VAIL - Every other snowboarder on Vail Mountain Friday was ecstatic about the snow dumping from the sky Friday morning - except for the 12 guys competing in the Burton U.S. Open slopestyle finals.
Snow on a slopestyle course equals slower speeds, and the big problem area of the morning was the first jump coming out of the upper features on the course at Golden Peak. Friday morning would be an adjustment following Wednesday's semifinals under blue skies.
"That's where everyone's having trouble," said Eric Willett, who ended up finishing seventh.
The snow continued throughout the day and resulted in the cancellation of the women's slopestyle finals. The guys, however, were able to get their three runs in before conditions deteriorated fast.
The jumps on the slopestyle course equal 15 possible points each, so the consequences on riders' scores are fairly serious if they can't get enough speed into those jumps to throw their big tricks. The wall and rail features on the top section of the course are scored in three sections, for a possible 10 points each. Then the judges gives riders a flow score up to 25 points, bringing the total possible score to 100.
Mark McMorris, the Canadian rider who picked up Winter X Games gold this year with a score of 98 points in slopestyle, took the win Friday in Vail with a score of 83.05. In the best of three runs, it was McMorris's first run that won over the judges.
McMorris's wax technician worked on his board Friday morning, waxing it up to make it as quick as possible on the much softer, snowier course.
"You need to have a fast board," McMorris said. "My wax tech was on it - he did a great job, but it's definitely slow, and I'm just doing everything I can to have as much speed as I can."
McMorris said all the guys who successfully cleared that first jump were taking a similar approach.
"You had to be smart about your line you chose on the last rail - taking a shooter line and staying low to the ground," McMorris said.
Second-place finisher Torstein Horgmo, of Norway, also got his best score on his first run of the morning. The run included a switch backside 540 Indy grab on his first jump, a frontside 1080 double cork mute grab on his second jump and a backside 1080 double cork Indy grab on the final jump.
The jumps - at 60 feet, 65 feet and 75 feet, respectively, on the Golden Peak course - could always get better, Horgmo said.
"I know the pipe is really good - slopestyle has more potential, I think," Horgmo said at a press conference after the event, adding that making the course better could come down to the snowmaking and/or the course building, or both. "We're doing pretty big tricks here and I think there's a lot of expectations for us to do big tricks. I kind of want to put a bit of pressure on for the future."
American rider Chas Guldemond rounded out the slopestyle podium. The Vermont rider said coming to Vail for the Burton U.S. Open - an event that spent its first 30 years in Vermont - was bittersweet, but he also said Vail seems like a good venue choice. He said he thinks the course will be even more progressive next year, adding that he's "glad to be here."