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Snowboarding's longest running event, The Burton U.S. Open, will host its 31st event this week, and for the first time ever it will be in Vail, Colorado. For nearly three decades, the legendary halfpipe and slopestyle competition was held in Stratton, Vermont, but it moved to Vail to remain a world-class event, which requires a larger and more accessible host location.
Many have spoken about their opposition to the major move, but Kelly Clark, a pro snowboarder and native Vermonter who has won more than five superpipe titles at the U.S. Open, supports the change of venue.
Clark, who plans to compete in halfpipe this week in Vail, recently penned her opinion about the Open's move in a story on Burton.com
Here's an excerpt of what Clark had to say.
The U.S. Open is moving to Vail. I'm sure you're all aware of this by now but since the U.S. Open is upon us this week, the reality of it is really setting in.
Being a Vermont girl, I had the opportunity to witness the best snowboarding in the world in my very own backyard as a grom. I got to watch all my heroes drop into to the best pipe of the season and then a few years later drop in with them. Being a local girl, I was lucky enough to have my whole hometown come out and cheer me on and nothing will replace that.
The Open will be sorely missed in Vermont and I LoVermont more than most people and will miss those classic U.S. Open crowds that stand in the rain and snow and sleet to cheer all of us on. But as this sport of ours progresses, change is inevitable and not always easy, but it can be good. We've continued to change the sport over the years, creatively evolving everything from equipment to tricks to events and now, the Open is evolving too.
So, for the first time ever The U.S. Open will be a Colorado contest. Vail is a great venue and will put on a great event. And as much as I will miss competing as a local girl, I look forward to seeing the new identity the U.S. Open takes on in Vail. Burton knows that they have a lot to live up to after 30 years of the best event and crowd and crew in the sport, so I'm sure they will rise to the occasion.
Head here for the full schedule of the Burton U.S. Open.
"Paper Shredder" is a new stop animation snowboard film by brothers Paul and Stephan Gemignani that has been causing quite the buzz on the Internet for showcasing a fresh way to edit snowboard movies. The short edit clocks in at just over two minutes but is filled with incredible riding that takes place in an urban setting--so urban, it actually happens in an apartment in a city, without a single flake of snow present.
How can that be possible?
Enter the editing technique of stop animation, a process that manipulates still objects to make them look as if they move on their own. In order to create this effect, an object must be photographed in multiple places sequentially, then edited together to create the illusion of movement. No doubt a tedious process that takes a strong vision and plenty of patience.
In the film's description on Gemignani's Vimeo page, the project is said to have taken 246 hours to make from start to finish, which, according to the description, was, "a very SLOW process. It was challenging at times, but came together in the end."
Paper Shredder is one of the first stop animation snowboard films ever to surface, and given the interest this edit has already received, many wonder if more snowboard films of this genre will soon surface.
Take a peek at the intriguing edit above.
The world's best freeskiers and snowboarders traveled halfway around the world to Sochi, Russia, last week for the chance to preview the Olympic halfpipe and slopestyle venues that will host the 2014 Winter Olympics next February. Athletes ventured to the Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort in the area of Krasnaya Polyana, just over 20 miles from the city center of Sochi, to participant in an FIS-sanctioned halfpipe event, marking the first major freeski and snowboard competition held in the region.
This was most athletes' first time in Russia and many were eager to capture and share their experiences via Instagram. Click the photo above to view the full gallery, and get a glimpse of athletes' impressions of Russia below.
We asked snowboarding coach J.J. Thomas, who won the bronze in halfpipe at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, what his first impressions of Sochi were: "It's like a Third World place--a few cute little stray dogs cruising around and lots of construction. Some places are pretty nice, though. ... The biggest shock for me in Sochi was the free-riding. The top of the mountain was so sick! I'll put it up against any resort in the U.S. It might even have Jackson Hole and Snowbird beat as far as steep terrain goes. It was mind-blowing how fun it was up top. The pipe is another story, though."
According to a recent feature on ESPN by journalist Melissa Larsen, who was in Sochi for the trials, the weather was not ideal for riders during the week-long event, and the quality of the halfpipe was jeopardized by several days of rain. The A.P. reports Sochi is the warmest city ever to host a Winter Olympics, which leaves many to wonder whether or not the weather will be a debilitating factor for athletes trying to perform their best next year.
Pro snowboarder Louie Vito's coach is J.J. Thomas, and the duo travel together on the road and to every contest. We asked Thomas what the difference between training for 2014 Olympics is compared to training for the 2002 Olympics, in which he won a bronze medal. "It's similar in the sense that it takes a lot of hard work, but on the other end it is so different. There are so many talented riders now compared to back when I was competing--especially coming from Japan and China. Back then it was kind of all of us USA dudes battling against each other. Now it's a real deep international field. I can't get over the amount of talent in the pipe and slopestyle competitions right now," he said. Thomas continued with his impressions of Russia: "Russia is a beautiful country, but don't go there expecting great food or customer service. They are new to the whole service thing, so be ready for some straight-faced folks. Other than that, it's a great place and the free-riding is insane!"
What will the world's view of Sochi be in less than a year?
Austria's Gig Ruf rose above the stacked field of sixteen of the world's best riders on Sunday to win the Red Bull Ultra Natural, a one of kind, progressive free-ride contest that mixes elements of backcountry riding with slopestyle riding at the famed backcountry mecca Baldface Lodge in British Columbia.
"I don't know, I definitely got lucky," Ruf told Red Bull about his performance. "I don't really consider myself a 'winner.' I believe in luck and coincidence. My friend told me about a great quote that says a winner doesn't need luck, but I believe there was a little bit of luck involved today just because of how Mother Nature played out and how she played into my vision."
The contest took place on the mile-long "Scary Cherry" run and each rider was given two runs to impress the judges on the course that incorporated powder elements with more than 100 man-made features that included jumps, jibs, bonks, and log rides.
The stakes for Ultra Natural were high, as the contest served as the second installment of pro snowboarder Travis Rice's Supernatural event, which took place on the same course last year and at the time produced the most progressive riding to date.
Rounding out the podium this year was Swiss rider Nicolas Muller and American Bryan Fox, who was a late addition to the contest and filled the last wild-card spot just a few days before the event.
To get some inside into the progressive contest, we got in touch with Snowboarder magazine editor-in-chief Pat Bridges, who rode the course and witnessed all the action.
Check out what Pat had to say below and click the top photo above to view the gallery.
What were the biggest differences you witnessed with this year's Ultra Natural contest from last year's Super Natural?
This year the riders arrived knowing what to expect. They brought more confidence to the course and it showed. They tackled terrain and features that stood dormant in 2012 and everyone showed glimpses of greatness in 2013.
What was the most impressive trick you saw, by whom, and on what feature?
On Gigi Ruf's first run, he gapped up and onto the three story "Caterpillar" butter pad and stomped the exit. Insane.
In your opinion, who rode the course the best and why?
The Ultra Natural event is perfectly suited to Gigi Ruf's unique blend of spontaneous Big Mountain freeride skills and technical freestyle pedigree. In turn his line choice and trick selection were not only superior but his flow and momentum were unmatched.
What was the standout moment for you while in Baldface?
The standout moment for me was seeing Terje Haakansen destroy the face of Scary Cherry, putting riders 10 to 20 years his junior in their place. He sent what will go down as one of the great methods of all time over 100 feet down the fall line.
Do you think this year's Ultra Natural was the most progressive contest to date?
While the 2013 Ultra Natural will most assuredly be renowned as a pivotal moment in the trajectory of snowboard competitions, I don't believe the weather allowed for it to be the most progressive contest to date.
What can be done to improve the setup of the Ultra Natural next year?
The main jump still needs to be dialed a little bit more, and it would be insane to have a natural hip element. But other than that the setup is about as insane as you can get.
The Ultra Natural is a part of The Red Bull Signature Series and fans can see all the action on NBC on March 30.
Results for the 2013 Red Bull Ultra Natural:
1. Gigi Ruf 82.6 72.4
2. Nicolas Muller 76.4 71.4
3. Bryan Fox 44.6 75.4
4. Terje Haakonsen 66.2 60.2
5. David Carrier-Porcheron 62.2 39.2
6. Mark McMorris 61.6 45.4
7. Eero Niemela 61.0 34.0
8. Pat Moore 59.0 38.0
9. Lucas Debari 57.2 53.0
10. Travis Rice 56.2 49.2
11. Jussi Oksanen 27.8 55.4
12. Bode Merrill 48.8 45.2
13. Jake Blauvelt 46.8 48.0
14. Wolfgang Nyvelt 45.6 42.8
15. Torstein Horgmo 32.6 44.8
16. Mikey Rencz 39.6 40.0
Want more Red Bull Ultra Natural Coverage? Head to Snowboarder magazine to check out their recap here.
Photos courtesy Red Bull
Freeskier Jen Hudak of Utah is one of the many skiers and snowboarders in Sochi, Russia, right now who are getting in some practice and competition before the small city by the Black Sea welcomes the world next February for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Hudak is one of the gold medal favorites for halfpipe next year, so we caught up with her to see what her initial impressions of Sochi are, her view of its surprisingly warm year-round climate, and what she thinks it will take to get atop the podium.
What were your travels to Sochi like? Did you experience any snafus, or was it a normal international journey?
I left from Salt Lake City on a Delta flight to JFK (in New York). From JFK I flew Aeroflot to Moscow and then Moscow to Adler, the airport in Sochi. I think the total travel time was about 24 hours, though we arrived in Sochi time 36 hours after my departure in SLC. Sochi is eleven hours ahead of Mountain Standard Time. My travel day was fairly straightforward, and in some ways easier than a typical travel day to Europe in terms of adjusting to the new time zone. I'd say the most unusual aspect was the visa process, which in the end made the normal customs hassle hassle free! However, quite a few athletes lost baggage, and it was a hassle trying to track it down.
What were your initial impressions of Sochi?
We arrived after dark in Sochi, so there wasn't much to see initially. English is not spoken as readily here as in most European nations, which brings us to the unique aspect of Russia: While 77 percent of the population lives in "Western Russia," i.e. European Russia, 75 percent of the land is considered part of the Asian continent. When looking at the people here, they appear more European than Asian. However, it is the first place that I've been, besides Japan, that has its own alphabet and a language that is not very transferable. This makes communication quite a challenge. Architecturally there is a mix of Georgian-influenced buildings, which the area at the bottom of the ski resort seems to be crafted after, and a very bland communistic look to buildings. There is a lot of construction going on in the main city of Sochi, and in the entire drive up to the mountains and resort areas. Every now and again you will see an old building juxtaposed against the new construction and it makes you realize what this mountainous valley was like prior to the Olympic bid.
Have people been friendly towards you and the other skiers?
I wouldn't use the word "friendly" to describe the people here. They aren't unfriendly, but they are just very business-oriented and take their jobs very seriously. It seems that a lot of the workers, at least in our hotel, are a little overwhelmed at the sudden influx of people. The language barriers again make it difficult. We've learned a few words like "spasibo," which means "thank you." Being able to say "thank you" always diffuses a tense situation, along with a nice smile.
What is Russian food like, and what are your accommodations like?
I'm not sure if the food that we have been eating is traditional Russian food or not. We have catered meals every day--lunch and dinner are the same cuisine each day. There is a decent array of food in the morning from eggs--they serve them very runny--to bacon and potatoes to cereal, crepes, and fruit. The most unique, and probably my most enjoyed breakfast option, has been the porridge that they serve, which seems like oats cooked in milk, but it has more of the consistency of a soup than American oatmeal does. The hotel is brand new and quite nice, with the small twin beds that are standard in most European and Asian hotels.
Do you think the city of Sochi will be ready to host the Olympics one year from now?
Sochi will be as ready as it can be for the Olympics. I don't think that any city is ever really ready to host an Olympic Games and often times things come together right at the last minute. I haven't yet been to a Winter Olympics, so it's hard for me to say definitively yes or no. But my gut tells me yes. The biggest issue will be snow management and venue preparation and maintenance, as it's quite warm here.
How would you rate the halfpipe? Is it a world-class pipe, worthy of the Olympic recognition?
The venue is quite impressive. The mogul course, aerial site, and halfpipe all share one finish area and it makes for a really fun time watching training and events--there is always something going on. Not to mention, the mountains of Rosa Khutor are absolutely breathtaking and serve as the backdrop to the halfpipe. The pipe is long and quite steep. It has the potential to be worthy of Olympic recognition; it is all dependent on snow and weather conditions. This year was probably about as warm as it gets and they are pulling it off, though conditions aren't ideal for peak performance.
What has been biggest shock you've experienced while in Sochi-- anything weird or unexpected happen so far?
The biggest shock I've experienced was having to go through metal detectors and getting frisked every day before getting on the gondola to head up to the hill. They take security very seriously here.
What do you think it's going to take to win gold at the Sochi Games?
It is going to take a mix of all the important elements--huge amplitude, I hope, spinning in both directions and on various axes, grabs, and really clean execution. To name a run that would be the "winning" run is impossible, but I can guarantee that it will be a great show.
What excites you most about freeskiing making its debut in the 2014 Olympics?
I am just excited to have our sport be on the largest sporting event stage. To have the world's attention, even if it is for a brief period of time, and to have people understand that when I say "I ski a halfpipe" it doesn't mean snowboarding.
Photos courtesy Jen Hudak