The final stop of three has concluded here at Waterville Valley, New Hampshire for the North Face Park and Pipe Open. Where Friday saw marginal course conditions due to the onset of the Spring thaw & freeze cycle, Saturday greeted the village of Waterville with a fresh coat of 3+ inches. Athletes took the morning for practice on the freshly hewn course under a partly sunny sky. If you had the chance to attend yesterday's event, I hope you brought sun screen. The course itself consisted a three jump top section finished with a rail section; the rails included a Jersey barrier rail, down flat rail and stair set.
Out of the 68 or so competitors that competed in yesterday's qualifiers, 18 competitors would advance to the semi-finals which began at noon. The field consisted of a heavy contingent of Quebecois skiers, with the likes of Frank G-P, Emile Bergeron and Alex Beaulieu traveling South to join a heavy New England centric field; Tyler Duncan, Jake Doan and Ben Smith to name a few, peppered with a few other skiers, Cody Cirillo, Kolby Ward and Lyman Currier, that call the Western states home.
One of the tenets of this Open series is that it allows anyone to throw it down on the course with the hopes of pocketing some of the $10,000 in prize money. It's a great way for an otherwise unknown skier who'd be left out of otherwise "invite only" comps to get a chance to top the podium. All they would need to do is bring their A game, which of course, they did.
Of the 18 sending it down Waterville's Exhibition terrain park, 8 would advance to the afternoons finals. As such, the competition was fierce as a mix bag of dubs and off axis airs were the standard affair with a plethora of 270s, 450s and switch ups thrown in for good measure on the rail section. Personally, I think we need to see more of tricks like Emile Bergeron's forward 1080 Liu Kang, channeling the early years of free skiing á la Mike Nick.
The top three spots of semis would goto Alex Beaulieu, Emile Bergeron and Vincent Gagnier.
Immediately following the men's semis, the ladies got their turn to light up the course in front of the crowd for Women's Finals. The five ladies brought an equally impressive display of cat like agility and fortitude, mixing up inverts, 5s & 7s throughout the competition. Of the 5 competing, only 3 could take the podium.
Rounding out those top spots included Julia Marino in third, Annalisa Drew in second and Devin Logan in first.
Men's Finals followed immediatley after the women. Of the 8 finalists, the top three spots would include Alex Gorham in third, whose run included a left rodeo 5, switch right 900, right cork 720, front 450 out of the Jersey, blind 270 on the 2nd rail and finished with a unnatural tail to switch out. James Campbell, the winner from the Northstar event, would take second with a right 540 tail grab, switch 900 mute, dub 1260 mute, switch on, 450 out of the Jersey, 2 on to the 2nd rail to a lip slide 270. Topping the field and going home $2000 heavier in the wallet was Kolby Ward, whose switch left 7 Japan, switch right rodeo 7 mute, switch 900 in the top section and 270 on to the Jersey barrier, switch up on the down flat and switch lip side, 270 out in the rail section earned him first. When asked what was going through his mind before the start of his second run, after stumbling on his first, Ward replied "Trust myself" with a smile, "just clear my head and know that I could do it and that's how it went so I was really excited."
Wrapping up the day's festivities was the Big Air event on the last hit of the course. A first for the North Face Park and Pipe Open, the Big Air was in part a result of Hurricane Irene's aftermath as the storm destroyed snowmaking pipes and water reserves back in August, leaving Waterville with limited capacity to construct a super pipe this season. Therefore, 40 men and 2 women went all out in a jam session on the last feature, capped with a final round. Devin Logan and Annalisa Drew would take 1st and 2nd respectively for the Women while Erik Hughes would take top honors in first with a dub cork 1260, followed by Alex Beaulieu in 2nd and Kolby Ward in 3rd.