By Steve Herrick
"Did you see that snowboarder?! He just got 3 meters out of the half pike!" As I rode up Okemo's South Ridge Quad with two guys with Scottish accents, the Sobe Superpipe was coming into closer view. From a distance, you could only see dark figures criss crossing the tranny, but as we got closer... "Holy Jesus! That skier just flipped!" Welcome to the East Coast Freeskiing Open.
As I skated over to the base of the superpipe, a cool breeze rushed down the flat bottom blowing ice crystals in a misty haze. From the crystals emerged a skier, hauling ass into the left wall, and throwing a huge lofty cork 9. While jaws dropped, the groms were going nuts. Oh shit! Is that Simon Dumont?! Yeeahh! The kid pops out of the pipe and heads over to the T-Bar for another lap. It turns out that the kid wasn't in fact The Dumizzle, but California native Brent Abrams. It's kids like Brent that made the East Coast Freeskiing Open so off the hook. Ever heard of Matt Philippi, Tim Maney, or JP Solberg? You better read up then, because you're going to be hearing these names more often in the future.
The quarterpipe competition was held under the lights Saturday evening. Crowds began to pack in around 4:30pm, and there was a buzz in the air about who would throw down the biggest air of the night. After a brief practice session, the competition began. The course was set up with the Truth (swingset) Rail at the top, followed by about 100 yards of in-run into a beefy 20-ft quarterpipe. Everybody was attacking the hit differently. Rafe Robinson was throwing Crichton-esque critical 3s and Sean Collins was going big with a cork 5. Scott Hibbert was boosting with alleyoop 9s while
Brent Abrams was going huge with his textbook cork 9. Andy Woods threw some smooth-as-silk unnatural 7 tail grabs which would later put him in 3rd place. The best of 3 run finals ended up being a heated match between
Dave Crichton and Matt Philippi. Hailing from CVA in Maine, Matt Philippi threw massive cork 9s and stomping the landings. Crichton was throwing clean switch 5s and 7s all night, but it wasn't until the finals that he tried to step it up with a switch 9 tail grab. After bailing on the first switch 9, and sketching out the landing on the second one, it was assumed that Philippi had the win. However, the judges awarded Crichton with
the better score for the second hit, so the two went to sudden death. Philippi threw a giant cork 9 and stomped the landing with authority. Crichton gambled and went for the switch 10 and bailed on the landing, giving the win to the inagural ECFSO Quarterpipe Event and three grand to Matt Philippi.
The next day during the superpipe competition, people were still buzzing about the previous night's upset. Could these up-and-comers top pros like Crichton, Woods, and Hibbert for the second day in a row? With a crowd gathered at the base of the Sobe Superpipe, competitors began to huck their meat into the cool Vermont air. All around competitors were throwing pretty solid tricks like cork 5s, cork 9s, flairs, and alley-oop 5s, but there were only a handful of skiers that could put it all together to make a solid run. Fifth place was taken by WVFT member JP Solberg, whos run consisted of a huge tail grab, cork 9, alley-oop, stylish cork 5, and finishing with an alley-oop cork 5. Andy Woods took fourth place with a huge flair, an unnatural 5, a cork 5 and an unnatural 7. Third place went to Brent Abrams, who had a couple big lofty airs, followed by a smooth cork 9, alley-oop 5, and a cork 7.
Matt Philippi took second with a solid flair, cork 9, and unnatural 5. Finally, Tim Maney. Nope, Ive never heard of him either, but this local boy's run was good enough to slot him first place in the superpipe. Tim arguably went the biggest out of all the competitors on Sunday, each air boosting higher than the last. While his first two airs were straight grabs, his third hit, an alley-oop 5 was a good 10 feet out of the pipe. Another straight air, and Maney finished his run with a fluid alley-oop inverted 5.
Not to be outdone, the women had their turn at the pipe before the men's finals. As the women's finals went down, it was clear that the girls had taken it to a new level. Okemo local Jennifer Hudak took second place with some stylish grabs and 540s, but it was Jamie Sundberg who took first, boosting throwing big airs and a big 5 to boot. Other notables include Olivia Agusti who although lacked amplitude and got a little sketchy, threw innovative flairs and a backflip to fakie, securing her a spot in third place.
The East Coast Freeskiing Open emitted an aura of deja-vu. A few years back some kid from Vermont by the name of Andy Woods won the big air with a 1260. Just this past year, TJ Schiller took the USFSO slopestyle. It seems these big competitions stink with the smell of young blood. I was lucky enough to get to talk with some of the key players in the ECFSO. "The East coast doesnt always get the exposure that it should...but events like this show that we have the parks, and we have the talent," said David Crichton.
When asked about these new kids on the block, USFSO and Freeze Magazine founder Mike Jacquet put it best: "As long as you have skills, it doesn't matter who you are, where you're from, what you look like, you can make it. There were a lot of kids showing up throughout the weekend trying to see how they stack up with the freeskiing competition scene." Mark "The Jerk" Epstein added, "Its also a good opportunity for the guys from the magazine to come out and scout new talent. As events like the ECFSO and VTOpen bring more attention to the East Coast scene, more of the unknown talent on the East will gain exposure as a lot of the athletes that competed this weekend had done."
Matt Philippi said, "I think it's huge. It's good to have big names coming through and money coming through. This will not only help events sprout up in the East, but kids who competed and did well here will know that they can go out West and compete against the bigger guys."
Props to all the athletes that made this event possible, to all the fans that came out, and to Freeze Magazine for putting together this wicked pissah event. Coverage of the ECFSO will air on Fox Sports Net Wednesday, April 7th at 4:30 p.m. EST. Check it out.
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Video by Steve Herrick. If you want to complain about the quality, talk to Fox Sports Net- they bribed us so that everyone will watch their telecast instead.