words and photos by Julie Weinberger
After Friday’s all day jam session to determine which riders would earn the chance to thrown down along side the invited athletes, all 37 skiers took to the course today for a best of three run final.
While Mother Nature failed to cooperate, wreaking enough havoc that there was a course hold in the middle of run two for the guys, the perfect jumps and eager athletes still showed up on top of their game for what many are calling the best open contest they’ve done.
“You can never control the weather, but Jon and Simon did an amazing job,” LJ Strenio said. “They gave people extra runs, which never happens. It was the absolute best way to handle the situation.”
After the course hold, the 16 men who were affected most by the wind took a re-run. To put it in perspective on how bad the wind was, before the hold, 18 skiers either knuckled or didn’t finish their runs.
“We had uphill wind and snow, but I think overall it went really well,” said event co-host Jon Olsson. “The most important thing was to do the event well, and make everyone stoked.”
After two hours of practice in the morning, including a last chance qualifier where Joss Christensen and Everly Gohman got to move on, everyone took a lunch break while the park crew took care of the course. By 12:30, finals were underway.
The five women who advanced to finals hit the course with no mercy. From Kristi Leskinen’s big 720 to Athena Brownsen’s and Angeli VanLaanen’s lofty 5’s to Keri Herman’s gorgeous cork 5’s to Meg Olenick’s switch 5 and blindside 450 out of the up rail, the women did not disappoint. Meg was the only female to throw in a switch hit. Keri was the only woman to consistently spin both ways, and in the end, she took home the win, her second victory in a row after winning the Aspen Open. Kristi was in second, followed by Athena.
Athena Brownsen (bronze), Kristi Leskinen (silver), Keri Herman (gold)
On the men’s side, everyone really got creative to impress the judges. We saw a double rodeo from Tom Wallisch, multiple switch-ups from Henrik Harlaut, a switch double front flip from Colby Ward, a switch double rodeo from Bobby Brown, a gigantic flat 5 from Taylor Felton, a two-handed tail grab from Banks Gilberti, a gigantic rodeo 9 from Joss Christensen, a misty 10 from Simon Dumont, misty 630’s off the up rail from LJ and John Spriggs and super stylie 9’s from Michael Olenick. And, these guys didn’t even podium.
Ultimately, Tanner Rainville’s flawlessness and style finally put him on a podium as he took third. Taking second was Jon with a misty 9 to Kangaroo flip. Finally, Jacob Wester took home the win, throwing an absolutely stunning double cork 12.
“I hope people liked it,” Jon said. “And, I hope the people who weren’t here will come next year because it’s going to be even better.”
Later in the evening, everyone gathered in town for dinner and awards courtesy of Empire. Skullcandy gave headphones to everyone on the podium. Target threw down a boatload of giveaways for not only the top finishers, but to other standouts from the day as well.
LVV hooks Bo Wells up with a Playstation 3
For example, Bo Wells took home a Playstation 3 for throwing a 12 on his 12th birthday. Other giveaways included $100 Target gift cards, iPods and digital cameras. The real treat went to Jacob who was awarded a flat screen TV for his win. Not too shabby for a day’s work.
Tanner Rainville (bronze), Jacob Wester (gold), Jon Olsson (silver)
Pipe qualies and finals take place on Sunday, so stay tuned for more from the North American Open.
1) Jacob Wester
2) Jon Olsson
3) Tanner Rainville
4) Bobby Brown
5) Michael Olenick
6) Simon Dumont
7) Luke Nutting
8) Peter Olenick
9) Josh Bibby
10) Anders Backe
1) Keri Herman
2) Kristi Leskinen
3) Athena Brownsen