Competition starts Wednesday at the Burton US Open
VAIL — The the longest-running snowboarding competition in the world returns to Golden Peak today as competition kicks off at the Burton US Open.
After making its way to Vail from Vermont a few years ago, the US Open now attracts the best halfpipe and slopestyle snowboarders to Vail every year, a change that, while bittersweet at first, has become a welcome one.
“The courses tend to be better here, the weather tends to be better,” halfpipe rider Danny Davis said Tuesday. “We get to have a great event, and that’s what’s good about being in Vail … the East Coast mountains just don’t offer what Colorado does.”
Davis, who won the X Games halfpipe competition both this year and last, is one of dozens of athletes who will compete for the $45,000 guaranteed to the winner of each event, one of the largest scores a snowboarder is likely to make at a competition these days.
Those events have been paired down in the 33 years the Burton US Open has been running from slalom, quarter-pipe, cross and big air events to the two most marquee in the sport today — halfpipe and slopestyle.
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Besides Davis, another frequent podium finisher to look out for at this year’s Open will be Taylor Gold. After winning the halfpipe event at the Open here in Vail last year, the last big halfpipe competition of the 2014 season, Gold went on to win the first two big events of the 2015 season, the Grand Prix at Copper Mountain and the Dew Tour in Breckenridge.
Finishing second to Gold in both of those events was Chinese up-and-comer Yiwei Zhang and last weekend, at the final Grand Prix World Cup of the season, it was Zhang who bumped gold into second. Last year, while Gold was on top after finals at the Burton US Open, it was Zhang who won the qualifiers. In a developing rivalry that’s soon to play out here in Vail, both Gold and Zhang on confirmed for Thursday’s halfpipe semi-finals, scheduled for 12:30 p.m.
PREVAILING IN VAIL
On the slopestyle side for the men, Canadian Mark McMorris has been the man to beat at the Burton US Open for the last couple of years. Since moving to Vail in 2013, no one besides McMorris has topped the slopestyle podium.
On Tuesday, McMorris said the US Open is always a standout event for him.
“It’s always good coming here to the US Open,” McMorris said. “I’m not sure why, but I love competing in Colorado.”
McMorris and the men are scheduled for slopestyle semi finals at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, with the women set to hit the course at 10 a.m.
The most standout athlete on the women’s side in also the most standout snowboarder in the history of the sport, if you’re looking at competition wins. Kelly Clark is once again among the confirmed riders at this year’s Burton US Open halfpipe competition and like McMorris, no one has topped her since the event moved to Vail in 2013.
“I think it’s been a good venue,” Clark said Tuesday. “I always like coming here.”
Slopestyle finals are scheduled for Friday, with the women set to hit the course at 11:30 a.m. and the men at 2 p.m. The event wraps up on Saturday with halfpipe finals, also at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. For more information, or to see a live webcast of the events, visit burton.com/uso.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.