words and photos by Julie Weinberger
Under much more favorable skies than anyone had expected, the highly anticipated North American Open kicked off with slopestyle qualifiers today on Breckenridge’s famed Freeway park.
And, Jon and Simon did not disappoint with their work on this first stop of the Opens Freeski circuit. The format—an all-day open jam session—rid the contest of the typical pressure cooker two-run format where if you biff, you’re done. Aside from the format, they also scheduled in a free lunch for all the athletes while the park crew raked the course to keep it crisp. Having all the athletes together in a tent for lunch added to the camaraderie of the event. On top of that, there was more Red Bull flying around than any person should ever consume.
Since the weather wasn’t perfect, and since Breckenridge always has some kind of wind, many of the skiers had trouble with speed, particularly on the second jump. A few inches of snow had fallen overnight, slowing things down a bit. It was incredible how deep some of the skiers took the third step-up even with the slower snow. Other than that, only good was said about the quality of the jumps. And with all the work Jon put in over the last week to make them as good as possible, that’s not surprising.
With the all day jam format and a solid course, the level skiing was phenomenal. The field of 100-some-odd skiers impressed not only the spectators, but Jon and Simon as well. From smooth switch 180’s to switch double front flips, pretty much everything with every grab was thrown. That was the ultimate beauty of the jam session: skiers had all day to show their bag of tricks. And, based on the shear number of kangaroo flips seen today, the trick is certainly the new switch 10.
After all was said and done, 21 guys and five women earned the chance to move onto Saturday’s slopestyle best of three runs final with the eight pre-qualified riders. Stay tuned to NS this weekend for more coverage on the event.
Willis Brown & Oscar Scherlin
Angeli Van Laanen