.” He’ll surely be a hot contender in Sunday’s Gravity halfpipe contest.The bronze medalist in Friday’s slopestyle was Wyatt Caldwell of Sun Valley, Idaho, who won $7,500 with his 87.3-point run.Caldwell was one of the last qualifiers for the Gravity Games, whose athletes are selected on an invite-only basis on the basis of top finishes in various qualifying events. He earned his ticket to ride after winning last month’s slopestyle and rails contests at the Vans Triple Crown in Northstar-at-Tahoe, Calif.”This is a pretty happening contest,” he said of the Gravity Games. “It’s obviously a step below the X Games in terms of notoriety, but, along with the Vans Cups and the U.S. Open, this one is one of the bigger ones.”

As to the format of Friday’s events, which was jam-style wherein the field of 16 riders could take as many runs as they could manage in two hours, Caldwell said it had its pros and cons. “Two hours is a long time,” he said. “It turns out we each got five, maybe six runs. It definitely takes its toll on your body when you’re trying to do that many runs. But if you don’t land your run, it’s sure nice.”The big 900-degree spins were the biggest tricks on the course, which riders said didn’t allow them to get enough speed to throw 1080s.”It’s kind of hard to clear the jumps, so you couldn’t really go for it,” Otterstrom said. “There’s not enough speed. The jumps were perfect for 1080s, but you couldn’t get enough speed. The jumps were still good.”

The top seven finishers all walked away with checks. Mammoth Mountain’s Andreas Wiig finished fourth with 84 points, Risto Matila scored 76.3 for fifth, Nate Sheehan finished at 75.0 for sixth and Kevin Pearce (71.7) took seventh.Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or, Colorado

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