words: TBird
photos: Sami Tuoriniemi

Although the Slopestyle for the men and women at the 2013 Burton European Open was cancelled yesterday, the show must go on, and go on it did indeed, with the men and the women taking to the halfpipe today under inclement, but contest-worthy conditions.

In the morning, it was the girls who dropped into the tube in blizzard/whiteout conditions, but that didn’t stop Spencer Shaw, Ursina Haller, Ellery Hollingsworth, Elena Hight, Arielle Gold, and the ever-dominant Kelly Clark from putting together some impressive runs in the pipe. For Shaw, Haller, and Hight, the best of three run format would get the best of them, as Ursina put together a great run but failed to make it into the top three. Elena and Spencer couldn’t seem to link together a run worthy of the podium, but they weren’t granted the best conditions. After all of the very deserved hype that Elena received after becoming the first woman in history to land an alley-oop double backside rodeo at the Winter X Games in Aspen, there was absolutely no way that she would’ve had the speed necessary to get one around. The foot of snow in the flat bottom of the pipe this morning made it very prohibitive for the girls to get outside of their comfort zone. However, all the talk was about Kelly and Elena, enter Arielle Gold…the sleeper.

You see, my philosophy is that any time a snowboarder becomes so incredibly dominant, they begin to create their own competition. This is due to the fact that so many riders underneath them are looking to them for inspiration. Once said rider realizes that inspiration and becomes a great rider themselves, it spells trouble for the rider on top. Take Shaun White for example. While Shaun still beats nearly everyone he faces in the pipe, he simply can’t hang in slope. He fell behind, leaving the door wide open for riders like Sage Kotsenburg, Mark McMorris, Sebastien Toutant and others, to blow right past him. Although, I’m not saying by any means that Kelly Clark has fallen off. Quite the opposite, actually, but girls like Arielle Gold are beginning to pop up one by one like a game of Whack-A-Mole, looking to take Kelly down from her pedestal.

Arielle Gold linked together a run that beat Kelly today. She led the contest form the get-go and never looked back. The conditions certainly hampered Kelly’s efforts to take another pipe win in Laax, but when it came down to it, Arielle had Kelly up against the wall, and Kelly fell on her final run while attempting her signature first hit front nine. With back to back sevens and a really sick cab nine to end her final run, Arielle took an even bigger lead on Kelly and in turn, took the win. At 16 years old, this girl is a candidate to become the future face of women’s pipe riding. Ellery Hollingsworth edged Ursina Haller of the podium with her final run to take third.

I feel it necessary to say though that the girls got the shit end of the weather stick today. It was puking, and I mean PUKING when they were in the pipe, but in the afternoon, when the twelve men got ready to drop, the snow stopped, the clouds parted, and the sun came out. I was stoked for the guys, but bummed for the girls. However, that’s how snowboard contests go sometimes and the girls will have another shot at each other at the US Open in Vail in just a few weeks.

For the men, it was Luke Mitrani, Matt Ladley, Tim-Kevin Ravnjak, Ryo Aoki, Johann Baisamy, Taylor Gold, Lucien Koch, David Hablutzel, Iouri Podladtchikov, Scotty Lago, Arthur Longo, and the tiny Japanese phenom Ayumu Hirano, fresh off of a silver medal in Aspen. The finals came down to four riders. Luke, IPod, Lago, and Ayumu. With an insane second run, Ayumu took an early lead while IPod, Lago, and Luke tried to catch up to the tyke. Linking together a massive backside air, a front 10, Cab 10, frontside double cork 10, and a Haakonsen Flip, Hirano was the rider to beat. This kid’s the real deal. IPod nearly surpassed him with a third run that consisted of a front 9 tail, back 9, front 10, and a Cab double cork 10, but it fell .5 of a point behind Ayumu, and IPod took second place behind the youngster. Third place was a battle between Lago and Luke. Two Frends going at it in the European Open pipe. In the end, Mitrani’s double Michalchucks fell victim to Lago’s double cork and front nine double nose grab, and Luke took fourth, while Scotty rounded out the podium for the men.

So yeah, there’s a new crop of pipe talent being led by Ayumu Hirano and Arielle Gold. Oddly enough, these two riders won the rookie awards here in Laax last year. Keep an eye out for them in the coming weeks, months, and years, because they mean business and they’ve manufactured themselves into quite the talents. Stay tuned for the final stop of the Burton Global Open Series when the SNOWBOARDER staff travels to Vail, Colorado for the US Open Snowboarding Championships from February 25th to March 2nd.

Results:

Men:
1. Ayumu Hirano
2. Iouri Podladtchikov
3. Scotty Lago

Women:
1. Arielle Gold
2. Kelly Clark
3. Ellery Hollingsworth