Behind The Contest: Burton Execs & Pro Kelly Clark Weigh In On High Fives

This year’s second annual Burton High Fives contest is kicking off at the moment in New Zealand. The six-day invitational marks the start of Burton's Winter 2014 Global Event Series and is a key stop for Olympic hopefuls on the road to Sochi.This year’s contest brings together 60 of the world's top snowboarders for halfpipe and slopestyle contests, along with Kiwi-inspired, adventure-filled off-snow team challenges. Here's a quick look at this year's  schedule in New Zealand:

2013 Burton High Fives presented by MINI Competition Schedule

Sunday, September 8th:  MINI Track Challenge

Monday, September 9th:  Off-Snow Team Challenges

Thursday, September 12th:  Slopestyle Finals

Friday, September 13th:  Halfpipe Finals

We caught up with Burton’s Director of Partners Nick Sargent, and Global Events Director Ian Warda, to find out more about what this year’s contest format holds.

Ian Warda, Burton Global Events Director

High Fives is a really cool concept. Tell us a bit about how the idea came up and how you turned it into a reality? 

Warda: There's no shortage of fun to be had in New Zealand.  The off-hill adventure activities were always something we did with the athletes during the New Zealand Open.  So we thought…why not officially combine those thrill-seeking elements with snowboarding and use that as the concept for a new event.  From there the ideas just started flowing and Burton High Fives was born.

Last year had knife throwing, jet boating and skeet shooting in the mix. How are you going to top that? What will be different this year?

Warda: I can't fully divulge our plans, as one of the big changes this year is to add an element of surprise for the riders.  But I can tell you that we'll be testing their skills in areas outside of snowboarding, and mixing in a little mayhem…all with a a lot of Kiwi flavor.

How about from a rider standpoint – did the format help get more of the big names out?

Warda: Absolutely.  By narrowing the field size to 60 riders, we really get the best of the best.  The riders love the small fields, no qualification rounds, and off-hill antics.  It takes a lot of the pressure off and allows them to get in the zone, have fun, and send it.  We saw some pretty amazing riding last year from the world's best and I expect more of the same this year.

How did this format translate into exposure and sponsorship for last year’s event? How did it compare to NZ Opens in the past? I’m guessing it got a lot more media attention?

Warda: Our two key partners, Mini and Nokia, love the concept. The new platform allows us to create unique interactions with the riders by allowing us to be more progressive and fun without sacrificing the competitive nature of the event. The Content that came out of the first Burton High fives was much more lifestyle-oriented, which gave media outlets multiple angles to bite on and cover.

Nick Sargent, Burton Partners Director

This creativity seems like just what snowboarding needs. Do you have plans to expand the formats of more comps going forward?

Warda: We're always trying to do new thing with our events.  Creativity and progression is what Burton has stood for since day one, and those important pillars of our brand translate through to our events.  We're always listening to rider feedback, and working to create fun and engaging experiences for the athletes and fans.

What were the highlights from last summer for you?

Warda: The men's slopestyle competition was insane last year.  Some of the best contest riding I've ever seen.  It was also a lot of fun to watch the friendly rivalry between guys like Mikkel, Mark, Seb, Sven, and Stale.  They were really pushing each other out there and no one was safe until they all took their final runs.  The MINI snow drive was pretty fun to watch too.  The riders are all so competitive in everything they do.

Sargent: Ferguson Ranch, where the athletes got to compete in off-road driving, shooting, knife throwing, and jet boating. The on-now competition raised the progression of riding and the weather was all time.

Closing thoughts?

 Sargent: The Burton High Fives is a great combination of progression, fun, and amazing riding. The partners love the event and New Zealand always delivers a good time.

Warda: There is so much happening at this event all week long so we'll be releasing video edits to our fans every day. Not everyone is lucky enough to be in NZ but with all the content we will be producing you can watch from anywhere and feel that you are a part of the action. So definitely visit to check those out and to watch the slopestyle and halfpipe webcasts live on competition days.  It is going to be another amazing year for the Burton High Fives in New Zealand.


We also checked in with Burton rider Kelly Clark to get her take on the contest format. 

What’s your favorite memory from last year’s event?

There are so many to choose from… It was either driving the jet boat, pushing Katlyn in the mini or rallying in the buggy- it is hard to pick just one.

What makes High Fives different and exciting as a rider?

Snowboarding is an individual sport and we don’t often get to be part of a team working towards the same goal. The high fives event was a good mix of snowboarding and fun team activities- I liked getting to be a part  it and cheering on my team for the week.

Do traditional contests get routine (aka boring)? Would you like to see more creative formats like this?

I like how the normal contest scene works in the winter, but shifting gears to ramp up for a summer event is hard. I think this type of event has perfect timing for a fun summer event.

How does High Fives compare to the other big comps you do?

The snowboarding part is business as usual. But I do like having all the other events going on, and being part of a team is fun for a change, too.

Predictions for this summer?  More wild times in NZ I am sure.