Copper Mountain’s U.S. Grand Prix now World Cup event |

Copper Mountain’s U.S. Grand Prix now World Cup event

Janice Kurbjun
summit daily news
Summit Daily/Mark Fox
Mark Fox | Summit Daily News

This season, Copper Mountain boasts being all things to all elite on-mountain snow athletes.

It entered its second year as the official training site for the U.S. Ski Team’s alpine racers.

The resort opened the first superpipe in the world this year, and hosted the U.S. Ski Team’s freeski and snowboard athletes for training prior to the 2012 Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships.

This week, freestyle team hopefuls descend on the mogul course to contend for a handful of remaining U.S. Ski Team spots.

And from Jan. 9-13, the former Sprint U.S. Grand Prix (which was previously held in December, before the Dew Tour in Breck) ups the ante to a freeski and snowboard World Cup event, with not just pipe but slopestyle events included in the debut. By becoming a World Cup event, the 17-year, longest-running action sports tour is now an Olympic qualifier headed into the 2013-14 year and will score based on the FIS system.

“The decision was made to give also those riders the chance to qualifiy for the 2014 Olympics at Sochi, who haven’t competed at a FIS event before,” officials with International Ski Federation (FIS) Snowboard stated via their website.

Copper will be the first stop of this season’s tour. A rescheduled Park City, Utah, event will be second for pipe in February (the Utah event was scheduled for December, but moved due to low snowfall totals) and freeskiers will head to Sochi, Russia, from Copper for more World Cup action. Meanwhile, the third and final stop of the U.S. Grand Prix tour will be at The Canyons, which will host skicross and snowboardcross FIS NorAM competitions.

“We have a long-standing relationship with Copper Mountain,” U.S. Freeski and Snowboard press officer Justine Spence said. “They’ve always been awesome supporters of the team. It’s a technical process – it’s a qualification process – and (Copper) must meet certain criteria (to become a World Cup venue).”

The Sprint U.S. Grand Prix had risen to enough status to meet those criteria and exceed at its type of event. It’s a five-star snowboard event, Spence said, and that attracted the attention of FIS.

“It helps with the Olympic qualifying process,” Spence continued. “Having World Cups on U.S. turf is the best thing ever because the athletes are home around Christmas and New Years and they train on home turf and then they compete in a World Cup on home turf. It’s your own crowd, your own country.”

U.S. Freeski and Snowboard athletes are almost universally looking forward to having a World Cup event on U.S. soil – and at Copper Mountain no less.

Snowboarder Kelly Clark said it’s helpful to have as many competitions in the Olympic format as possible heading into 2014.

“It’s exciting to have a World Cup in the U.S. It’s nice being on your home turf. It’s fun to travel, but (other countries) realistically don’t have the same support to create pipes like this,” said snowboarder Maddy Shaffrick, who was referring to the Copper superpipe.

“It really gives us a leg up competing with the European racers,” Spence added.

Fellow snowboarder Hannah Teter, who trained alongside Clark on Copper’s halfpipe in early December, was sad to leave to start competing. She’s looking forward to returning in January.

“Copper’s been really good,” she said in the week leading up to the Dew Tour. “It usually takes a bit to get it ready. This year, it was ready right off the bat, even with no snow.”

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