Olympic-level snowboard competition flies under the radar at Keystone | SummitDaily.com

Olympic-level snowboard competition flies under the radar at Keystone

Sebastian Foltz
Olympian and 2014 X Games women's slopestyle gold medalist Silje Norendal reaches for a grab during the 2014 Community Cup at Keystone.
Sebastian Foltz / sfoltz@summitdaily.com |

There may not have been big crowds like the Dew Tour or X Games, or even much fanfare at all, at least not yet. In fact, if you were at Keystone Resort Friday you may not have even noticed that some of the world’s best women’s slopestyle snowboarders were throwing down in the resort’s Area 51 terrain park.

It may have been because it was a first-year event at Keystone, or that funding didn’t come until about a month ago — leaving organizers with eight months worth of planning to come together in just over a month. It may have also been the last-minute schedule change to Friday due to a potential for bad weather Saturday.

Whatever the reason, the lack of fan attention didn’t seem to matter much to organizers and athletes in the 2014 Community Cup women’s slopestyle competition Friday. It wasn’t about attention — at least not this year. It was more about progressing women’s snowboarding on a course made just for them.

For event founders, former pro Chanelle Sladics and four-time Olympian Kjersti Buaas, it was a competition a few years in the making and inspired in part by Sarah Burke — the women’s freeskier who died of injuries suffered during a training session in a halfpipe.

Sladics said they, along with Burke and a group of other pros, started to conceive the idea for a women’s-focused competition when a survey of pro riders found that 80 percent of female athletes suffered injuries that required eight months or more to recover from, while men suffered similar injuries only 20 percent of the time.

One of the reasons for the disparity, Sladics said, was that courses weren’t necessarily built with women in mind.

Typically smaller than their male counterparts, women often had trouble clearing the larger features, unable to build as much momentum or the pop needed to clear the distance, Sladics explained.

“The majority (of those injured) were coming up short on the jumps,” she said.

And so the idea of a women’s-only competition was born.

While the word may not have spread in time for fans to show up this time around, the level of competition was there in force, and featured a handful of athletes fresh from the this year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, along with past Olympic and recent X Games medalists.

The contest and the athletes involved are also planned be the subject of a documentary film Sladics and Buaas are working on about women’s snowboarding. They hope to release it next year.

While the five-star TransWorld Tour level competition Friday included some amateurs who were awarded spots based on video submissions, it was the pros who stole the show. A trio of Sochi Olympians took top honors. Christy Prior of New Zealand placed first, Sarka Pancochova of the Czech Republic took second and this year’s women’s slopestyle X Games gold medalist Silje Norendal of Norway third. American gold medalist Jamie Anderson was supposed to compete but was unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict.

“I’m stoked,” Prior said after winning.

She went on to describe the atmosphere at the women’s-focused event. “This competition blows any out of the water just in the tournament vibes. Everyone’s smiling, everyone’s supporting each other.”

Norendal echoed the sentiment. “It doesn’t even feel like a competition, it just feels like you’re out here riding with your friends,” she said. “Everyone was just enjoying it. That’s how I’d like every comp to be.”

At the end of the day, the group of female athletes gathered at the bottom of the slopestyle course, laughed and high-fived as if they were just a group of friends hanging out, rather than having just finished competing in a five-star Transworld Snowboarding event. “I’m really proud of what we did,” Sladics said, with a tears welling in her eyes after the day’s competition. “Everybody gave beyond what their role was to make this happen. Everybody saw the value that it brought to women’s snowboarding. I know we elevated women’s snowboarding today.”

The Community Cup concludes Saturday (weather dependent) with big air and best method competitions. There will also be live music and a stainability fair in Keystone Village, featuring music by Jeff Brinkman and Paperbird.

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