Events draw huge crowds, top athletes
They came, we saw, they conquered.
Some of the top snowboarders in the country and the world converged in Whistler for two days of mayhem last weekend in the second annual Ripzone Snowboard Invitational.
With more than $65,000 in prize money up for grabs, and a long summer season to heal ahead of them, nobody held back. The fans and there probably more than 10,000 of them at the big air and close to a thousand for the superpipe also helped to get things going.
Ripzone Big Air
The tension in the air was as palpable as the rain, which thankfully held off until the event was wrapped up the in-ramp to the jump were already too short and slow, even after being salted.
Twenty-one jumpers, a veritable whos who of professional snowboarding faced off with a pair of jumps in the opening round, which was followed by a head-to-head finals featuring the top four jumpers.
The conditions clearly played a factor. As the riders struggled to gain speed in the training runs, they built a steeper ramp for the riders. When that wasnt high enough, the event organizers put the scaffolding up a notch, which meant that the riders had to drop about 50 centimetres onto the steep ramp.
It almost wasnt enough. Some of the riders who would usually be good for two or more rotations over the 15-metre table top had trouble getting around twice.
And because riders often had to physically huck themselves off the lip of the jump, a few riders went slightly off course into the fencing, while others under-rotated their landings.
Still, the riders gave it all they had, and the afternoons entertainment was nothing short of awesome.
Marc-Andre Tartre, a Quebec rider who divides his winters between Whistler and Europe, looked like the man to beat earlier on in the qualifier with his huge 900 spins.
It would have been enough to take first place after the qualifier, if not for the high-flying antics of Ontarios Miki Osachuk, who threw down a switch inverted 540 and a frontside 720 to take the lead.
Behind Tartre was Josh Feliciano, or Fletch, of Tahoe City, Nevada, who threw down a huge rodeo 900 to rank third heading into the final. Whistlers Travis Williams edged out Henki Oedegaard of Finland with a backside 720 stalefish to finish fourth and qualify for the finals.
Mike Page and Daniel Migneault, who were first and second last year, had to watch from the sidelines. Page landed a smooth frontside 720 and finished eighth, and Migneault had problems with both of his landings to finish near the bottom.