Words and photos | Rob Lemay @_lemay
Thank you snowboarding, more specifically thank you Jake Burton Carpenter. This past weekend Vail, Colorado hosted the 38th annual Burton US OPEN Snowboarding Championships. All of which would not have been possible without Jake's perseverance to give the world the gift of snowboarding. It was a week of competition, concerts, and giving thanks to Jake.
Jake Burton Carpenter passed away on November 20, 2019, and the snowboard community is still in mourning. Wherever you looked, you could see bright orange neon stickers that read "RIDE ON JAKE". Every day we heard stories honouring the man and it was impossible not to get caught up in the emotions. The event became a celebration of Jake's life and brought a close community even closer.
Early Friday morning a group 100+ strong rallied to Ride for Jake. Everyone met and uploaded to one of Jake's favourite runs on the mountain. Halfway up everyone was handed a small bottle of Underberg, a bitter liquor that Jake famously enjoyed before starting most of his days riding down a slope. You could overhear people saying how much he would have loved everyone drinking Underberg in his honour.
Terje Haakonsen gave a sort of eulogy and there wasn't a dry eye in the group. There were lots of hugs, and stories shared, but it wasn't long until boards were strapped and everyone ripped through the new and aptly named Jake's Stash, known as the Riva Glade.
The show must go on and did it ever. Although competitions are often plagued with intermittent weather, it couldn't have been any nicer. Following the run for Jake on Friday, the women's slopestyle finals began and saw the very best in female progression. Anna Gasser stomped her very first Double Crippler in competition, and Jamie Anderson taking yet again another top finish at the US OPEN lead the charge for female snowboarding.
The men's slopestyle finals was a heated ordeal. Red set his highest score on his very first run, and the rest of the pack had to play catch up. The big drama of the day came right at the end when young 17-year-old Dusty Henricksen put down his very first, and the US OPEN's first BS 1800 Quad Cork on his last run. He was mobbed by friends and fellow competitors at the bottom. His total run score etched out Red Gerad who finished in 3rd but was not enough to beat Yuki Kadono's score. You have to really look at the two runs to see that Yuki had done a BS 1260 on the first side hit compared to Dusty's 900, and other than that the degree of difficulty throughout both runs was very close. Internet comments are still rampant in favor of Dusty's Quad for the top spot, but the judges got it right. Have a look for yourself.
A staple in the US OPEN, the HALFPIPE has definitely grown over the years, but this year's pipe saw its biggest changes yet. The modified top section shook things up, and who doesn't like a little variety? Instead of only a perfectly manicured pipe with 22-foot walls, they added a top smaller section with matching tombstone extensions and side hits that fed into the traditional monster of a halfpipe. Spectators were treated to each competitor's own unique take on the new section. With noticeably declining numbers of halfpipes at resorts worldwide, this might be just what is needed. Maybe not every pipe can get a mini pipe introduction, but to cultivate more pipe riders it seems logical that we need to see smaller pipes at resorts, so riders can step up to the 22-foot monsters.
The Halfpipe Finals capped off an amazing week in snowboarding. Both the women and men pushed the progression to unimaginable heights. Stealing the show during the men's final was a record-setting pipe poach run from hundred of competitors and riders, where everyone rode the halfpipe at the same time in honour of Jake. It was a beautiful thing to witness and miraculously no one fell or collided. Everyone hung out at the bottom of the pipe and raised their boards in a symbiotic toast to the man that brought us all together.