Words: T. Bird
Photos: Danny Burrows
The final day of the Burton European Open Presented by MINI was one for the ages. Snowboard contests are sometimes constrained by weather. Such is the nature of the sport. However, for four days straight here in Laax, Switzerland, we were graced with an endless blanket of blue above us, with little wind, and humongous amounts of snow. Laax offers one of the most beautiful vistas afforded by any resort in the world, and if coupled with a field of competitors that comprise the globe’s best pipe riders, what happened on hill today was almost surreal. Between the panorama, the weather, and the riding, the European Open pipe finals were simply stunning.
Ursina Haller, Yuki Furihata, Queralt Castellet, Sophie Rodriguez, Soko Yamaoka, Cilka Sadar, Gretchen Bleiler, and Kelly Clark comprised the women’s field but following up an unbelievable women’s slope final was no easy task. However, these ladies put on one of the best pipe finals of the year. Soko and Yuki’s massive McTwists, Cilka’s back-to-back sevens (and an insane alley oop Japan), Ursina’s giant front nines on her first hit, Gretchen’s run that I consider one of her all-time best, and Kelly’s dominance provided the morning’s entertainment. Kelly took the win, and cemented her sixteenth straight pipe victory, officially making her as dominant in halfpipe as Jamie Anderson is in slopestyle. Gretchen got second, and Yuki Furihata spun her way to third place to round out the podium. Oh yeah, and Kelly did a ten…again. She’s simply remarkable in the pipe.
After the women dropped, it was time for the men. The field was stacked with Manuel Pietropoli, Jan Scherrer, Tore Holvik, Hiroki Suwa, Christian Haller, Janne Korpi, Nathan Johnstone, fifteen year-old Tim-Kevin Ravnjak, Peetu Piiroinen (last year’s pipe winner), Shuhei Osanai, Stale Sandbech, Fredrik Austbo, Danny Davis, Ryo Aono, Iouri Podladtchikov, and Markus Malin. Now, there was so much shit that went down in the tube that this web post would be too long if I were to list the afternoon’s events in full, so I’ll stick with the highlights. The biggest surprise was Peetu Piiroinen getting last place. He won the year prior, but his first hit was giving him problems and he failed to put down a run that could put him on the podium. Something tells me that will change in Stratton. Tim-Kevin Ravnjak is fifteen and threw his minute weight around all day and kept up with the adults. The kid’s got a bright future in snowboarding. Mark my words. Danny Davis is still incredibly good, and his double corks look better than anyone else’s, which is why he got second place. Ipod is a remarkable athlete, and he showed it today by coming through when it counted and garnering his first win at the Euro Open. Ryo Aono goes bigger than the rest of his peers on flat spins, and he got third place. Nathan Johnstone is set to break the hell out of his Southern Hemisphere bubble and leave an impact on the snowboard worls. Between what I witnessed at the World Snowboard Championships and his performance today, he’s incredibly talented, and you’ll soon find that out. Markus Malin has been around for quite a while, and he rode very well today, though he didn’t make the podium. Tore Kolvik’s second hit double corks were among the biggest I saw all day, and love it or hate it, a huge double cork (when not forced) is one of the more impressive things one can see firsthand. Christian Haller has killer style. Stale Sandbech fell on his first two runs but put down his third one for a top ten finish. There was so much more that went down in the Laax pipe, but that’s what photos are for. Check out the gallery, and if you’re still yearning for more, go to redbull.tv to watch replays of the live webcast.
And don’t forget, the 30th Burton US Open goes live on Wednesday on redbull.tv at 11:30 EST, and all the daily coverage will be right here on snowboardermag.com.
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