Stale Sandbech

Words: Tom Monterosso
Photos: Danny Burrows

Laax, Switzerland is a magical place, filled to the brim with chocolates, cheese, beer, and this year…snow. Luckily, with the massive accumulation of snowfall that has graced all of Europe this winter, the weather cleared for the first two days of the 2012 Burton European Open Presented by MINI. Under beautiful blue skies, laid atop a massive snowfield nestled deep in the Swiss Alps, laid one of the best slopestyle courses I’ve seen in recent memory as sixteen of the best male and eight of the best female park jumpers in the world converged atop the setup to try and win a handsome sum of cash.

Back One

So many contests focus on massive jumps, which were presented in this course as well, but starting things off with a down or flat rail, a rhythm section-style double jump before feeding into two twenty-or-so meter jumps, and the MINI Creative Use of Space feature that provided banked turns to take you to either of two features on rider’s left or right was a really cool way of bringing a little bit of style and technicality back into slopestyle–a discipline in snowboarding that recently has become more akin to washing machine-style spin-offs rather than fluidly moving down a mountain riddled with obstacles.

Jamie Anderson

I’ll admit that I’ve been critical of women’s competitive snowboarding in the past, yes. Being a snowboard–and I use the term loosely–“journalist,” one is provided limited angles at times when it comes to reporting on contest snowboarding, and I’ve stretched a bit too far for that angle in my criticisms. However, after witnessing first-hand the women riding in the manner in which they did, it is with a proverbial foot in my mouth that I garble a much-deserved apology to the girls. I’ll list them in this order: Cilka Sadar, Silje Norendal, Enni Rukajärvi, Sina Candrian, Spencer O’Brien, Isabel Derungs, Kjersti Østgaard Buass, and Jamie Anderson. There may be a few more, but the riding today from the women listed above had me eating my words as if it were a boiling cauldron of cheese fondue and a side of sourdough. Never before have I been so impressed with a women’s slopestyle contest as I was today.

Peetu Piiroinen

First of all, per usual, Jamie Anderson won, and for the record, words I refuse to eat are those that I typed after the Canadian Open stating that Jamie is the greatest female slopestyle rider who has ever lived. I’ll leave those on the plate until someone proves otherwise. Seriously though, Jamie is both incredible and untouchable at the moment. Her run provided the best rail tricks, coupled with a jump line of front three into a back 180 on the rhythm section, a gargantuan Cab five switch tail, and a switch back five on the last jump. She also won the MINI Creative Use of Space Award at the bottom for the best trick on the MINI CUOS feature. That run put her on the board with a 91.98 and sealed the win for her. Jamie is the best in the world.

Kjersti Buaas

The other women rode incredibly well, with Kjersti Østgaard Buass tossing huge front sevens, Isabel Derungs (3rd place) stomping back rodeos on the big jump line, Enni Rukajärvi (2nd place) landing beautiful switch back fives and Cab sevens, Silje Norendal attempting front rodeos off her toes (as well as Spencer O’Brien), and lastly, Sina Candrian chucking a frontside nine all the way to the deep end of the big jump. Unfortunately, it looked like Sina had a bit too much speed and though she landed, she couldn’t hold on and sat it down a little. However, all of this was enough to make me more stoked on women’s slopestyle riding than ever, and to my ladies in shred, I’ll never forget the way you looked today.

Isabel Derungs

As for the men, there were double the number of riders and double the corks. Remember when a 1260 would break snowboard media news headlines worldwide? I sure do. Well, in today’s contest, you couldn’t even land a spot on the podium without landing one of these dizzying maneuvers. It’s pretty incredible if you think about it. Here are the riders who made the finals: Christian Haller, Jamie Nicholls (though he fell in semi finals yesterday and didn’t ride today due to a tweaked knee, but he’ll be okay), Sven Thorgren, Seppe Smits, Nuutti Niemelä, Sebastién Toutant, Emil Ulsletten, Ville Paumola, Torgeir Bergrem, Stale Sandbech, Mark McMorris, Roope Tonteri, Alek Østreng, Eric Beauchemin, Janne Korpi, and Peetu Piiroinen. For the first half of the finals, it looked to be a Finnish sweep, with young and incredibly stylish Ville Paumola leading the charge, but in the third and final run, Norwegian Alek Østreng landed a run that consisted of a front ten and a back twelve to take the lead. Then, Peetu Piiroinen snuck up into the third place spot, and fellow Finlander and last year’s European Open champion Roope Tonteri took second, leaving Alek with the win and the two Finns rounding out the podium. The aforementioned doesn’t even begin to describe the drama though. First of all, the big surprise of the day came when both Sebastién Toutant and Mark McMorris–arguably the two favorites to win the slope event–failed to put together a run that would land them in one of the top three spots. Secondly, this Ville Paumola kid (in my opinion) should’ve taken third. Thirdly, the final run for the men saw more lead changes than Iraq’s newly-crowned “democratic” government post “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” It was one, crazy spin-off for first, and the crowd was going berserk every time the next rider dropped. Congratulations to Alek though. It was a hard-earned win, and really impressive to watch.

Alek Østreng

The 2012 Burton European Open isn’t finished, though. Pipe semi finals are tomorrow, followed by finals the next day, so make sure to check back to snowboardermag.com for the most up-to-the-minute action. Danke Shen.

Emil Ulsletten

Results:

Women:
1. Jamie Anderson (USA)
2. Enni Rukajärvi (FIN)
3. Isabel Derungs (SUI)

MINI Creative Use of Space Winner: Jamie Anderson

Men:
1. Alek Østreng (NOR)
2. Roope Tonteri (FIN)
3. Peetu Piiroinen (FIN)

MINI Creative Use of Space Winner: Emil Ulsletten

DC

Stale Sandbech

Enni Rukajärvi

Women's Podium. 1st Jamie Anderson, 2nd Enni Rukajärvi, 3rd Isabel Derungs

Men's podium. 1st Alek Østreng, 2nd Roope Tonteri, 3rd Peetu Piiroinen