By Aaron Bible
Competitive Freeskiing and Snowboarding only continue to get bigger and more spectator-friendly. Copper Mountain, Colorado, may be known for its downhill ski racing (and was recently named the new official home to Olympic training hopefuls from around the world), as well as its family friendly base area and great all-around terrain and snow maintenance, but it is now known also for its giant competition Superpipe.
In the first competitive halfpipe event of the 2011-12 season, the Sprint U.S. Grand Prix launched its 16th annual event last week in what is now one of the longest running tours in action sports. From December 7 to 10 hundreds of athletes and fans converged on the 2,450-acre ski resort of Copper Mountain to showcase incredible talent and competition. The weekend also featured a street style rail jam, the Paul Mitchel Progression Session, embodying the new urban movement in snow sports; the North Face Junior Jam; and a packed Saturday night concert featuring 90s legend Digital Underground.
Copper’s Superpipe is located directly in front of the Center Village base area and Burning Stones Plaza, giving perfect access to fans and competitors alike. The roster of competitors read like the who’s who of freestyle skiing and snowboarding. And because the pipe was open weeks before the competition, many teams arrived early to train and entertain the crowds.
According to Copper Mountain’s Katherine Bush, “Because it is such a high caliber event, it gathers some of the world’s top athletes and future Olympic hopefuls. Even during non-Olympic years, the U.S. Sprint Grand Prix remains a top sanctioned event—the FIS recently gave the event World Cup status.”
Top finishers in Men’s Snowboard Halfpipe were: Luke Mitrani (USA), Louie Vito (USA), and Gregory Bretz (USA). Top three finishers for the ladies in Snowboard Halfpipe were: Kelly Clark (USA), Maddy Schaffrick (USA), and Quera Castellet (SPA).
“For spectators, the best thing about having the Sprint U.S. Grand Prix at Copper is the accessibility for guests to watch the action easily from Center Village,” continues Bush. “Both the Superpipe and Woodward’s Bouncer Terrain Park, which hosted the Paul Mitchell Progression Session, are just steps from the base area.”