Words & photos by John Vandervalk (http://www.majestyphoto.com)

The 12th Annual US Freeskiing Open at Copper Mountain, Colorado has begun. Yesterday Mother Nature dumped eight inches of snow on the pipe during practice, and as this morning dawned she continued her reign of terror on pipe contests with near white out conditions including snow (about an inch an hour), bitter cold (it felt like -30 at times) and some wind (close to 30 miles per hour) thrown in for good measure.

However despite the conditions the talented filed of skiers stayed upbeat and hit as many practice runs as possible in the morning before making the best of their two runs in qualifiers.

Many of the competitors chose to hike the pipe just to keep warm and score a few more laps, including pre-qualified athletes Justin Dorey, Taylor Seaton, Peter Olenick, Lyndon Sheehan and Mike Riddle, all who hit up as many runs as possible during the practice session.

Justin Dorey & Taylor Seaton

Taylor Seaton

Peter Olenick

Once qualifiers got under way, there were 2 heats of 19 with the top 6 from each advancing into tomorrow's semi-finals. And once it was all said and done, the riders who finished 7th-10th in each heat were then given a last chance qualifier via a sudden death run in which the top 3 moved on.

Lyndon Sheehan

Highlights from the sidelines today included Lyndon Sheehan staying up top after practice and keeping all the kids pumped up for their runs despite the multitude of hot tubs down at the base calling his name, and Anais Caradeux also encouraging the riders to give it their all while showing off her new manicure. Yes, you heard right...it was -30 but not cold enough for her to show off her nails and do a quick GQ pose for the camera!

Anais Caradeux

Inside the pipe, blessing us with a competition experience was none other than Scott Hibbert, who threw it down hard as always, easily advancing to the semi-finals tomorrow with third place in heat one.  

Scott Hibbert

Matt Duhamel and Noah Bowman also advanced (with Matt winning heat one and Noah placing second in heat two), and both were looking really good getting big amplitude and consistently sticking clean runs, giving us no doubt they came out here ready to compete.  

Matt Duhamel

Noah Bowman

Other notables included Gus Kenworthy throwing huge cork 9's all day despite being more known for his slopestyle prowess, and Derek Spong looking as comfortable as a lazy boy.

Gus Kenworthy

And in the last chance qualifier, Evan Wells, Colin Campbell and Marshall Lacroix all persevered, and will no doubt be ready to take advantage of their last second entry into the semi-finals come tomorrow.

Marshall Lacroix

Evan Wells

But perhaps the hardest working men at the event today were announcers Luke Van Valin and and Uncle E, who braved the harsh conditions and risked freezing to death to keep us all informed in only the way they can. Props gentlemen!

Uncle E & Luke Van Valin

Fortunately tomorrow is supposed to be sunny for the semi-finals and finals which will be warmly welcomed after the blustery and snowy weather that gripped today's proceedings. Stay tuned to NS for coverage of the US Freeskiing Open, and don't miss the live broadcast of tomorrow's semi-finals and finals beginning at 11am MST!


Heat 1

1) Matt Duhamel

2) Tyler Peterson

3) Scott Hibbert

4) Luke Kary

5) Gus Kenworthy

6) Christian Allen

Heat 2 

1) Geoff Straight

2) Noah Bowman

3) Derek Spong

4) Sean Collin

5) Jack Sullan

6) Cristhian Ravello

Last Chance Qualifier

1) Evan Wells

2) Colin Campbell

3) Marshall Lacroix