Massive air out of the pipe for gold-medal winner Danny Kass

The U.S. Open of Snowboarding at Stratton Mountain, VT, wrapped-up last weekend, March 22, with more than 15,000 fans in attendance to see what’s become the most prestigious snowboarding event in the United States. In many ways, who wins here is a precursor of who to expect on the Olympic podium if it’s the following year. In less than 12 months on the slopes of Whistler, B.C., snowboarding is sure to be the most talked-about winter Olympic sport once again. What was missing this time was Shaun White in the finals. He pulled out for a bad ankle, and of course we’re all hoping he’s back in top form for the next season.

Usually the most popular event at the U.S. Open (and other snowboarding events) is the halfpipe and this time, Danny Kass, former Olympic silver medalist and owner of Grenade Gloves and now a streetwear line, won his 5th gold medal. In the women’s division, it was a tight race between former Olympic gold medalist Kelly Clark and Torah Bright, but Torah pulled it off in the end.

The U.S. Open also represents the biggest single payout of the sport with the overall Burton U.S. Open Champs (both men and women) taking home $100,000 each. When it comes to action sports, snowboarding, it should be pointed out, is the only sport where women can take home as much as men in winnings. Sponsors of the U.S. Open, like the Triple Crown of Surfing on the North Shore, often represent brands that most associate with the sport or fans of snowboarding. They included of course Burton, the founders of the event, plus Stratton Mountain Resort, SWATCH TTR, Volvo, Amp Energy, Paul Mitchell, Nature Valley, Shiseido, Emergen-C, SteelSeries, Corona, and other Burton brands including R.E.D., ANON, Analog and Gravis. Live coverage online was provided by

Here are more highlights from the event.

No strangers to the top spot on the US Open halfpipe podium, Danny Kass took home his record-setting fifth US Open halfpipe title and Torah Bright earned her third US Open halfpipe title. Bright earned a bonus $3,000 and the Amp Energy Best Trick award for her stylish switch backside 720 while Luke Mitrani claimed his second Amp Energy Best Trick award with a crowd-pleasing switch double back flip.

The women dropped in first, and Kelly Clark took the top spot early on in the competition with a frontside air, backside 540 mute grab, frontside 720 indy, Cab 720 ending with a frontside 540 earning an impressive 93 points. It wasn’t until the third and final runs that Kelly lost her hold on first place. Torah Bright’s final run stole the show when she dropped in switch, starting off with Cab 720 indy, followed by a crippler, backside 360 indy, switch backside 720 ending with a backside 540. Kelly had one more chance to top Torah’s amazing 96 points, but she fell on her last run.
Torah’s run earned her a coveted spot in the US Open history books, tying Kelly for the most US Open women’s halfpipe titles.

“I feel great,” said Torah. “I didn’t realize that I tied with Kelly for the most wins. It feels really good, especially because the US Open is such a special event.”

In the men’s finals, Luke Mitrani was the star of the first runs with his signature switch double back flip. Last year’s Burton Global Open Series champion Peetu Piiroinen’s second run earned him first place for a little while and included a frontside 720, Cab 1080, alley-oop backside rodeo, frontside alley-oop, a frontside 540 ending with a backside 720. But it was the third run when the podium order changed after snowboarding superstar Danny Kass took the first place title with a winning run that included a frontside 1080, Cab 1080, frontside 900, backside 720, ending with a switch alley-oop 540.

Danny had this to say about his record-breaking fifth US Open halfpipe title, “I feel amazing, I am beyond stoked that this is my fifth win,” said Danny Kass. “It feels great to come out again and put together some runs. I was feeling it today for sure.”

As if the action in the US Open halfpipe wasn’t enough, Santigold, whose album ‘Santogold’ landed at number six on Rolling Stone’s top albums of 2008, took to the stage for a free concert following the awards ceremony.

Peetu Piirionen and Shaun White were neck and neck in the Swatch TTR World Tour Champion title race, but with Peetu placing second today in halfpipe he has clinched the 2008/2009 TTR World Champion title. The TTR World Tour award ceremony will happen tomorrow following slopestyle finals where Peetu will be presented with the TTR World Tour Champion trophy and a total of $110,000 will be paid out to the TTR Top 5.

Men%uFFFDs Slopestyle Winners

And then on the Last Day of the U.S. Open:

Chas Guldemond (USA) and Kjersti Oestgaard Buaas (NOR) won slopestyle finals and $20,000 each. Chas Guldemond and Jamie Anderson (USA) are the new Burton Global Open Series Champions, each taking home $100,000. Scotty Lago (USA) and Kjersti Buaas will be driving new Volvo XC60s after winning the Volvo Most Valuable Rider Awards. And last but not least, Peetu Piiroinen (FIN) was crowned the new Men’s Swatch TTR World Tour Champion, claiming $50,000 for his amazing efforts throughout the 2008/2009 TTR season.

Chas rode home with $145,000 today, he had this to say of his win, “I really wanted to do good on the Global Open Series, but I never planned on this. I really appreciate the people above that took care of me, and everyone along the way. This is such a great day.”

At the beginning of slopestyle finals, the variable weather conditions constantly switched between sun, clouds, snow and wind. The women got caught in a snow squall during their first runs, but after about 20 minutes, the clouds magically parted and the sun came out. After a sticky snowfall, riders struggled to make it through the course. Jenny Jones put together a solid run, holding on to first place for a while. But it was Kjersti Buaas who took the top spot on the US Open podium for the second time this weekend with a run that included a nosepress on the box, 50/50 to frontside 180, Cab 540 indy, backside 360 indy, frontside 360 stalefish ending with a frontside 720 mute. Kjersti had a very successful weekend at the US Open, earning $13,000 for a win and Amp Best Trick in the quarterpipe competition, $2,000 in the halfpipe competition, $20,000 for winning slopestyle and scoring keys to her second Volvo XC60 of the year after winning the Volvo Most Valuable Rider award at both the Burton European Open and the US Open. Chanelle Sladics earned third place and the Emergen-C Best Trick award for her front boardslide 270 out on the down rail.

“Being the best overall rider meant a lot to me because I strive to be good in the pipe and slope,” said Kjersti. “I was trying all season to be good in both disciplines, it makes me so excited. Now people can’t just define me as a pipe rider, and that means the most to me.”

In the men’s finals, the slow course didn’t bother Chas Guldemond, who dropped in knowing that he had the $100,000 BGOS title in the bag. While the other riders struggled to gain enough speed to make it through the entire course, Chas won the competition with his first run. His winning run included a frontside boardslide 270 out to a 50-50 backside 180 followed by a switch backside 900, backside 1260, Cab 900 ending with a backside rodeo on the jumps. Sebastien Toutant (CAN) put together a solid run earning second place. And Scotty Lago, who won the US Open quarterpipe competition, earned third place and clinched the keys to a new Volvo XC60. Peetu Piiroinen earned the Emergen-C Best Trick award for his backside rodeo 720. Chas had the biggest payday of any US Open competitor this weekend, earning $100,000 for the BGOS title, $20,000 for the slopestyle title and $25,000 for earning the Swatch TTR World No. 2 position.
Scotty Lago was at a loss for words when he learned of winning his Volvo, “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling. I am so pumped being the best overall rider at a contest with so much history. Today is my best day I’ve ever had in snowboarding for sure.”