More than 130 of world’s best halfpipe shredders to kick off season at Copper Mountain Grand Prix
At Copper Mountain Resort this week, the world’s best halfpipe freeski and snowboard stars will drop in to commence the 2018-19 International Ski & Snowboard Federation World Cup halfpipe season.
Wednesday and Thursday’s qualifying rounds will see a confluence of 139 of the world’s top men and women’s freeski and snowboard athletes, including household Olympic champion names such as Chloe Kim and David Wise, local up-and-coming teens such as Chase Blackwell and Jaxin Hoerter and international sensations like Australia’s Scotty James and Switzerland’s Iouri “I-Pod” Podladtchikov. It’ll be the 2014 Sochi halfpipe gold medalist Podladtchikov’s first World Cup event since his nasty spill on the X Games Aspen halfpipe last January, which forced him out of the ensuing month’s Olympics.
After shocking the snowboarding scene with his surprise Dew Tour superpipe championship last December — which propelled him to Pyeongchang Olympic qualification — local High Country snowboarder Jake Pates figures to challenge James, I-Pod and Japanese star Raibu Katayama at the top of the men’s halfpipe leaderboard during Thursday’s qualifying round and Saturday’s final round.
“I am really excited for this season of events to start up,” Eagle-Vail resident Pates said in a statement. “Heading to Copper Mountain is the perfect way to kick it off. Mainly, I’m just excited to link up with all of my teammates to ride and have a good time.”
Wise is the headline name for the U.S. squad heading into Wednesday’s freeski qualifiers (8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) at Copper. The Reno, Nevada-based, two-time Olympic halfpipe gold medalist Wise, though, figures to be challenged by Pyeongchang halfpipe silver medalist Alex Ferreira of Aspen and 2017 International Ski Federation World Champion Aaron Blunck of Crested Butte.
On the women’s freeski side, the Olympic medalists who will compete for the Grand Prix championship include an American contingent led by Brita Sigourney of Carmel, California, Maddie Bowman of South Lake Tahoe, California, and Devin Logan of West Dover, Vermont. American skier Annalisa Drew of Andover, Massachusetts, also is expected to attempt one of the more technical runs in the 27-skier women’s halfpipe freeskiing competition. The final round of the freeski competition is scheduled for Friday from 11 a.m. to 12:40 p.m.
“Definitely excited to kick off the season and get back in the pipe,” Sigourney said in a statement. “It’s been a relaxing post-Olympic break and I’m mostly looking forward to focusing on having fun this year. My goal for Copper is to pick up where I left off last year, I would be really happy with that.”
Taking the victory on home snow will be tough for the Americans, however, as the reigning women’s halfpipe Olympic champion from Pyeongchang, Canada’s Cassie Sharpe, is scheduled to compete.
“With all the early season snow Copper has received, conditions will be excellent and will make for a great contest,” U.S. Freeski Halfpipe Pro Team head coach Andrew Woods said in a statement. “Each year, Copper gives athletes the first opportunity to show off their hard work over the summer. For the first time, they will be taking skills they learned at training camps into full competition runs.”
In the women’s snowboard, a victory for Kim would mean three in a row at Copper Mountain’s annual Grand Prix event, which is now in its 10th year. Kim will be joined by her American teammate Maddie Mastro of Wrightwood, California, in debuting new tricks they’ve worked on this offseason to the competition scene. Both Kim and Mastro arrive at Copper Mountain as the only two women to have landed frontside double corks — two inversions on their vertical axis — on snow.
A High Country Colorado local in Steamboat Springs native and Breckenridge resident Arielle Gold also should score near the top of the 27-rider women’s snowboard field. It’ll be Gold’s first major competition back, however, from offseason shoulder surgery in the wake of her bronze medal performance on the halfpipe in Pyeongchang.
The qualifying round for the snowboard competition is scheduled for Thursday from 8:30 a.m to 3:30 p.m, while the final round is scheduled for Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.
“I have had the privilege to work with our snowboard halfpipe riders for 12 seasons now,” U.S. Halfpipe Pro Team head coach Rick Bower said in a statement. “I can say that I have worked with some of the most talented snowboarders of all time and this current crew of riders are as motivated, hungry and skilled as anyone. Our riders are doing truly groundbreaking skills acquired at the Saas Fee (Switzerland) camp and I think this season is shaping up to see some tricks that have never been done before in competition.”
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