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Report from the Philips US Open 2004 - Snowboarding

Words and Photos by Lauren Traub Teton

If you missed the Opens,
Highlights of the 2004, 2003, and 2002 US Open Snowboarding Championships

March 31, 2004

I attended my first (and certainly not my last!) US Open (Snowboarding) Competition this month. I can hardly describe how exciting it was to be there! I’m not even much of a sports fan, but I love to watch good snowboarding, and there was plenty of that! On Saturday I found a great spot to watch the halfpipe practice and competition, and I stood there in one spot spellbound for over 4 hours. I had no concept of time or cold temperature, and I think I had a smile on my face for most of that time!

Superpipe at US Open

Friday night’s Rail Jam Qualifiers started while the sun was still above the horizon, and I stayed until the end when the sky was black and the air was frosty. But the rail jam action and the crowd gave off plenty of heat and excitement. The jam format is fun to watch. Competitors can ride as many times as they want and have time for in the allotted period. They have to hike back up to the top each time, and it looks like it must be exhausting. The more times you ride the rails down well, the better your chance of winning. There is always something to see, with jibbers sliding down their choice of 7 rail set-ups every 15 seconds or so. Perfect for people with MTV attention spans. If you go, it’s better to sit on the side where you can see the kinked handrail that is below the down box. I missed a few tricks because I was in the bleachers on the other side.

On Deck for the Pipe

The two sets of bleachers were a welcome addition this year, giving good sight lines to hundreds of people. The area where the jam is held has steep and slippery precipices, so if you go wear good boots with treads. And of course warm clothes! Entertaining and energetic jib-by-jib commentary was executed by the Dingo, the guy with the long hair and mixed Maine and Australian accent.

The Rail Set-Up

Saturday’s Halfpipe Semi-Finals and Finals are such a viewer friendly event. Granted, the pipe is so long that you won’t be able to see all the hits. You’ll see about one third of the tricks each rider throws down. But the length of the pipe spreads the crowd out and puts you close to the action. Unbelievably close in fact. You want to jump back a little every time a rider pops into the air a mere few feet in front of you! And during the Semi-Finals, the riders actually hike the pipe after each run, so they are walking right in front of you and they seem to like it when you give them a shout out by calling their name and giving props. Otherwise this crowd is surprisingly silent at the Open. More like a golf audience than a basketball audience.

Rail Jam at US Open

The action is non-stop watching the pipe too. Sometimes a rider will even start his/her run before the last rider has finished. I don’t know if this is good contest etiquette, but I know it’s what happens in real life at halfpipes.

“Poaching runs” in the pipe during the Finals is a time-honored and surprising tradition. Riders who have competed in the semi-finals but not made it to the finals often just jump in and take a fun run down the pipe during the middle of the contest. The Teters seem to be famous for this, and Terje (say ter-yay), Heikki, and DCP did it this year too. There’s also some bib number swapping going on. The announcers try to keep track of who is riding, but at times it’s impossible. “Pipe Maintenance” is scheduled between events. I figured some Zamboni-like piece of equipment would appear, but NO! Maintenance is done by having riders slide down the pipe on their back edges, just like you did in your first snowboard lesson. The poaching, swapping, and low-key maintenance all contribute to the grassroots anti-establishment feel of the Event.

Music after Rail Jam

The Crew from Japan went BIG. Japanese Junko Asazuma and I rode the lift up together, and I soon saw her become a crowd favorite as she soared high in the pipe in practice and competition. The Japanese men were a force to be reckoned with as they also went HUGE in the pipe. Unfortunately Kazuhiro Kokubo (who rides for Burton) was injured during his run. Last year this now 15 year-old came in second at the Open, making history as the first Japanese rider and the youngest rider ever to podium at the event.

Kazu got a serious concussion and is fortunately expected to make a full recovery. It took a few days before I could find any news to see how Kazuhiro was doing. But then the whole US Open seems to be largely ignored in the establishment press. Ross Powers threw down consistently excellent runs, but somehow ended up a surprising fourth, off the podium. There were a lot of riders falling in the pipe during the Men’s finals. See, it’s not just you that falls!

Dingo and Juniors

Shortening the Learning Curve to Fun

I learned a lot of important stuff on my trip to the Open. Such as:

Where to go,
How to enjoy the Open from the right spot,
Finding parties,
Staying warm,
Being where the action is,
Avoiding the monster traffic jam at the end,
What to eat,
Where to park,
Where to stay,
How to know what events are happening when.

If you plan to go to the next US Open and are interested in shortening the learning curve to fun, you might be interested in my special report “Things You Must Know Before You Go to the US Open (of Snowboarding). This will sell for $9 as an E-book, that you can download or that I will email. I plan to email updates as I find new information that will help you.

I think it is well worth the price, just so you won’t get out of the car with all of your gear, take a shuttle truck, and then walk to the lodge, just to find you’re in the totally wrong place, as I did.

If you want to be notified when this report is ready, please sign up for my mailing list by dropping me an email. Write “US OPEN” in the subject line. Send me your name, and if you like your phone number - just in case you’ve changed email addresses by the time I finish my report.

See you at the next Open!

Keir Dillon and Lauren

"Let's Ride!"






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