Vail Resorts Hosts the Best at Burton US Open 2016
For snowboarders and winter sports enthusiasts alike the Burton US Open is the end-all-be-all competition. Through its time, Burton has spat out some of the worlds best, being a huge testament to the abilities and limits of those competing. In its 34th year Burton has brought bigger crowds and even bigger athletes from all around the world with the likes of 2016 X Games gold medalists Chloe Kim, and Spencer O’Brien. Eight-time US Open winner Kelly Clark and Taku Hiraoka were there to defend their half pipe titles. And of course the Burton prodigy child himself Shaun White was there on both slope style and half pipe.
It was a blast of a weekend filled with tons of swag, the dopest people, amazing tricks by the boarders – all wrapped up with some badass performances by Big Grams and Griz. Hosted at the beautiful Vail Mountains, the scenery was perfect for this competition. While it was not only a HIKE up the mountain to get to the half pipe, if you wanted even a remotely decent view of either slope style or half pipe, you needed to bare the trek up the steep sides of the pipe – but after all the huffing and puffing and once you got your heart rate back to normal the view was spectacular.
Due to some inclement weather conditions the five day long competition was shaved down a few days. We took Wednesday as a day to explore the grounds of Vail to see what the weekend had in store for us. The moment you walk into the Burton US Open gates you were greeted by the sponsor village. With the likes of Clif Bar, Red Bull, Paul Mitchell, Burton Girls, G-Shock, Shiseido and more, as sponsors for the event, there were tons of fun tents giving away swag and hosting awesome contests. Outside the village was the daunting view of the course where the competition was being held. Happy faces of skiers, snowboarders, and people just spectating filled the area – and my personal favorite… there were tons of DOGS!
Luckily on Friday the weather was on our side and we got to watch men’s slope style from our sky-high view; able to see every flip, turn, and spill of the day. 18 year-old Kyle Mack took home the gold; with Ninja Turtle clad Eric Beauchemin in tow for second place, and Sebastian Toutant taking third. All three were in great spirits prior to the competition where the topic of interest was Eric’s outfit choice. “I always like to have fun,” Eric says in reference to why he wore the costume, “…[that], and a friend bet me $25 to wear it… Now I never want to take it off.”
While we unfortunately didn’t get to see the ladies, they all threw down some amazing runs dazzling watchers with their amazing tricks in true Burton Girl fashion. Jamie Anderson took first place for slope style with Karly Shorr following in second with Cheryl Maas taking third. Maas also ended up winning a chunk of money from sponsor Clif Bar awarding her for most innovative trick, which was an added bonus for her.
Friday night was wrapped up by a jam-packed performance by Big Grams – a beautiful mix of Big Boi (of OutKast fame) and Phantogram. When I say jam packed I don’t just mean the amazing musical talents performing, I mean there was way too many people in the tiny square of beautiful Vail Village. While the energy was absolutely amazing for the first performance of Vail’s Free Music Season I have no idea how such a tiny space could fit such a crazy crowd. Regardless it was an amazing show and I’m glad I squeezed and pushed my way out alive.
Saturday was absolutely crazy. Considering it was the weekend it was obvious the REALLY huge crowd made their way up the mountain on Friday to watch the Burton US Open competition and party on Saturday. While the days before we had a torturous but clear hike ahead of us up the side of the mountain to the half pipe, Saturday the path was packed by people huffing and puffing their way up to see the athletes go down. Thankfully the masses huddled at the bottom of the pipe, leaving the sides relatively low on crowding, allowing us the best views of all the amazing tricks the athletes were pulling out.
The half pipe competition had to be the most exciting event for me personally. Watching the athletes launch themselves upwards of 25 ft in the air. Another photographer we met on Friday absolutely called it in regards to Shaun White… For a little preface, Shaun didn’t do so hot on slope style that Friday. White has been having a bit of a love/hate relationship with boarding as of late, coming back to Burton this year after a hiatus. “After today’s run,” our photographer friend said “he’s either going to hit 25ft right out the gate… or he’s going to try and kill himself with his tricks.” Well our friend called it, for the most part – Shaun hit 24.7 ft immediately and finished out his first run dazzling us in true El Blanco fashion. And of course, Shaun took home the Gold that day, with a huge lead of 95.62 right off the bat. After that the race was on for second and third place for the rest of the two runs. American rider Ben Ferguson nabbed second, and Japanese rider Taku Hiraoka came out as a strong third to wrap up the Burton US Open.
A great tradition to watch at Burton was all the Poaching between competitors runs or during commercial breaks. If you’re not sure what poaching is, essentially it started out as snowboarders crashing fancy resorts and riding wherever they damn well please – Something Burton highly encourages. In 2007 Burton held a contest that climbed to a $10,000 reward for the best video of someone riding the slopes of “fascist elitist” resorts who didn’t allow snowboarders. Now at the Burton US Open it’s an honored tradition where other riders or competitors from other events come and show off their skills while the next half pipe competitors prepare themselves. A pretty fun and good-natured custom that displays the true love for the sport without taking shit too seriously.
Overall the weekend was filled with fun, extreme sports, great memories and dino heads. Minus Wednesday’s winds it was a beautiful few days to watch some amazing athletes, hike up a basically vertical hill and to grab some truly amazing photos. If you find yourself in Vail around March the Burton US Open is definitely a site to see. And with free concerts following the events? How can you stay away?? We look forward to coming back next year and seeing all the great talent and hopefully see some new tricks promised by Shaun White!