With the hot holiday weather this weekend, snowboarding may be the last thing on your mind. But for future Olympians, dreams will be made and broken during the 2010 U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix so it was a big deal when U.S. Snowboarding announced the three stops the tour will make in its 14th season.
A total of five Olympic qualification competitions will take place at Copper Mountain in Colorado’s Summit County and Mammoth Mountain in the Mammoth Lakes region of California. The tour will make its final stop at Park City Mountain Resort, the venue for the 2002 Olympics, to announce the 2010 Olympic halfpipe team.
The Grand Prix series, which will feature 22-foot halfpipes at each of its venues, will narrow down the competition for Olympic spots through its first two tour stops and solidify the 2010 team at the final event in Park City.
“Copper, Mammoth and Park City are all classic Grand Prix sites and will provide a most fitting stage on which to name the Olympic halfpipe team for 2010,” said Grand Prix Tour Director Eric Webster. “Copper, Mammoth and Park City all have a proven track record in hosting world class snowboard events, which lends confidence to the riders and coaches in a season with so much on the line.”
The competition will heat up as Olympic gold medalists Kelly Clark (Snow Mountain, VT), Hannah Teter (Belmont, VT), and Shaun White (Carlsbad, CA), along with fellow Olympic medalists Gretchen Bleiler (Aspen, CO), JJ Thomas (Golden, CO) and Danny Kass (Portland, OR) all look for another shot at Olympic glory. Joining them in the hunt will be Grand Prix overall champions Steve Fisher (Breckenridge, CO) and Louie Vito (Sandy, UT) as well as Grand Prix podium performers Ellery Hollingsworth (Stratton, VT), Clair Bidez (Minturn, CO) Greg Bretz (Mammoth Lakes, CA) and Olympian Elena Hight (South Lake Tahoe, CA).
Copper Gets Things Started
For the second straight year Copper Mountain, which is known as one of the top resorts for snowboarding in the U.S., will play host to the first stop of the Grand Prix Dec. 11-12. Copper, which is at the epicenter of snowboarding development with variable terrain and more than 19,000 sq ft of park and pipe progression tools in the new Woodward at Copper Barn, has a longstanding history with the Grand Prix tour, having hosted events in 1998 and 1999.
“I’m really excited to have the Grand Prix at Copper once again because I personally love having my family and friends close, as well as having the support of my home mountain,” Copper local Clair Bidez said. “I know that Copper is really going to put their all into making the Grand Prix a great event.”
Copper Mountain, which lies a convenient 75 miles from the Denver area, is known for traditionally having the first superpipe open in the U.S. and continually providing the best conditions for riders to compete in. Another great feature of Copper’s superpipe is the location – it will provide a very entertaining and intimate experience for spectators because it is located just steps away from the Village at Copper and Burning Stones Plaza.
Look for the action in Copper to continue when the sun goes down as the mountain hosts a Paul Mitchell Progression Session under the lights.
“Copper delivered an outstanding Grand Prix for us last year with an amazing pipe. It brings an incredible snowmaking capacity, and an ability and commitment to build an early season pipe,” said USSA Vice President of Events Calum Clark. “This year Copper has committed to having a 22-foot pipe, which pushes the envelope even further. We will have an Olympic quality pipe ready for competition in early December.”
Mammoth Mountain Returns to Grand Prix
The hosting the first Olympic snowboard team announcement in 1998, Mammoth Mountain is back on the Grand Prix tour as the second of three stops and will host two full-field halfpipe competitions Jan. 8-10.
“Mammoth has been a tremendous partner of ours for years. It has been a hotbed for growing a tremendous amount of talent out of their parks and pipes,” Clark said. To be going back to a longstanding partner, someone who’s really grown with the snowboard industry as it has expanded in the U.S., it’s fitting and exciting.”
In addition to hosting the halfpipe competitions, Mammoth will also hold a slopestyle event where athletes have the chance to show off their style on the kickers and course features.
“Mammoth is a great place to hold the Grand Prix. The park staff and night crew will make the terrain perfect for competition,” Mammoth rider Greg Bretz (Mammoth Lakes, CA) said.”I think a lot of people will come up to watch the competition and the local crowd at Mammoth will make the event super exciting. It’s a great place to go for Olympic qualifications.”
Known for being the only resort in North America to offer three different-sized halfpipes, Mammoth’s 22-foot super pipe will give athletes their last two competitions in which they can qualify for a spot in the reduced field at the final tour stop where the Olympic team will be named.
“It is so exciting to be a part of this history making Grand Prix series,” Mammoth Mountain Youth Action Sports Marketing Director Oren Tanzer said. “I can’t wait to see the progression of snowboarding and to be a part of naming the U.S. Team for the upcoming Olympics. It doesn’t get any better than this!”
Park City’s Olympic Pipe Rides Again
The historic pipe where U.S. athletes swept the men’s podium and won gold in the women’s event during the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002 will entertain the masses with Olympians again. The Grand Prix makes its final stop at Park City Mountain Resort for back to back night competitions, after which the winners will be crowned and the 2010 Olympic halfpipe team will be named.
Among the athletes stoked to hit the Park City pipe is White who, after having dinner with PCMR owner John Cummings, took to his Twitter page to spread the good news.
“Had dinner with John Cummings,” White wrote. “Super nice guy, he told me Park City is having Olympic qualis mid Jan! booyeah!”
A reduced field comprised of the highest scoring athletes from previous tour stops will throw down the best tricks in their bag in an attempt to be one of the few named to the Olympic halfpipe team when the event is over.
“It’s the perfect place to close the story of the Olympic team selection,” Clark said. “The pipe has the tradition of being one of the best in North America. They put a tremendous amount of pride and energy into their venue. They are very excited to have this here.”
In addition to hosting the Olympic halfpipe competition in 2002, Park City also held a Grand Prix the following December in which the Olympic medalists all returned for competition in their glory stomping ground.
2010 U.S. SNOWBOARDING GRAND PRIX SCHEDULE:
- Dec. 11-12, 2009, Copper Mountain
- Jan. 6-10, 2010, Mammoth Mountain
- Jan. 22-23, 2010, Park City Mountain Resort