Burton Snowboards on Tuesday announced that due to ongoing uncertainties around the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has made the difficult decision to cancel the 2021 Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships, which was slated to take place March 1-6 at Vail Mountain’s Golden Peak.
“This was a difficult call to make since we’re so many months away from the next Burton U.S. Open, and we’re not sure what will be happening with the pandemic nine months from now,” said Burton CEO John Lacy in a news release. “After playing out multiple options for the 2021 event, we realized there is too much at stake due to the potential public health risk and the financial risk for Burton to invest millions in an event that could end up being canceled.”
Vail Town Manager Scott Robson said Tuesday he and Mayor Dave Chapin had been on the phone with Burton representatives.
“They wanted to reach out personally,” Robson said. “We heard directly from their spokespersons how important Vail is to the event, and how important Vail is to the sport, and to the family.”
Heading into 2021, the Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships had boasted the title of the world’s longest continuously running snowboard event.
Burton has owned and run the event since 1983 and Burton says nearly every iconic rider in the sport of snowboarding has at one point competed at the U.S. Open, and a title is one of the most coveted in the sport.
“This is disappointing for everyone. The riders, crowds, brand partners and crews who work the event are all what has made the Open the favorite event of the snowboarding community for 38-plus years,” Lacy said. “It’s more like a snowboarding family reunion than anything else, and the impact of this decision is widespread throughout the snowboard community. But as disappointing as it is, protecting the long-term health of this community is what’s most important. If we need to miss a year of the Open to help slow the spread of COVID-19, we’ll get through it.”
When asked if the Open would come back, Burton’s owner and chair of the board Donna Carpenter said, “Of course the Open will be back. It’s the greatest event in the world!”
Alison Wadey, director of the Vail Chamber & Business Association, said she was heartened by Donna Carpenter’s remarks about the event’s return, adding that it’s an “honor and privilege” to host Burton.
Looking into the 2020-21 ski season and beyond, Wadey said, “There are a lot of decisions we’re going to have to face. … What can we do to create a sustainable economy that might have a little less tourism?”
Robson said losing the U.S. Open is a big disappointment, not just from a financial and sales tax perspective, but culturally.
Moving forward, Robson said “All we can do is work hard” on new economic development initiatives.
Vail Commission on Special Events member Barry Davis said he expects the new initiatives will be plentiful.
“When things calm down, we’re going to see some super-creative ideas,” Davis said, adding that he expects some of those ideas to come from Burton.
Davis noted that innovation has a chance to thrive in times like these, adding that he believes people think one of three ways during a crisis.
“You can put your head in the sand, or you can think things will go back the way they were, or you can focus on the future,” Davis said. “I put Burton in that third category.”