The sport was growing in many directions. The US Open remained a focal point that the riders and the media could count on each year to showcase certain aspects of the progression. The third week in March is a time, deep in the season, where many riders are at their peak and have winning runs and their equipment dialed.
Not only was the entire North American riding community showing up – but a strong lineup of European and Scandinavian riders could be counted on to compete for the podiums as well. Tina Basich from Utah drops in and leads a USA sweep of the Women’s Pipe. Tina remains a large part of the snowboarding industry and her appearances at the Open helped send the message – Women can rip with style and have fun.
In the Men’s Halfpipe it was a battle of young legends in the making – all with dramatically different styles. Craig Kelly of Mt. Baker, WA had to fend off the fearless runs of Shaun Palmer from South Lake Tahoe, CA and the creative lines put together by Jeff Brushie of Hinesburg, VT. A small kid riding a Micro Air also turned up for his first go at the Stratton Pipe. He stitched together some fun runs with style and relative ease. But lack of amplitude and a low angle pipe worked against him that day on the judges score sheets. His name was Terje Haakonsen and 1990 was the last year anyone would say “Who’s that?” It would soon turn to “What was that?”
Stratton now prepares for the crowds each year with proper fencing along the halfpipe and includes a shelter at the base of the pipe for judges and staff in case of snow.
The Rider turnout grows in size once again. Craig Kelly turns up to go for a trio of consecutive pipe victories. Former Burton Teammate Jimi Scott would edge him out. Shaun Palmer would return to the podium with a high flying third. During the Women’s finals a young amateur, Janna Meyen from Big Bear, CA rocks the Open and beats out Tina Basich and Michele Taggart (OR). Chris Carol and East Dorset’s favorite daughter Betsy Shaw would bring the Slalom titles back to the States after Pietro Colturi ( ITA) and Ashild Loftus (NOR) captured the crowns in ’90.
The party is getting bigger right along with the pipe walls and backside airs. Many inverts were being ushered into pipe riding during this era. Judges had to keep up and often were questioned about their scoring. Nonetheless – the Open was now fully established as a contest you had to be at to see how you stacked up against your peers.
This is when style and power blended into a very memorable U.S. Open cocktail. Race records were smashed and the halfpipe was assaulted during every moment of daylight.
This is the year Terje would unleash his potential and make the world take notice. While Jeff Brushie dropped in on his Burton Pro Model and Todd Richards showed why training pays off – it was Terje who settled it all with his control and amplitude.
East coast ripper, St. Michael’s college alumnus, and Eastern Edge Savior, Tricia Byrnes would shock the “pros” as Janna Meyen had done a year earlier in the Women’s Pipe Finals. Tina Basich and Switzerland’s Nicole Angelrath would round out the victor’s circle. Ashild Loftus of Norway would crush in both the Super G and Slalom. Not conforming to the current equipment standards – Ashild raced in soft boots and a three-strap freeriding binding. Seems she could have ridden a park bench with swim fins on and won at the time. Untouchable.
It snowed hard the weeks before the ’93 Open. Then the sun came out. It was T-shirt weather by the time Saturday rolled around. Many unplanned sunburns were taken home as souvenirs this year. Keith Wallace dropped into the pipe wearing shorts and white kneepads and took second place in the pipe.
Terje unwrapped his first Burton Pro Model and schooled all on his way to defending his pipe title. The first Scandinavian Invasion was noticeable in ’93. Sebu and Alexsi from Finland mixed mind-numbing spins with silky smooth landings. Sebu stared at his 3rd place ‘Sheriff’s Badge” with a look of someone who had been given a key to the city. Shannon Dunn emerged as a smooth rider in big contests and denied Janna Meyen a return trip to the winner’s stand. The always classy Mark Fawcett of Canada would drink from the Winner’s Cup as he nabbed 1st in the men’s Super G and finish a close second in men’s slalom. “The best thing about the U.S. Open is that anyone from Terje Haakonsen to a 10 year old kid from New Jersey gets to ride and hang out with their friends in a rider controlled environment.” – Jake Burton Carpenter
Todd was stoked on Jurassic Park and this was the year that the Open was his jungle and he was T-Rex. Terje would sit out this year with an ankle injury – but Todd more than deserved top honors with his aggressive runs and visible confidence. Newcomers to the tour, Lael Gregory and VT’s Jason Evans came in second and third respectively. It was becoming clear that to get to the top you were going to have to have your best at the Open to even crack the top 10. With over 40 guys capable of assembling winning runs – you had to shake the crowd frenzy, the faceless judges hut, and take control of your own destiny.
Shannon Dunn would step back into regain her halfpipe title and prove she was the one to beat when it came down to the finals. Tina joined good friend Shannon during the victory celebration and Sandra Farmand from Germany would place 3rd.
“The U.S. Open is a tradition. It’s the contest that brings all our friends together for good times, and its one of the only events that embraces the essence of snowboarding.” – Shannon Dunn – U.S. Open Women’s Halfpipe Champion ’93, ’94
The big air hit is built very close to the bottom of Suntanner. Too close. The pitch is way too mellow and it becomes more of a “Clear the Gap” than a Big Air. It is fun for the riders and the crowd (see picture) is allowed to be up close. Too close. Canadian Kale Stephens spins off the jump and heads dead left into the crowd. He crashes in and miraculously no one gets injured. We work on all aspects of planning, fencing, and safety issues for hosting this discipline again in ’96.
In the women’s pipe finals it would be the first ever European/Scandinavian sweep. Satu Jarvela of Finland would ride to victory and stop Shannon’s streak of wins at two. Nicole Angelrath (SUI) and Jennie Warra (SWE) round out second and third.
Terje makes a triumphant return and win’s the men’s pipe for a record third time under sunny skies. Victoria Jealouse wins the women’s Super G and shortly after retires her Hardboots for the more comfortable fit of Freeriding on Powder in Canada and Tahoe.
“The U.S. Open embodies what this industry is all about; having fun in the process of kicking ass.” – Jake Burton Carpenter
“What becomes a legend most? Being there year after year, out in front, for one thing. Which is basically what makes the U.S. Open arguably the most significant snowboarding contest: period.” – Contests That Endure, by Doug Palladini – former Petersen Publisher, Snowboarder, October 1995
With the announcement that snowboarding would be added to the event line up for the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, the face of competitive snowboarding was changed forever. Having gained acceptance by the global sports community, there was no doubt that snowboarding had truly arrived. The ’96 U.S. Open was bigger than ever, with more spectators, media, and competitors on hand to take in all the action – both on and off the slopes. The Pharcyde rocked the house before the Big Air event, and kept the crowd jumping. Peter Line and Cara-Beth Burnside took home the Big Air crowns, with Jimi Scott and Satu Jarvela claiming first place honors in the Men’s and Women’s Halfpipe event. The infamous „Mushroom Hut“ judges hut at the bottom of the pipe came into it’s own this year as well. And each winner took home an authentic Vermont rock as a trophy.
“To hell with golf and tennis. The snowboarding OPEN is the OPEN, hands down. It’s the gold-plated Cadillac of snowboarding contests.” – Home For The Open, Transworld Snowboarding Magazine, November 1996
Saturday’s Halfpipe event drew a massive crowd of more than 10,000 spectators. Todd Richards narrowly edged out current Halfpipe World Champion Terje Haakonsen, while Barret Christy ruled the women’s pipe division, taking the top podium spot over Tricia Byrnes. Huge inverted tricks were the name of the game at the Big Air Finals, as Jason Borgstede threw down a gigantic backflip 180 to win it for the men, with Barret Christy taking home her second championship crown of the weekend by winning the Women’s Big Air event. Long-time pipe destroyer, Seth Neary, summed up what competing at the U.S. Open is truly all about when he said, „Hey, you win some, and lose some, and live to fight another day.“ The competition is always fierce at the Open, but at the end of the day, as Neary points out, it’s all about having a good time, and riding with your friends.
“The Open always has been and always will be the biggest contest in the world. Not because of the money but because of the prestige.” – Todd Richards – U.S. Open Men’s Halfpipe Champion ’94, ’97
An on-snow stage was a new addition to the U.S. Open this year, and Big Pun, Fat Joe and The Terror Squad sprayed their hip-hop lyrics at the welcoming crowd. The Big Air event saw New Hampshire’s Myles Hallen claim first for the men, with Tara Dakides soaring past the rest of the women’s field to take that title. All of the Big Air action was relayed to the amped up crowd via Mark Sullivan and Pat Bridges who gladly filled the position as color-commentators for the day. By the end of the Big Air event, numerous spectators were seen making good use of the big air landing as they slid to the bottom of the hill on their shirtless chests. The Halfpipe Finals saw blue bird skies, insane riding, and an amphitheater-like burm erected around the exterior of the pipe allowing the spectators to have a clear view of the action – there wasn’t a bad seat in the house. Vermont’s own, Ross Powers, stole both the show and the pipe title by throwing down huge McTwists and nine-hundreds. On the women’s side, Nicola Thost utilized her powerful riding style to earn the Women’s Halfpipe title for the second straight year. Stimilon International’s own,
Dave Olcott, summed it up best when he said, „The Open is the greatest event! It is truly the Super Bowl of snowboarding.“
Text and photos was taken from the Throwback Thursday – The US Open 1990-99. http://burton.kontain.com/burton/entries/72230/throwback-thursday—the-us-open-1990-99/