VAIL - At roughly 600 feet long, with 22-foot-high walls and an 18-degree slope, riders are calling the Vail halfpipe build by Snow Park Technologies one of the best pipes they've ridden all year.
Kelly Clark, an Olympic gold medalist who has won more in the halfpipe than any other female snowboarder, said the pipe is both long and on a steep slope - just the way she likes it.
"If you have both of those components in the mix ... all of your tricks become bigger and faster - the steepness and pitch play a factor, as well as the length," Clark said.
Clark is still getting six hits - meaning she's able to do six tricks - on the longer pipe, but fellow Vermont native Hannah Teter said after Monday's practice that she thinks the pipe could be a seven-hitter.
Elena Hight, 23, is having a strong season and just got back from a week off. She went back to her hometown of South Lake Tahoe and recharged her batteries, she said.
Arielle Gold, a 16-year-old from Steamboat Springs, is also feeling good - she has all of a sudden found herself in the spotlight this season, even though she's been competing for years. She's began competing in the Burton U.S. Open as a junior at just 9 years old, she said.
And this Vail halfpipe is a blast, she said. It doesn't hurt that it's in Colorado - her favorite place to ride.
"This halfpipe is so much fun. It's really good - I think it's probably the best pipe we've ridden all year," Gold said. "So far, it's making a pretty good impression on all of the people who weren't too excited about (the U.S. Open) moving here."
Other ladies to look out for include Kaitlyn Farrington and Ellery Hollingsworth. On the men's side, Shaun White is always a favorite, but look out for 14-year-old Japanese rider Ayumu Hirano, who got silver in the Winter X Games. Other big names like Louie Vito and Iouri "iPod" Podladtchikov are also expected to put up big scores.