Once again, the 16th opening at the Kaunertal glacier was the get-together for the snowboard community. Impressive freestye action by the amateurs and pro boarder stars, tons of side events and wild parties made this opening an event to remember. Joel Strecker (SUI) wins, Reto Kestenholz (SUI) second and Christoph Schmidt (GER) third.
Snowboard season just ain’t snowboard season if it doesn’t start at the snowboarder opening kaunertal! Boarders have been coming here to start the season with a bang ever since 1985, and this year the opening once again lived up to its reputation as a cult event. The perfect mix of action up on the mountain (including free equipment testing, bull riding by Völkl, Killer Loop skate sessions and the jump contest) and live acts down in the valley attracted thousands of fans. No one missed out on the 2001 opening: besides the regular “mortal snowboarders”, the industry, the media and the sponsors, there were several snowboarding stars there as well. Celebrity sightings include two-time Air&Style hero Stefan Gimpl, vice world champion ’99 Stefan Gruber, Tirol icon Tom Beckna Eberharter, Olympic gold medalist Gian Simmen, halfpipe idol Xafer Hoffman, Nici Pederzolli, Caro Ehrenstrasser, and snowboard pioneers Martin Freinademetz and Gerry Ring.
The qualification runs on Saturday were followed by the highlight of the event on Sunday: the finals for the straight jump contest. The invited top riders and the best 16 riders from qualifications all gave stunning performances. In keeping with Kaunertal’s motto of setting precedents in the snowboard movement and always coming up with new ideas, the organizers built a combination straight jump and corner. This means that riders performed two jumps in one go. The boys from Switzerland seemed to really take to this new contest. 21-year-old Joel Strecker from Geneva, who had already placed first during qualifications, won the finals as well. The Swiss rider especially impressed the judges and the audience with his Cab 900, a difficult jump with 2 _ spins which begins fakie. In addition to the prize money, his stunt also won him the coveted Wildcard for the Vienna Soul City at New Years. The current Swiss freestyle champion Reto Kestenholz (alpine world champion Ueli’s younger brother) took second place, followed by German Christoph Schmidt (age 18, from Schliersee). The finalists split the 10,000 euros in prize money. These riders are “boarders without borders”, so the locals didn’t have a home terrain advantage. Sani Alibabic was the only Austrian to reach the finals for the eight best riders, where he narrowly missed third place and ended up in fourth.
At the party tent in Feichten, audiences loved the phat punk rock and hiphop live gigs. On Friday, the Nitro Junkies and Stimilion filled the tent. The main acts on Saturday, six model hiphop groups from Germany, brought the crowd to a boil and nearly split the tent at its seams. As always, the snowboarders flocked to the after-hour parties later and celebrated with the DJs until the wee hours.
The 16th snowboarder opening Kaunertal was presented by Sony Walkman, hosted by klax.max. and furthermore supported by Tirol Werbung, Killer Loop, Eastpak and Raiffeisen-Club.
1. Joel Strecker/Duotone – SUI
2. Reto Kestenholz/Santa Cruz – SUI
3. Christoph Schmidt/Duotone – GER
4. Sani Alibabic/Burton – AUT