McMorris back atop Burton Open slopestyle podium in Vail
VAIL — He’s back, and he brought his friends.
Mark McMorris is back atop the Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships men’s slopestyle podium after missing last year due to an injury. McMorris and the rest of the 10-man slopestyle finalists used the unique course and bluebird conditions to throw down some of the most monster runs of the season.
“Pretty much every event we go to starts with rails and then goes to jumps,” McMorris said with champagne still coating his goggles. “To have a rail in between the first two jumps and the last jump allowed people to switch their runs up. It just made for a way better contest and the riding level was higher than anything we’ve seen this year.”
Riders in Friday’s finals at Golden Peak in Vail were trying tricks never done before, landing some of them, and putting down runs never done before thanks to the course lined with six features: two rails, two jumps and then a rail/cannon followed by a jump.
With the Burton Open falling toward the end of the snowboard season, riders were going big in attempts to bring home some hardware before the season dwindles down.
“Everybody was just throwing down,” said Michael Ciccarelli, who finished second after dropping in on his final run in ninth. “The U.S. Open is just the coolest event, I think.”
Snowfall earlier in the week cramped practice for many of the riders, who were still trying to figure out a run through a course like nothing they’ve seen all season. But in Friday’s finals, the runs got bigger and better.
“My main strategy was just to change up my run up from what I normally do, and I haven’t done a cab 12 in competition in four years, and I did that on the first jump then a backside triple,” McMorris said. “My strategy was basically to spin all four different ways, including the cannon — so I spun cab backside, frontside and then switch backside triple 16, which I’ve never done in a slopestyle and I didn’t land once in practice, not even close.”
McMorris’ first run proved to be the winner as he threw his helmet to the ground in the finish area before even seeing his score, which was 86.95.
“When you don’t even come close in practice you don’t really expect that much,” McMorris said of landing his backside triple 1620. “I think when the contest pressure is on it helps.”
With the bar set, the rest of the riders put McMorris’ score in their crosshairs.
Ciccarelli attempted a cab 1620, a trick he didn’t even try in practice, and stomped the landing on his second run.
“I kind of just Hail Mary’d it,” he said. “I didn’t really care, I just wanted to go for it. I was blown away that I landed it.”
Sven Thorgren rounded out the men’s podium in third.
“I’m hyped to be on the podium in slopestyle,” Thorgren said. “I’ve been kind of struggling to land my runs in slopestyle. I’m just hyped to be able to give everybody a match.”
The Burton Open is wrapping up its 35th year of competition, the fifth in Vail, and continues to showcase the progression in snowboarding.
“We kind of do the same tricks all year, so once you come to a course like this and see the change, it gets everyone stoked,” McMorris said.
Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2915 and email@example.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.