The snow’s not the only thing to come to Vail this week |

The snow’s not the only thing to come to Vail this week

Nate Peterson

Fire cannon? Check.Four kicker jumps, each the size of a small two-story home? Check.Four rails that look scarier than Donald Trump’s hair? Check.Eighty-thousand dollars in prizes? Check.Shaun White? Check.Yep, you guessed it, The Honda Session is back at Vail.

Cancel your dinner date Friday, forget about football Saturday and get your butt down to Golden Peak.Now in its third year, this year’s Session will be a sleeker version of the contest riders and fans have come to love. Aside from the 80,000 in cheddar, the Session draws snowboarding’s biggest names because it is a rider-driven event that is constantly evolving.Competitors chime in on what they like and don’t like about the contest each year and the organizers at the Vail Valley Foundation then use that feedback to make improvements.”The Honda Session has developed into a true celebration of the sport of snowboarding,” Vail Valley Foundation President Ceil Folz said. “Both from a rider and a spectator standpoint, it is an event that has allowed the riders to have a say in the format, while also pushing the riders and the sport to new levels.” Last year, the starting corral of men’s slopestyle final felt somewhat like a crowded water slide line – there were just too many guys wanting to go down at once.That’s all changed this year. Instead of a women’s slopestyle final early Saturday afternoon like in previous years, event organizers opted to nix the event and hold a substantial slopestyle qualifier for the men from 11-2 p.m, followed up by a training session for the finalists from 2:15-3 p.m. The qualifier will pare down the large men’s field to 15 finalists composed of the top-five finishers from last year and the top-10 qualifiers.

The idea behind the qualifier is to turn Saturday’s slopestyle final – the headlining event of the competition- back into a real session. The 15 finalists will be able to drop on course as many times as they want between 7-8:30 p.m.With more opportunities to put together top-to-bottom runs, riders have more incentive to break out bigger tricks, which simultaneously makes for a more explosive competition.Despite losing one event, the women still get their chance to crank up the crowd noise under the lights with a rail jam Saturday from 5:15-6:15 p.m. The men take to the four rails at the bottom of the Golden Peak course Friday from 5:30-7 p.m.There are other changes, too. In the rail competition, the top-five riders will be awarded prize money every 15 minutes, based on the scoring of a panel of eight judges evaluating trick difficulty, execution and progression. Let’s all repeat together now, “Pro-gress-ion.”

Again, the idea is to provide more incentive for riders to go big. It’s either that, or go home. It’s what The Session has built its rep on. The award for best male and female trick has also been renamed the Malay Factor in memory of late local pro snowboarder Josh Malay. Malay died in a snowboarding accident in Spain last February. All in all, this year’s Session looks again to deliver the one thing other high-profile contests like the Winter X Games or the U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix seem too often to ignore – innovation.The progression continues for sure. The only remaining question is whether you’ll make sure to be there to see it. Did I mention the fire cannon?Staff Writer Nate Peterson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at Colorado

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