Canadian snowboarders descend on Vail for prestigious Burton U.S. Open
Defending champ Mark McMorris, Olympic gold medallist Sébastien Toutant in star-studded field
The world's top snowboarders descend on Vail, Colo., this week for the Burton U.S. Open.
In its 36th year, the longest-running event in snowboarding has earned the reputation as the most coveted title in the sport.
The field in the slopestyle event includes Canadian heavyweights Mark McMorris, Max Parrot, Tyler Nicholson, Darcy Sharpe, and Sébastien Toutant.
Parrot of Bromont Que., and Regina's McMorris — the defending men's champion at Burton — captured slopestyle silver and bronze, respectively, in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February to begin Canada's medal haul at the Winter Games.
Toutant struggled in the slopestyle event , but redeemed himself with the tricks needed to reach the top of podium in the Olympic debut of big air.
On the women's side, Olympic silver medallist Laurie Blouin of Stoneham , Que., is part of a star-studded group along with Pyeongchang teammates Spencer O'Brien and Brooke Voigt.
American riders in spotlight
The spotlight will shine brightly on a handful of American riders who experienced great success in Pyeongchang.
Seventeen-year-old Redmond Gerard soared to Olympic gold in slopestyle, while Jamie Anderson left Pyeongchang with two medals — slopestyle gold and a silver in big air.
Anderson is a five-time U.S. Open champion, however this year's women's slopestyle title will be defended by Anna Gasser of Austria, who struck gold in big air at the Olympics.
Name brings 'legitimacy' to event
While the U.S. Open moniker is typically associated with golf and tennis, Ian Warda, senior director of partnerships and events for Burton, says the label brings deserved credibility to the event.
"The name only gives us further legitimacy since so many mainstream sports fans can relate to what that means in sports like golf and tennis," Warda said via email.
Although it may be easy to picture the event attended by a horde of college students on spring break, Warda noted the snowboarding spectacle draws a diverse crowd.
"Sure, with dates in early March, there are plenty of college kids who choose our event for their spring break plans, but we have something for everyone at the U.S. Open, and you'll see fans young and old here," he said.
"It's a very family friendly atmosphere, with programming that appeals to newcomers to the sport, experienced riders, young kids, adults, and even skiers."
The timing of the U.S. Open couldn't be better as the recent success by American riders has brought a wave of mainstream attention to snowboarding.
"The Olympics certainly helped raise awareness for snowboarding athletes, and riders like Chloe Kim and Red Gerard are the future stars of our sport. I think we're in pretty good hands with that level of talent carrying the torch for us as more people become attracted to snowboarding," said Warda.
The men's and women's slopestyle semifinals will be held on Wednesday, with the finals scheduled for Friday. Halpepipe semis and finals go Thursday and Saturday, respectively.