Burton US Open begins with Junior Jam
VAIL – Fynn Bullock-Womble has been looking forward to this moment for years. The local snowboarder just turned 13, and is scheduled to participate in the Junior Jam at the Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships on Tuesday, March 6.
A halfpipe competition for snowboarders ages 14 and younger, the Junior Jam gives the winner a free entry into the Thursday, March 8, semifinal halfpipe competition at the U.S. Open.
Giants of the sport including Shaun White, Ayumu Hirano and Chloe Kim have all traveled through the ranks of the Junior Jam. When the Burton U.S. Open moved to Vail in 2013, the Junior Jam was put on hiatus for a few years. It returned in 2016, when Judd Henkes wowed judges with his impressive amplitude and smooth spins. Henkes said took inspiration from Hirano after having seen the Japanese rider compete and win at the 2012 Junior Jam in Stratton, Vermont.
“He was just sending it, so I tried to do the same,” Henkes said.
Now, as Fynn Bullock-Womble attempts to win the event himself, he said he’s drawing inspiration from Henkes.
“That’s how Judd got really well known, he did amazing in the Junior Jam,” Bullock-Womble said. “He was going huge, he really didn’t do that hard of tricks, he just went 15-20 feet out.”
‘SHOW YOUR GREAT RIDING’
Another local drawing inspiration from Henkes is Edwards resident Jack Warble, who grew up in Eagle County and attended Edwards Elementary. Warble, now 14, is a Junior Jam veteran; he also competed in 2016 and 2017.
Warble, like Henkes, is more of a slopestyle specialist, but recognizes the Junior Jam as proving ground of sorts for any snowboarder trying to demonstrate an ability to go big.
“The Junior Jam’s a great event just to be able to show your best tricks, show your great riding and hopefully be able to get up there some day,” he said.
Warble rides for the Method Snowboard Academy out of Breckenridge with coaches Cameron Hunter and Ben Boyd, and said he’s looking forward to watching some of the athletes in semi-finals and finals who have had some of the same coaches as him.
“Jake Pates, Ayumu Hirano, those guys are sick,” Warble said.
Most of all, though, “it’s always a great time coming out here and riding with my best friends,” Warble said.
YOUNG KYLE MACK
Fynn Bullock-Womble calls Copper Mountain home these days, he moved to the area several years ago in an effort to take his snowboarding to the next level. He sought out coach Chris Laske, the head of the snowboarding program at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, whom he knew from a family connection.
“I know he used to coach Kyle Mack,” Bullock-Womble said.
Mack just took home the silver medal in snowboarding big air at the 2018 Olympics. Once a star student of Laske’s, Mack also won the Burton U.S. Open slopestyle event in 2016.
Laske said Bullock-Womble reminds him of a young Kyle Mack.
“Kyle landed his first 1080 at 11 years old, and so did Fynn,” Laske said. “Now he has multiple 1080s, double corks, he’s super comfortable on 70-80 foot jumps, he’s sending 10-12 foot airs in the halfpipe, he’s on the same path.”
Bullock-Womble is already qualified for the World Rookie Tour, a pathway to FIS-level competition for juniors which has two age divisions — 14 and younger and 15-18 — takes place in Austria in the spring and only takes the top four competitors per gender per age division. In the younger age division, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail has already qualified five athletes. Hayden Tyler, 11, will join Bullock-Womble on the World Rookie Tour this year, and is also scheduled to participate in the Junior Jam on Tuesday.
“There’s a good crew out here for sure,” Bullock-Womble said. “I know pretty much everyone in Junior Jam so it’s going to be a fun event.”
Warble said it’s going to be a difficult competition.
“Your going to see a lot of progression from the young riders,” he said. “There’s a kid from Japan (Kyotaro Tanaka, 14), he’s got back to back doubles in the halfpipe … my money is on him for sure,” Warble said.
The competition is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.