The Burton US Open brought the best of the best to Vail for the 33rd annual contest.
Under bright blue Colorado skies and a fresh dusting of snow from the week prior, the oldest, and arguably most nostalgic, contest in snowboarding could not have had better timing. The Burton US Open moved from its original home in Stratton, Vermont to Vail, Colorado three years ago. "It was a little nerve-racking coming into that first year because we didn't really know how it was going to be received. It had such a rich history and heritage of being in Vermont. But Vail always felt like a second home to us, and they really wanted us," says Burton President and co-founder, Donna Carpenter. "I remember the first year people coming up to Jake and me in the middle of the street saying, 'Thank you so much for coming!' It was so nice to feel welcomed. Now, in our third year here Vail has just got it dialed! They're all so positive about it. From the restaurant owners to the bars, to the hotel owners; from operations to marketing…it seems like everyone is really pleased with this."
"They're allowing us to showcase our sport, lifestyle, and community in a way I don't think we've been able to do before," says Donna Carpenter.
Vail agrees. "The event brings tremendous energy to our community," says Town of Vail Mayor Andy Daly. "It’s an incredible partnership and we’re looking forward to building upon this year’s success in 2016."
The logistic and operational planning for the US Open starts exactly one year before the event. "During the spring our team and the team at Burton work together to develop the vision for the next year and by mid-summer we have new layouts, new ideas and tweaks to existing components both on paper and in motion," explains Vail’s Senior Manager of Mountain Operations, Bryan Rooney. "Once the snow begins falling on the venues at Golden Peak, preparation for the venue build begins with snowmaking and cat work. Together with SPT (Snow Park Technologies), we begin venue construction. The halfpipe construction begins in late December and the slopestyle venue is built prior to the event, in late February.”
“The two weeks leading up to the Burton US Open are crunch time and that is when we receive outside assistance from SPT and cat manufacturers like Prinoth and Pisten Bully,” adds Bryan Rooney of Vail Resorts.
A giant Pacifico bottle standing tall at the bottom of Gold Peak acted as the landmark for the week's festivities. Just below were the 15 participating sponsors nestled into the sponsor village, making for a good place for on-lookers to grab some swag and intermingle with the core and non-endemics. "It's not arbitrary for these non-endemic sponsors to be a part of the US Open. It's got to make sense for them to be here," explains Carpenter. "But it really made sense for companies like Paul Mitchel, Pacifico, Garmin, Mountain Dew, MINI, Shishedo, and Clif Bar to be a part of this with us. I think with the Open, we've found a way that really gives these non-endemic sponsors a true return on their investment. It's hard when you go into sponsor something, you sometimes don't know what you'll get back as a brand. But with this event, I think it's been good for everyone. Just to use an example, Shishedo has this amazing sun tanning product that a lot of snowboarders and surfers already use, so for them to be able to get exposure on a bigger demographic is great for them, and great for us. The sponsor village is really next level. I'm really impressed."
The brands were encouraged to have an interactive element to their booth. With a Burton US Open passport picked up at the Burton tent upon entry to the sponsor village, fans then had the chance to have their passport stamped at each tent as they engaged with the brands. Mountain Dew's activation was a virtual reality experience that took you on a heli-mission in the backcountry as you snowboarded alongside Danny Davis and Jack Mitrani. B4BC educated villagers on what a cancerous lump may feel like, spotlighting the importance of breast cancer awareness, while MINI Cooper showcased their 4-wheel drive Countryman and new MINI hardtop four-door vehicles. Many of the sponsor activations were seamlessly a good fit for the industry's oldest snowboarding contest.
In addition to consumer-facing marketing, Clif Bar and MINI were among sponsors who also had a piece of the action when it came to the athletes and competition features. According to MINI's Marketing Manager, Lee Nadler, the MINI Feature Award was a part of their activation with the US and European Burton Opens. The Feature Award placed the US and European shape crews from the Burton Opens against each other for a $5,000 USD grand prize, honoring the most innovative and unique slopestyle feature on the course using MINI as the creative inspiration. Clif Bar has two athlete-focused awards at the Open, bestowing $2500 to both a female and male rider for the Raising the Bar Award and the Best Old School Trick Award.
"We are really trying to support the riders and the culture here at the US Open. One of the reasons we love this event is because it has equal pay, equal purse prize, for both men and women," explains Joey Steger, Director of Field Marketing at Clif Bar. "That's really important to us here at Clif Bar. So we give equal pay on our awards too."
USD $343,000 was awarded in total prize purse, giving $45,000 to the first-place men and women contenders for both slope and pipe.
THE COMPETITION | THE ATHLETE PERSPECTIVE
Progression was the one, consistent mantra that blanketed the competition. 87 athletes were invited to compete in the 33rd annual Burton US Open. The Japanese men swept the podiums for both halfpipe and slopestyle with Yuki Kadono throwing the first ever back-to-back triple corks on the slopestyle course, getting him at the top of the podium; Taku Hiraoka and Ayumu Hirano got first and third for men's pipe. Kelly Clark, the most winningest women's pipe rider, humbly accepted her first place finish, acknowledging the progression of her fellow competitors. "Today I saw these girls doing 10s, and I was like, yes, that's what I was waiting for! It's about the progression of women's snowboarding. I was proud and I was excited, I was also pretty overwhelmed getting to stand on the podium for the eighth time at the Open—it's a big deal for me. I'm so grateful to still be a part of snowboarding and I know women's snowboarding will be in good hands whenever these girls take over."
But after all is said and done, the hype of competing in snowboarding's most proud contest is a privilege in itself.
“I've idolized the US Open ever since I was little, so being a winner here is really special," says Hiaoka, "and being a winner makes me so happy."
Arthur Long explains, "It's pretty old. The contest is a 33-year-old tradition and is really big in snowboarding, so it's a really good feeling to be here at the US Open."
MORE COOL POINTS
The week was a buzz with more than the contest and sponsor village activation.
- Burton Chill held a silent auction fundraiser at the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum, raising over $6000 on Wednesday evening to support the non-profit. “We look forward to this event every year,” said Jeff Morton, Marketing Manager at the Chill Foundation. “It gives us a great opportunity to reconnect with our supporters out at the Burton US Open and to share the amazing stories of the impact Chill has had on about 20,000 youth across North America. We are extremely grateful for the tremendous support we have received from individuals and businesses while we have been out here. Without their generosity, we would not be able to take one youth from each of our sites to the Burton US Open each year.”
- Burton Girls also had a strong presence, hosting a Burton Girls ride day on Saturday. Girls were able to demo boards and bindings before taking laps with Donna Carpenter and the Burton Girls crew.
- Burton's Riglet Reel program was also in full swing throughout the week, offering free demo boots, boards, and bindings to the little guys wanting to try out standing sideways. The Burton crew had certified instructors on the hill teaching the kids.
For MEN and WOMEN contest results in pipe and slopestyle, jump to PAGE 2
2015 Burton US Open Men's Halfpipe Results
Arthur Long’s second place run
1. Taku Hiraoka, 90.99
2. Arthur Longo, 84.99
3. Ayumu Hirano, 84.75
4. Jan Scherrer, 78.62
5. Iouri Podladtchikov, 73.25
6. Christian Haller, 67.87
7. Danny Davis, 62.12
8.Taylor Gold, 61.12
9. Ben Ferguson, 49.12
10. David Habluetzel, 24.87
2015 Burton US Open Women's Halfpipe Results
1. Kelly Clark, 91.00
2. Chloe Kim, 88.74
3. Arielle Gold, 83.87
4. Xuetong Cai, 71.00
5. Hikaru Oe, 62.62
6. Queralt Castellet, 52.50
2015 Burton US Open Men's Slopestyle Finals Results
Yuki Kadono’s winning run
1. Yuki Kadono, 90.05
2. Mark McMorris, 87.80
3. Tyler Nicholson, 77.20
4. Sven Thorgren, 76.80
5. Niklas Mattsson, 75.30
6. Eric Beauchemin, 71.70
7. Torstein Horgmo, 68.10
8. Mons Roisland, 63.60
9. Stale Sandbech, 59.20
10. Seppe Smits, 36.75
2015 Burton US Open Women's Slopestyle Finals Results
Jamie Anderson’s winning run
1. Jamie Anderson, 90.95
2. Anna Gasser, 82.55
3. Spencer O'Brien, 82.05
4. Enni Rukajärvi, 80.85
5. Cheryl Maas, 71.60
6. Sina Candrian, 66.50