History in the making
VAIL – After this year, the Burton U.S. Open will need no introduction here in Vail.
And to many, already it does not.
An iconic event in the sport, the Burton U.S. Open has been off the radar screens of many here in the West due to its former venue in Vermont, Burton’s birthplace.
It’s the longest-running snowboarding competition in the world, attracting a field that will look almost identical to the 2014 Olympics.
Major breakthroughs in the sport have happened during the comp, and riders who are now household names competed in it when they were pre-teens.
It’s switched venues a few times in the 31 years it has now been running, from Suicide Six to Snow Valley to the Base Lodge and finally the Snow Bowl areas of Stratton Mountain.
All of those moves have been within the state of Vermont; now that the Burton U.S. Open has found a new home in Vail, there seems to be one and only one question on the minds of everyone interested in the sport – how will Vail’s Golden Peak and the Rocky Mountain settings affect the mood of this classic event?
The big names seem pretty optimistic.
“I couldn’t be more excited about its next evolution,” said Kelly Clark, who’s been spending time in Vail this season, training at Golden Peak. “Burton has always been about progressing the sport and doing what’s best for snowboarders, and I truly believe that this move to Vail will make the Open even better.”
And that means a lot coming from Clark, as the 30,000 spectators the Vermont venue attracted were largely a hometown crowd for the West Dover, Vt., native.
And when Clark refers to thousands of fans, she’s talking about people like Mike Cohen and Craig Wetherby, of Vermont. The friends and roommates have attended every Burton U.S. Open for the last two decades and didn’t plan on stopping just because it’s no longer in their backyard.
“It’s a big commitment for me. I’m not coming on a working vacation. No one’s paying my flight or lodging for me,” says Cohen, who works for SHUT skateboards. “I wasn’t going to go when I heard they moved it, but then I thought, I have to go! I’ve been going so long and I have to see what it’s like now that it’s in Vail. … I really want it to succeed.”
While few know for certain what ultimately prompted the move to Vail, Cohen’s wishes are likely an echo of the many others who are as fond of the Burton U.S. Open as he is. In a sport that values progression above all else, things may have been getting a little stagnant in Vermont.
Founder and namesake Jake Burton says while Stratton played a pivotal role in making resort snowboarding a reality, these days Vail offers the ideal venue to host the Burton U.S. Open.
“Vail is an incredible mountain and has been my snowboarding home away from home for over 20 years,” says Burton. “I have no doubt that the U.S. Open at Vail will only grow in its legacy as the premier rider-driven event in the world.”
With all this talk of Vail and snowboard progression, local residents cannot help but be reminded of the Honda Session events from a decade ago.
And as enthusiasts of the sport anxiously wait to see what vibe the Burton event will take on here in its new home on Golden Peak, reminiscing on the Honda Session events is giving pros like Shaun White and Mark McMorris a warm and fuzzy feeling.
“It’s on a perfect run,” McMorris said of the Golden Peak course in an interview with ESPN. “If you look back to the Honda Vail Sessions that used to be here, it was the biggest jump contest in snowboarding. It’s where all the new tricks happened. This is the same idea. It’s on the same face of the mountain where the Sessions were held and will have huge jumps, and history will for sure be made.”
Shaun White said some of his favorite memories of competition were at the Honda Session events.
“For me, bringing (Vail and the Burton U.S. Open) together is all time,” he said. “I’m excited to compete in Vail’s new pipe and see everyone come out for the next evolution of this contest.”
McMorris and the slopestyle riders compete in semifinals on Feb. 27 and finals on March 1, with finals televised live on Universal Sports starting at 10:30 a.m. White and the halfpipe riders compete in semifinals on Feb. 28 and finals on March 2, with finals televised on NBCSN starting at 10:30 a.m.