It may have been the 31st round of the Burton US Open, but this year’s contest felt like a new beginning as the event planted its flag on the slopes of Vail, Colorado, marking the first time that one of the biggest and the oldest event in snowboarding took place outside Vermont.
The Open kicked off on February 25, with events, parties, and practice leading up to the grand finale of the slopestyle finals on Friday and halfpipe on Saturday, bringing approximately 50,000 riders, media, and fans to the slopes—and along with Vail Mountain, the local community and Mother Nature both delivered.
Friday saw around a foot of fresh fall on the slopes, and while it made for epic freeriding, the women’s slopestyle finals had to be canceled for safety reasons—the run in got so slow during the day that competitors couldn’t clear the jumps—providing a good excuse for everyone to go freeriding. With a pow day in the pocket, Saturday dawned clear and temperatures rose to spring-like levels, shirts came off on the pipe deck, snowballs flew, and poachers poached, keeping an Open tradition alive and well in the comp’s new home.
“We are proud that Burton chose Vail for an event of this magnitude,” stated Liz Biebl, who handles communications for Vail Mountain. “The move to Vail represents a great marriage of sorts between two iconic winter sports brands.” And that marriage was consummated on the mountain. In partnership with SPT, Vail built the longest halfpipe in history, and jumps that slopestyle champion Mark McMorris called the best slope jumps he’s ever ridden.
“The Town of Vail was honored to host the Burton US Open for the first time this year,” explains Town of Vail Town Manager Stan Zemler. “We believe it was a fruitful experience for the event, participants, spectators, sponsors and many of our local businesses from the feedback we have received. The energy in town during the event was high with the contests taking place on the mountain and the concerts and other family activities taking place in town. We look forward to hosting the event for many years to come.”
Everywhere you went around town, the talk was of the Open, the mountain had signage everywhere, lifts were even decorated with hashtags, radio stations were constantly announcing events and results, restaurants and bars were all running specials, and the town rolled out the red carpet hosting concerts in the Village and a Riglet Park on the Solaris’s ice rink. Vail felt like the Open’s home and even the East Coast curmudgeons in attendance that had been trouncing the move were all in agreement that this was a good call.
The numbers all point to the event being a huge success as well. While the Town of Vail is currently working on a full impact study, here are some takeaways:
- Event promoter Highline Sports and Entertainment estimated an attendance of 50,000 over the event’s five days – compared to 30,000 in previous years at Stratton.
- Vail Village was swollen to capacity for Friday night’s free Macklemore and Ryan Lewis concert and Saturday’s free Santigold show.
- Both Town parking structures were filled with 2,400 cars on Friday and Saturday. On Friday there were 450 cars parked on the South Frontage Road and on Saturday, 950 cars stretched more than two miles from beyond Ford Park to the east and to the Vail Cascade to the west.
- Lodging was sold out throughout the weekend.
A big thanks to Burton for putting on an amazing event, and to MINI for their hospitality. The Countryman is an amazing ride.