Chris Corning takes second place at U.S. Burton Open snowboarding slopestyle |

Chris Corning takes second place at U.S. Burton Open snowboarding slopestyle

When Silverthorne resident Chris Corning stomped a backside triple cork 1440 (three inversions, four rotations) with a melon grab on his final jump at the Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships on Friday, it felt like he had done enough to win it all.

He hoisted both of his mittens in the air. He smiled from ear to ear. And his cheering section in the VIP lounge above the slopestyle course at Vail Mountain's Golden Peak — comprised of his family, friends and local Colorado Never Summer snowboard sponsor — let out a raucous roar.

Mere hours before that moment, Corning said he — for the first time — learned how to execute a flat-spin frontside 1440 with what's called a "stalemasky" grab. It's a grab of the snowboard where Corning places his front hand in between his legs onto his heel edge — a harder option that his customary melon grab.

The 18-year-old snowboarder said it was "pretty much" the only thing he practiced all morning at the slopestyle course at Vail Mountain's Golden Peak. Hours later, he indeed nailed it on his second-to-last jump on the super-fast and icy Burton Open course. Seconds later, he stomped that final trick on the final jump.

Then for several minutes, Corning and his slopestyle competitors — including first-place finisher Mark McMorris — stewed in the corral, waiting with high anticipation for the judges' scores. When they came in, Corning was awarded an 87.95 — just 15 hundredths of a point behind McMorris.

Corning had crunched the numbers. He had listened to feedback from the judges. And he soared down what he described as a "ski racing course" with, essentially, no fear.

Alas, it wasn't enough.

"I did (think it was enough)," Corning said. "Cause we talked about it at the top. Me and (U.S. snowboard coaches) Dave Reynolds and Mike Ramirez were kind of, like, looking at it pretty mathematically.

"Before I came here, I told my parents, 'I want to win,'" Corning added. "And that was the whole point. I came out here and rode as hard as I could. I wanted to win this contest. You know, I wanted to put down a good show and I wanted to prove to myself that … I could be up there with those guys. It didn't exactly happen today in the way I would have wanted, but I'll take a second place out of it."

Friday's Burton U.S. Open slopestyle final certainly was a competition that could have gone "either way," as the champion and Burton snowboarder McMorris said afterward. While nursing a sore rib after he dodged Corning's run and was crowned champion for the second straight year, McMorris shed light on what he — and the other top riders — were thinking as they waited for Corning's score to come in.

"It's hard to say, I don't really remember what I was feeling," McMorris said. "I was definitely feeling my rib — it's really hard to breathe in right now. And then, also, (Corning) just put down an awesome run with little to no sketches. It could have went either way, that's just how contests go. I've been on the winning end of that side and the losing end of that side a lot.

"I guess there was — yeah — I don't know really what I thought," McMorris continued. "I was standing talking to (Japanese snowboarder) Yuki (Kadono). He thought maybe (I had done enough to win), and I thought maybe (I hadn't). And then (Corning's score came in) so, all smiles. It's all good.

"But Chris rode great and everybody pulled it together," McMorris added. "That last run was insane. The leaderboard switched a lot."

Though he was happy and proud of his second-place performance, Corning didn't mince words. Second place will only add fuel to his fire, one that was already burning after he failed to qualify for the Olympic slopestyle finals in Pyeongchang last month. So much so, that he quoted Will Ferrell's character from "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby."

"Definitely," Corning said about motivation moving forward. "As the movie saying goes, 'If you're not first, you're last.' So that's a really good motto to live my snowboarding career by, 'cause, it's really true. You know, that's something I've had near and dear to my heart because that's what I want to do. I want to be first. I want to be the best."

As for who was in that Corning cheering section leaning over the VIP area ledge at Vail Mountain's Golden Peak to have their voices heard, it wasn't only his parents and friends. His longtime snowboard sponsor Never Summer, a smaller, family-owned company based out of Denver, was at the Burton-sponsored event in full force as well. Corning was adamant that the support from Never Summer at a Burton event meant the world to him, as he pledged his allegiance moving forward. No matter where his snowboard skills take him.

"The owner of Never Summer, Tim Canaday, it's pretty awesome that he was here because, you know, they have been the structure of my whole entire snowboarding career," Corning said. "They've been through everything. I've been there with them since I was 8 (years old). You know, without them and without some of those guys that have been family friends up there, that kept the stoke of snowboarding in my life — then I wouldn't be here today.

"They've been family, ever since the start," Corning continued. "They've been there and they've stepped up and have been so awesome to me. And the best thing I can do is give back and come to a Burton event and put their name on the podium with them. Just give them a good name. I love them to death and will be with them probably for as long as my snowboard career goes on, just because they are so much like family."