Scotty James tops men’s halfpipe semifinals at Burton US Open; Dillon resident Chase Blackwell qualifies |

Scotty James tops men’s halfpipe semifinals at Burton US Open; Dillon resident Chase Blackwell qualifies

By John LaConte
Vail Daily
Scotty James hand plants on the tombstone feature of the modified halfpipe for the mens halfpipe semifinals during the Burton US Open Thursday in Vail. James qualified first.
Courtesy Vail Daily

VAIL – Twenty-nine of the world’s best halfpipe riders competed Thursday in the Burton US Open halfpipe semifinals, with several Eagle and Summit County residents and athletes with local ties competing.

Jake Pates, of Eagle, qualified in fourth position. He said Burton’s version of the halfpipe competition this year, where a 13-foot mini-pipe precedes a shortened version of a normal competition venue, made the event more exciting. Pates has competed in the Burton US Open every year since 2013.

“I think mod pipe is the new direction,” he said of the “modified halfpipe” concept.

After high school, another qualifier from Thursday, Rakai Tait, moved from Eagle County to New Zealand, where he is a member of the national snowboarding team. He said he has enjoyed traveling back to Eagle County for events like the Grand Prix at Copper Mountain Resort and the Burton US Open.

Earlier this season, Tait notched his best performance ever at the World Cup in Mammoth Mountain, where he finished seventh. That was the first time he had ever made finals at a big event. He said he wasn’t expecting to make the finals among the deep field of riders at the Burton US Open, and the fact that he has a guaranteed top 10-finish at the event already makes it among the best competitions of his life.

“I was just stoked that I landed, and then when the score popped up, I was like ‘Oh my God, that’s crazy,’” he said.

Tait said figuring out the course is as much fun as competing in it.

“The coolest thing about this course is deciding what line you’re going to take,” he said. “I can go mini-pipe hit, or I can do the hit out, and you have to ask yourself which you’ll have more fun doing, and which might score better.”

View this post on Instagram

Today was a big day! 🙏🏽 #21 #USO

A post shared by Chase Blackwell (@chase_ing_snow) on

Defending champion Scotty James, who topped the field in Thurday’s semifinals, said the course tests air awareness, board control and “those key fundamentals you learn from a very young age that you don’t get from bouncing on the trampoline or sending yourself into an airbag.”

James said the first time he tried halfpipe snowboarding, in a hand-dug, Australian terrain park, the walls were probably about the same size as the 13-foot mini-pipe on Burton’s course.

“I would say there’s a lot of similarities between this top section in this course to my first pipe experience,” James said.

Below are the finalists scheduled to compete at 2 p.m. MST Saturday, including Longmont native and Dillon resident Chase Blackwell:

  1. Scotty James
  2. Pat Burgener
  3. Yuto Totsuka
  4. Jake Pates
  5. Jan Scherrer
  6. Rakai Tait
  7. Joey Okesson
  8. Shuichiro Shigeno
  9. Chase Blackwell
  10. Danny Davis

This story is from

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Now more than ever, your financial support is critical to help us keep our communities informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having on our residents and businesses. Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.

Your donation will be used exclusively to support quality, local journalism.