Looks like a big field for today’s slopestyle finals | VailDaily.com
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Looks like a big field for today’s slopestyle finals

A Burton U.S. Open competitor flies over the first jump on the slopestyle course on Thursday during a practice round. The jump, dubbed the "Mini" Feature," contains a unique set-up with optional quarterpipe transitions on the sides of a traditional slopestyle jump.
Tom Cohen | Special to the Daily |

VAIL — With the men’s slopestyle qualifiers canceled on Wednesday due to weather, an interesting contest will be underway today in the finals at the Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships.

The entire semifinal field will battle it out in a one-shot format, where the athletes will get two attempts to put down their best run, rather than three, and need not qualify into a higher rounds. All 31 athletes will have an equal shot at taking the title, and the $45,000 that comes with it.

“It’s going to be like one big final,” said Stale Sandbech, last year’s second-place slopestyle finisher at both the U.S. Open and the Olympics. “We don’t have to make it through, so now everyone is going to be 100 percent all in … the U.S. Open is one of the biggest contests of the year. It’s the one with the most prize money, and all the best riders are here.”

Canada’s Mark McMorris has been the reigning slopestyle champion for the whole time the U.S. Open has been in Vail. He’ll attempt a three-peat today.

“I think a 32-person (sic) final is kind of tricky, because I’m used to getting to drop more frequently,” McMorris said. “With that many people going, it’s quite a bit of wait time in between my runs.”

Last year, McMorris didn’t need the third run, and took it as a victory lap. He’s hoping to be in the same situation this year after the first run.

“Hopefully, I’ll just get it down on the first run and have some fun on the second,” he said. “I always feel some pressure to do well, when you’re doing well people expect you to keep doing well, so it’s always kind of in the back of my mind, that’s all I came here to do is to get that three peat, but realistically, I’m just gonna go ride and hopefully it all falls into place.”

MINI MAKE OR BREAK

McMorris says the first jump on the slopestyle course — the so-called “Mini Feature,” as a shout out to the presenting sponsor — may be a determining factor in who wins.

“It’s a jump, but on the side of the jump, there’s halfpipe transitions,” McMorris said. “So to do to something creative you hit the halfpipe transition into the landing. So that’s going to be interesting to see how it’s received, because you can do really crazy tricks off that.”

McMorris said he’s liking what he’s seeing out of some of the lessor-known athletes in the field whom he will be competing against today.

“Nik Baden has great style, I’ve been watching him,” McMorris said of the 17-year-old competitor out of Steamboat Springs.

Thursday’s top qualifier in the men’s halfpipe, Ben Ferguson, is also looking forward to catching some of the less-popular slopestyle riders today’s slopestyle final.

“I think it’s cool that Danny Davis is doing slope, too,” Ferguson said of the famous halfpipe rider. “You don’t see a lot of guys doing both anymore.”

To balance out a massive 31-rider men’s field at today’s slopestyle finals, only the top six women advanced past their semifinal round, which went off without a hitch on Wednesday. Lake Tahoe’s Jamie Anderson, the reigning Olympic champion in the discipline, will attempt to make it two in a row as she also won slopestyle last year.

The women are scheduled to hit the course at 11:30 a.m. and the men at 2 p.m.


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