The Session returns to Vail
For the second year in a row, the world’s top riders came to Vail for an event that may offer a glimpse into the future of snowboard competition. And, for the second year in a row, Shaun White would dominate that competition.
The Honda Session, an event which is progressive in every sense of the word, returned to Golden Peak to continue to play its part in the evolution of snowboarding.
A field, which featured more than 40 of the world’s best snowboarders, is about the only thing The Session had in common with other competitions.
The format was different. Riders were allowed as many runs as they could do during a 90-minute jam session, providing for a very spectator friendly event.
The judging was different. A panel of three International Judges Commission judges were joined by three professional snowboarders- Adam Merriman, Barrett Christie, and Andy Hetzel -to award points for things like originality, style, variety, and overall impression.
And the rails, the rails were different than anything that many riders and spectators have ever seen, including a long hand rail, a double-kinked 50-footer, and a 30-foot curved rail,dubbed the roller coaster. All of this backed by a 50-foot wide vert ramp with a 10-foot gap smack in the middle.
“I think we’ve really stepped it up here in the progression of both course building and riding,” said Greg Johnson, the event’s competition director. “This is the very first oversize skatepark event for snowboarding. We think you’ll see alot of this in the next year or so.”
At the end of 90 minutes, the top three riders would each be awarded $10,000, meaning as time wound down the guys started stepping it up.
Shaun White stepped it up, literally, taking first place by time and again sliding up the kinked rail, doing a step-up gap to the bottom of the vert transition, toe-sliding the coping and dropping back down onto the far hand rail for some variation of toe or heel slide.
“I thought this course was amazing,” said White, who is gearing up for the X Games in Aspen next week. “I’ve never seen a course like this. It was like doing a skatepark on a snowboard.”
However, it’s not fair to single out just one rider, because all of these guys were throwing it down Friday night. The jam format that The Session uses is conducive to that. When these riders see one guy going for it, it’s only natural the next guy will want to do a little better.
Chad Otterstrom finished second, and Chris Englesman, who didn’t even get a practice run at these rails, took third.
“I kind of lucked out because I naturally did a lib slide across that transfer,” said Englesman. “I think that helped me (with the judges). It went back to my skateboard roots.”
Local riders Rob Bak and Josh Malay also pulled out some style tricks, but would not figure into the final standings.
“Rob was killing that roller-coaster rail that no one else was really doing,” said Christie, who will be doing snowboard vert at this year’s X Games. “Josh Malay was ripping, too.”
The Session continues today with the Women’s Super Slopestyle at noon and the Women’s Rail Jam at 5:45 P.M. The men will take the hill for the Super Slopestyle at 7 P.M. The event is free to the public.
David L’Heureux is a freelance writer based in Vail.
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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.