If Scotty Lago got any higher on his first hit method airs the TSA would have to subject him to either a body scan or pat down. r: Scotty Lago p: Aaron Dodds

The 2010/2011North American competition season is now officially underway.  With the conclusion of today’s Grand Prix Halfpipe Finals at Copper Mtn. Co it appears as though the vertical scene hasn’t gotten the memo that this is going to be an off year for the points chasers.

According to the Copper Facebook page 9” of fresh had graced the resort overnight. Well 9” was an understatement as thigh deep drifts enveloped much of the mountain. The all-time conditions appeased the pow hungry shreds looking to get some before the event but organizers were left with a panic to clear the decks and trannies of Coppers famed 22’ U-Tube before the 11:30 start.

With the trannies swept the riders were left with a pipe that had firm walls and a packed powder flat bottom, which despite the best efforts of the Copper park and pipe crew is less than ideal. Nonetheless the international field persevered and put on a solid show.

For the ladies a first class international field found their way into the finals with all but two of the competitors veterans of the Vancouver Olympics. Riding well but encountering some untimely falls was Japan’s Soko Yamaoka. Canada’s Sarah Conrad, Spain’s Queralt Castellet, America’s Ellery Holligsworth and Australia’s Holly Crawford.

Back in 1981 disco fiends tried to make July 20th the national holiday for Quaaludes much like April 20th is for weed. Too bad that never took hold because it would have led to endless 720 captions. r: Kelly Clark p: Aaron Dodds

Hailing from the land of the Rising Sun there is no denying that Rana Okada has a yen for halfpipe. Following a first hit fs9 with a bs5 to fs 5 combo insured Okada a spot in the money. Mount Snow, Vermont’s Kelly Clark is one of the most accomplished women’s pipe riders in history and now she has another top three finish to add to her already impressive resume, which already includes two Olympic Medals. Combos were the name of Kelly’s game as she threw down both 7 to 7 and 5 to 5 variations for the second place prize. Easily coming out on top for the ladies at Copper was Sun Valley, Idaho’s Kaitlyn Farrington.  Being able to keep her speed enabled Kaitlyn to perform arguably the two best tricks of the day. Farrington followed up her second hit bs 900 corkscrew with a crippler 720. As if this combo wasn’t enough Kaitlyn added a cab seven to the mix to make the win that much more dominant.

For the males falls seriously hindered the field with only a handful of full pulls occurring over the course of the two run finals. For some others who managed to complete their runs without calamity the fresh snow appeared to wreak havoc on their amplitude meaning airtime would prove to be the separator. Colorado’s own JJ Thomas brought his signature speed to Copper and settled the largest straight airs of the day for fifth place. Another Rocky Mountain rider, Matt Ladley stomped both fs 10 to cab 10 and fs 9 to bs 9 combos for fourth.

Wonder if Luke got a “stone grind” on his base before the halfpipe finals? r: Luke Mitarni p: Aaron Dodds

The Copper men’s halfpipe event culminated with a podium of male riders worthy of the Grand Prix pedigree. No stranger to third place is Scotty Lago whose 2010 season highlights include a Bronze in Vancouver and a third at The King of The Hill in Valdez. Lago’s Copper trick ensemble included a fs 1080 corkscrew on the first hit, and both bs and fs 900 corkscrews. Luke Mitrani kept his pace out of qualifiers and ended the day once again in second. Mitrani debuted each of his two runs with the double overhead double chuck and the followed that up two hits later with cab 1080 double corks.  With the highest score of the day on his first run Olympian Louie Vito left the rest of the field playing catch-up for most of the finals. Like Luke, Louie started his run with a banger, the fs 1080 double cork to be exact. What set Louie apart though was his ability to combo the double corks as his second hit featured the switch fs 1080 double cork variation. Though filler tricks his follow up bs 900 and fs 1080 were outstanding as well.

There is probably a good Louie Vito caption here but we’ve got to rush over to the Paul Mitchell Progression Session. r: Louie Vito p: Aaron Dodds

There it is. The seal on the 2010/2011-contest season has been broken in fine form. Keep checking back for more exclusive Grand Prix, Dew Tour and X-Games halfpipe coverage on www.snowboardermag.com.

Men’s Final Results

1 Louie Vito USA
2  Luke Mitrani USA
3  Scott Lago USA
4 Matthew Ladley USA
5  JJ Thomas USA
6  Kohei Kudo Japan
7  Kazuumi  Fujita Japan
8  Zachary Black USA
9  Nathan Johnstone Australia
10 Spencer Shaw USA
11 Brett Esser USA
12 Benjamin Farrow USA
13  Tore-V. Holvik Norway
14  Kosuke Hosokawa Japan
15 Broc  Waring USA
16  Gregory Bretz USA

Women’s Final Results

1 Kaitlyn Farrington  USA
2 Kelly Clark USA
3 Rana Okada Japan
4 Soko Yamaoka Japan
5 Holly Crawford Australia
6 Queralt Castellet
7 Ellery Hollingsworth USA
8 Sarah Conrad Canada