Riders travelled around the world to compete in Whistler at the Ripzone Snowboard Invitational, but as always a strong crew of local riders stepped up to the challenge, keeping a good chunk of $59,000 in prize money at home.
For many fans the Ripzone gave Whistler its first look at future stars like 17-year-old Hannah Teter, who can spin 720s out of the halfpipe at will, and 15-year old Mike Gotuaco, who qualified for the mens Superpipe finals with his aggressive spins and grabs. Whistlerites also got to see some young homegrown talent, Mikey Rencz and Tyler Massey, hold their own against some of the top jumpers in the world in the Ripzone big air competition.
Crowds came out in droves to support the riders, with an estimated 12,000 people taking to the village for the Ripzone big Air, and more than a thousand fans lining the walls of the Superpipe.
Ripzone Big Air
After so many years anchoring the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival, the Ripzone Big Air event ran like clockwork. The athletes got two jumps, then a band took to the stage. The six athletes who qualified for the finals got two more jumps, then a dance group took to the stage. The three athletes that qualified for the super-final made one jump each, a champion was named, and yet another band took to the stage.
As always there were a few sideshows to check out, like a skier who poached the big air run and crashed on the transition, an impromptu fireworks display outside the gondola station, and the antics of the athletes themselves.
When all was said and done the $10,000 first prize just had to go to Norways Roger Hjelmstadstuen, who landed a near-perfect cab 900 spin about halfway down the transition.
"It was a good jump," said a happy Hjelmstadstuen after receiving his big cheque and golden cowboy boot. "I didnt know if it was going to be big enough to win. Two years ago I got second with a 1080. I guess it all depends on the jump and a lot of little details its hard to see for most people, but the judges know what to look for. Every time is different."
Hjelmstadstuen said he didnt have any plans for the cash because he wasnt expecting to win, "but Ill probably find something to do with it."
Second place went to Whistlers Mike Page, the 2002 Ripzone champion. He had a disappointing run last year that left him in eighth, and said he was happy to be back on the podium.