Burton poster child Shaun White should be at USO
VAIL — You know it’s a party when Shaun White is flying high.
In 2013, at his last Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships appearance, he landed what has been called the best run ever completed in halfpipe snowboarding before ghosting himself from the U.S. Open scene and much of snowboarding for the next two years. Set to make another one of his comback performances here in Vail next week, he says he’s excited to be competing once again.
“The Open has always been one of my favorite events since I was a kid,” he said.
He got his start as a young gun in the U.S. Open’s Junior Jam, an event for kids that has been forgone over the last few years but will make its return next week. Not much older than those Junior Jam competitors will be one of his main sources of competition: Ayumu Hirano, 17, the silver medal Olympian from 2014. Bronze at that Olympics was Hirano’s fellow countryman Taku Hiraoka, of Japan, who went on to win the U.S. Open last year. Both Hirano and Hiraoka are confirmed for the Open once again this year. Crowd favorite Danny Davis is also looking to earn his first ever U.S. Open title this year — and the two-time X Games winner certainly has what it takes.
“I would love to take home a U.S. Open title,” he said. “The U.S. Open has always been the event I look forward to in the season. It’s a special one to me; it was the first professional contest I ever did as a kid and, in many ways, helped launch my career. I’m always excited to go. It’s the season ender and a really fun one for music and seeing all of our friends.”
U.S. Open promoters are calling the halfpipe competition one of the most exciting lineups in the event’s 34-year history.
On the women’s side, eight-time U.S. Open halfpipe winner Kelly Clark knows how White feels in taking on a teenager, as she’ll compete against 15-year-old Chloe Kim, who has been winning everything lately. Clark says the Open reminds her of her own childhood.
“I’ve been attending the Open since I was a kid,” she said. “It holds a lot of memories, and I love getting to compete. The Open stands out to me as the event I want to do well at. I like it because it’s late in the season, so you get a high level of competition, and you see some of the best snowboarding of the season.”
Along with her, Kim and Steamboat Spring native Arielle Gold — the podium at this weekend’s Winter X Games in Oslo — the U.S. Open will also feature three Summit County locals competing in slopestyle: 16-year-old Red Gerard, veteran Eric Willett and legendary Jamie Anderson, who’s looking to improve on disappointing finishes at X Games after bowing out of December’s Dew Tour.
WHITE IN SLOPESTYLE, TOO
In a new twist, White will once again take on the slopestyle competition — something he has done at previous U.S. Opens but moved away from later in his career. He’ll have to take on Yuki Kadono, who landed back to back 1620s last year in a historic run. Also confirmed for the men’s slopestyle competition are X Games big air gold medalist Maxence Parrot, Air + Style Innsbruck winner Sebastien Toutant and overall tour winner Sven Thorgren.
The women’s slopestyle is shaping up to be a showdown as well, as frequent winner Jamie Anderson was recently upset at X Games by Canadian phenom Spencer O’Brien.
The pro competition kicks off on Wednesday with men’s and women’s slopestyle semifinals at Vail Mountain’s Golden Peak. The halfpipe semifinals follow on a week from today in Vail’s 22-foot superpipe. In the finals, 10 men and six women will compete for equal share of the overall $343,000 prize purse, with slopestyle finals on March 4 followed by halfpipe finals on March 5.
In addition to world-class pro competition, there’s also plenty of amateur action on Tuesday with the return of the Junior Jam, featuring the next generation of riders ages 14 and younger competing in the 22-foot superpipe.
Off the hill, four nights of live music greet guests on the Solaris Concert Stage and the U.S. Open Closing Party at Dobson Ice Arena. The lineup is set with The Sheepdogs, The Bright Light Social Hour, Big Grams, GRiZ, DJ Numark and DJ Craze all performing live in Vail.
If you can’t make it to Golden Peak next week, you can watch the live webcasts at http://www.BurtonUSOpen.com. The event finals will be broadcast live on Red Bull TV and locally on the Front Range on TV8, with additional TV broadcasts airing nationally on FS2.
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