It's the longest-running domestic tour, and it's happening at Copper Mountain again this year.
The 2013 Sprint U.S. Grand Prix, entering its 17th season, kicks off in Summit County next week, with athletes arriving and getting in the superpipe and on the slopestyle course to train before competition begins Wednesday. After two days of qualifiers, the men's and women's competitors will spend Friday and Saturday contending for World Cup points as the tour makes its debut on the FIS World Cup schedule in freeskiing and snowboarding.
It's the first time in years that U.S. athletes will have two stops on home turf before heading overseas to continue to work toward qualifying for the Olympics.
Copper Mountain and Park City Mountain Resort are two key stops on the tour for slopestyle and superpipe competitors, with boarder- and skiercross FIS NorAm competitions at The Canyons in Utah later this year. More than $375,000 in prize money is up for grabs as well as qualifying points for Sochi, Russia. Copper kicks off the tour now that Park City's stop was rescheduled for February.
To step into World Cup status, the tour reached a World Snowboard Tour five-star rating as well as the highest Association of Freeskiing Professionals (AFP) rating - platinum - for freeskiing in both halfpipe and slopestyle.
Louie Vito and Kelly Clark are confirmed in the snowboard superpipe, as is Scotty Lago, who appeared a contender to knock Vito and Shaun White from the Dew Tour podium in December - until he crashed on his first trick in both finals runs. Aspen's Gretchen Bleiler looks to return to competition following an injury while Dew Tour women's superpipe winner Kaitlyn Farrington looks to stay atop the podium amidst the stiff competition of Elana Hight, Clark, Bleiler, Steamboat Springs' Maddie Shaffrick and others.
Chas Guldemond and Sage Kotsenberg return to tally some points toward World Cup in the snowboarding slopestyle while freeskier Tom Wallisch joins locals Keri Herman and Bobby Brown in the ski slopestyle ranks.
Local snowboarder Zach Black joins the snowboarding superpipe ranks while Emilia Wint sits out of the freeski slopestyle competition, crashing hard and being carried away in a stretcher during a repeat of her Dew Tour finals run, requested by the judges' to make up for a lost feed. Meanwhile, Simon Dumont looks to compete again in freeski superpipe, following a wrist injury forcing him to sit out of the Dew Tour.
These athletes and more will take to the 22-foot Main Vein Superpipe and on the World Cup slopestyle course set in the Woodward Central Terrain Park.
Spectators have walking access to the superpipe via Center Village or skiing access via Main Vein trail from American Eagle chairlift. The new Central Park Lounge spectator-viewing area is located at the top of the slopestyle course. It's complete with beverage service, accessible for skiing guests via Loverly trail off the Union Peak Quad chairlift.
Copper plans to keep the party going into the night and throughout the weekend at Center Village. Burning Stones Plaza in Center Village transforms into a Grand Prix vendor village on Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with Chipotle, Nature Valley, Paul Mitchell and many others handing out free samples.