Burton Open Junior Jam in Vail gives glimpse into future of snowboarding
Burton US Open schedule
VAIL — What do young snowboarders competing in the Junior Jam at the Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships think about in their downtime?
“In the bath, I was hoping it would be my last bath without being a Burton U.S. Open Junior Jam champion, but second is good, too,” said Valentino Guseli, of Australia, who finished runner up at the annual halfpipe competition featuring the next generation of snowboarders.
With fat flakes falling on Golden Peak during both the boys and girls finals on Tuesday, the male and female winners secured a spot in Thursday’s halfpipe semifinals — against the pros.
Mitsuki Ono, of Japan, won the girls Junior Jam.
“She was looking at the Vancouver Olympics when she was young, and that’s why she got into the halfpipe,” Ono’s translator said as the sparkling cider was coming out to the podium.
Ono is positioned to compete in the event that her snowboarding role model, Chloe Kim, won last year — the women’s halfpipe.
“She’s excited, and she’s going to try to do better,” her translator said.
Joonsik Lee, of Korea, won the boys Junior Jam and will compete against the likes of Danny Davis and Shaun White in Thursday’s halfpipe semifinals.
Only one snowboarder has ever won the Junior Jam competition and then taken the top podium spot in the main event. It was Jake Blauvelt in 2001.
Previous Junior Jam podium finishers include Pat Moore, Hannah Teter, Luke Mitrani, John Jackson and Mikkel Bang.
‘Here with all my friends’
For many of the competitors in the 14-and-younger event, and their families braving the snowy conditions, the Burton U.S. Open Junior Jam is a reunion of sorts.
“I’m just super hyped to be here with all of my friends, and a lot of people from my team have been competing this year,” said Tessa Maud, of Carlsbad, California. “I’m super hyped and glad I could put down some runs, and it was really fun.”
Maud finished second in the girls Junior Jam this year after winning the event last year.
“It’s super sick,” said Hans Huber, 13, of Stowe, Vermont. “This year, I’m living out here for the winter and I’m hanging with all of my buddies and having a great time.”
Family and friends of the competitors were gathered around the finish area of the halfpipe, sending love to every grom ripping down the pipe.
“This event is put on by an amazing group of people who work really hard to make sure these kids are having the best time,” said Cady Warble, mother of Jack, who finished in the top 10.
Warble was hanging out in the finish area with parents of past Junior Jam competitors who are competing in the main event this year.
While fresh snow makes for happy skiers and snowboarders, it’s not ideal for a halfpipe competition.
The Junior Jam was delayed on Tuesday three hours due to snow, and it continued to snow throughout the competition with the bigger flakes starting to fall from the skies toward the end.
“It’s pretty normal to me right now,” Maud said, “because we’ve got 500-plus inches in Mammoth right now.”
For Guseli, he took advantage of a strong second run to jump from 14th to second, advancing to the final run.
“I just have to improvise because I accidentally did two 540s,” he said with a big smile on his face after his second run.
‘I love Vail’
With competitors from all around the world, Edwards local Jack Warble represented the home mountain in his second year competing in the Junior Jam.
“It feels awesome just being able to represent the home mountain here at Vail,” he said.
Other riders converged on town from other Vail Resorts-owned mountains, including the recently purchased Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont.
“I don’t ride pipe, so I’m just out here having fun,” said Huber, of Stowe. “We don’t have a pipe at my home mountain.”
With the inclusion into the Vail Resorts family, Huber and his family are hoping that changes.
“Well, we’re hoping there’s a halfpipe because we don’t have one,” said Sandy Huber, Hans’ mom.
Up next for some of the groms are a couple of powder days at Vail before heading off to other events.
“I love Vail, actually,” Hans Huber said. “I don’t come here too many times.”
Reporter Ross Leonhart can b reached at 970-748-2915 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.
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