North American Open debuts today at Breck
BRECKENRIDGE – Simon Dumont and Jon Olsson have been freeskiing long enough to know what makes a good competition.After more than five years of consistent success at marquee events like the X Games and the U.S. Freeskiing Open, the accomplished pros decided to create their own event – the North American Open.The inaugural competition kicks off today with a slopestyle qualifying round and continues Saturday (slopestyle finals) and Sunday (halfpipe qualifying and finals).”The coolest thing about this event is probably the format,” said Dumont, who resides in Dillon. “The qualifying round is a big jam session all day. Me and Jon are going to be skiing with everybody too. If someone does something sick, even if it’s one jump that impresses us, than we’ll give them a bib for the finals.”Dumont, Olsson and eight other pre-qualified pros will join 20 qualifiers from Friday in the final round.
Dumont said part of his motivation for co-founding an event stemmed from his growing discontent with the U.S. Open.”I’ve done the U.S. Open since I was 14,” the 21-year-old said. “Every year it just gets worse and worse. It starts out with a good idea – getting all those kids out there, skiing with (pros), hanging out and having a good time, but people go, struggle to get two practice runs and then don’t even get to meet anybody.”U.S. Open athletes attempting to qualify for the finals get just two runs to set themselves apart, which is a vastly different concept than the day-long jam session.”I think it’s pretty cool,” California skier Ben Westmoreland said when asked about the NAO ground rules. “It’s not as stressful as it would be (otherwise). There’s more opportunities for those who might not be able to handle the pressure of only two runs.”Westmoreland, a 16-year-old trying to achieve professional status, has competed in the U.S. Open, the Aspen Open and a variety of smaller Lake Tahoe event. He has yet to experience a jam-style qualifier.
“To me, it’s a new concept,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes, if it doesn’t do as well, they probably won’t have it like this next year, but I’m pretty sure since Jon and Simon are backing it, there will be no problem with the legitimacy of it.”Pros who will be waiting for the lucky bib winners in the final rounds include, among others, Peter Olenick, Colby West and Jacob Wester.Reigning X Games halfpipe champion Tanner Hall may also make an appearance, but not as a competitor.”I just met Tanner in Austria,” said Dumont, the X Games runner-up. “He hurt his ankle (recently), but said he might come out and judge.”Dumont and Olsson, who’s been working closely with terrain park staff to perfect the slopestyle course, will leave the judging to a professional panel when the finals come around on Saturday and Sunday.
Dumont’s doctor might not want him throwing down quite yet, but the NAO co-host doesn’t seem to care.”I separated my shoulder in the X games and they said it would be 4-8 weeks (recovery time),” he said. “It’s been three weeks and I haven’t stopped skiing since the X Games.”Adam Boffey can be contacted at (970) 668-4634, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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