VAIL — With her signature 1080-degree spin, Kelly Clark on Saturday became the winningest snowboarder in the sport’s longest running halfpipe competition.
Clark, a veteran snowboarder from Vermont who just took bronze at the Olympics this year, said the U.S. Open has a special place in her heart.
“If I could pick a contest to win, it would be this one,” she said. “So I’m really happy I was able to put down some runs today.”
In its 32-year history, no snowboarder — male or female, in any discipline — had won seven titles at the U.S. Open before Saturday. In recent years, one of the staples of Clark’s dominance has been her consistent execution of the 1080 — a trick that forces a rider to land opposite his or her normal stance and has eluded the rest of the women’s field. Following Saturday’s event, Clark said she came close to attempting a second 1080 in her final “victory lap” run.
“I was all set up for it,” she said. “I just ran out of pipe a little bit so I backed out at the last minute. But I was really happy with my riding today.”
Second place went to Queralt Castellet, of Spain. In third was 13-year-old Chloe Kim, from Southern California, who’s run made her not only the youngest podium finisher in the U.S. Open’s history, but also the youngest winner of the Overall title on the World Snowboard Tour.
And what a run it was.
With tricks like the “switch method” which helped 2014 Olympian Danny Davis win X Games this year, and inverted airs on multiple hits, Kim on Saturday showed the world what the future of women’s halfpipe riding will hold.
“She’s one of the most amazing up-and-coming riders to watch,” Clark said of Kim. “And I think she’s gotten rid of that ‘up and coming’ title as of this season.”
Kim said her switch method was a bit of an homage to Danny Davis, who shocked the snowboarding world by breaking out the switch method at contests leading up to the Olympics this season.
“That was the best switch method I’ve ever seen, so I was like ‘yeah, I want to do that too,” Kim said of Davis’ trick.
Kim said in learning it, she spent an entire month riding switch, even going as far as one-foot switch riding when getting on and off the lift.
“It’s nice, because sometimes if one leg is hurting I can just go with the other,” she said.
BIG IN KOREA
Kim said next year she expects to start competing in more slopestyle events, as well as halfpipe.
Too young to receive an invite to the Olympics this year, Kim spent that time traveling to the site of the next Olympics in South Korea with her family. She said her family’s Korean descent is already making her a star in that country.
“We went snowboarding there, and a lot of people knew me and wanted pictures,” she said. “I couldn’t go anywhere because there were so many people.”