Words & photos by John Vandervalk (http://www.majestyphoto.com)
The semi-finals and finals of the 12th annual US Freeskiing Open at Copper Mountain, Colorado went down today, and conditions couldn't have been more perfect. Unlike yesterday there was no snow, wind or fog to speak of as the sun shone bright all day.
Justin Dorey was a definite favorite to win from the beginning of the competition however he got banged up a bit in practice and was a little too sore to keep throwing down (...or so we thought), so he took only one run in the semis and qualified sixth.
Mike Riddle came out throwing down and going huge despite being extremely sick. The Riddler easily qualified in fourth and as always looked like a favorite for the podium.
Matt Philippi skied better today than I have ever seen him ski and looked to be on a quest to win. He qualified first overall spinning easily and with more amplitude than many of the competitors. Matt Duhamel, David Wise and Taylor Seaton were all going big as well and really tweaking their grabs, helping them all qualify easily and look podium worthy in their own right.
Also making it through to finals was Tyler Peterson, who picked up right where he left off after the last Dew Tour stop and skied exceptionally well, and Pistol Pete Olenick, who appeared to be on a mission all day by looking as comfortable as ever in the pipe on top of going absolutely huge.
After the men's semi-finals it was the ladies' turn. Prior to the men they had their semi-final heat which saw the top nine making it to best of three run finals.
Jess Cumming skied great all day and looked more and more comfortable as the finals went on. Her run of 5, to alley-oop, to 5 mute, to straight mute, to a cork 7 looked especially dialed on on her third and final run, helping her secure a third place finish.
Anais Caradeux, fresh off her Aspen Open victory, had another good showing today by placing second after throwing a cork 5 mute, to alley-oop, to 5, to alley-oop 5, capped off by a cork 7 at the bottom.
But it was Jen Hudak who was the clear winner today, getting the most amplitude and sticking her second run which ultimately proved to be the one that would land her on top of the podium. She started off with a 5 mute, to straight saftey, to a 5 japan, to an alley-oop 5, to a stomped cork 7 safety.
Once men's finals began the crowd cheered eagerly as the riders stepped up their game even more. We all got to witness a piece of history as Justin Dorey skied like he was possessed and soared like a bird in a migration pattern. J-Bone received perhaps the second highest score in the history of pipe skiing (95.40) by spinning almost 20 feet out and stomping his double along with everything else. Everyone thought his first run couldn't be topped...but they were wrong!
Mike Riddle then stepped up to the plate and went huge while floating his spins and tweaking his double grab on the bottom like we have all come to expect and enjoy. His run put him firmly in second place until Matt Philippi overtook him with a flawlessly technical run lead off by a huge switch down the pipe 10, to right 9, to left 10, to switch alley oop 7, to a 1260 on the bottom hit!
Then the man himself, Justin Dorey, dropped in and proceeded to go bigger than a video game, with a double on the first hit, to right 9, to left 9, to flat 3, to a huge switch 10, all while spinning 20 feet out on at least three of hits and breaking his previous score with a 96.60! The ooh's and ahh's from the crowd became louder and louder as the hearts of the competitors sank. How can you follow that up?
It then became a dog fight for the last two spots. Taylor Seaton almost bumped Mike Riddle off the podium with a super tweaked run that included a switch 7, to right 5, to left 9, to right 9, to alley right 5, which was a feat unto itself considering he had hurt his heel on the first run and could hardly walk.
Riddle then secured his third place finish by going even bigger on his last run with a massive left 5, to right 5, to left 9, to alley-oop flat 3 with a bow and arrow grab, to a switch 9...all with huge amplitude. However in the end it wasn't enough to knock Philippi off the second place spot, who wasn't able to better his second run but was thrilled to be on the podium.
That's all from the 12th annual US Freeskiing Open at Copper Mountain, Colorado. Hope to see everyone out here next year!
1) Justin Dorey
2) Matt Philippi
3) Mike Riddle
4) Taylor Seaton
5) David Wise
6) Duncan Adams
7) Matt Duhamel
8) Tucker Perkins
9) Dan Marion
10) Tyler Peterson
T-11) Evan Schwartz
T-11) Peter Olenick
1) Jen Hudak
2) Anais Caradeux
3) Jess Cumming
4) Roz Groenewoud
5) Katrien Aerts
6) Claudia Bouvier
7) Jenny Lee
8) Em Lonsdale
9) Charity Mersereau