Why Burton US Open is snowboarding’s must-watch event

Courtesy of Red Bull Media Service Team

Global halfpipe and slopestyle stars descend on Vail for annual showpiece.

It’s the granddaddy of snowboard contests and it’s happening this week at Golden Peak in Vail, Colorado with the return of the annual Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships.

Heading into its 38th year, it is the longest-running snowboard contest by a long margin – and it’s still the one that every snowboarder dreams of winning because the atmosphere is incredible, the parties are legendary, the riding level is through the roof and the list of winners marks a path of progression going all the way back to the birth of the sport.

Here is what you need to know about the American snowboard extravaganza:

1982: Snow Surfing Suicide Six

The story begins at the National Snow Surfing Championships at Suicide Six in Vermont. This was before snowboarders were welcome at 99 percent of ski resorts and back even before the name ‘snowboarding’ was in common use. Weapons of choice were modified Snurfers, the 1960s toy invented by Sherman Poppen, and the Backhill, an early Burton model produced in the garage of Burton Snowboards founder, Jake Burton Carpenter. If the equipment lacked refinement, the contest was completely primitive: a steep, top-to-bottom straightline descent, with an upside-down table buried in the snow for a start gate.

1985: Sims vs Burton

By 1985, the event had moved to Stratton, Vermont and was known as the Burton US Open of Snowboarding. This was the year that Tom Sims showed up with his west-coast crew, and a rivalry for the ages was born. Burton’s east-coast crew all came from a ski-racing background, while Sims, a former skateboard pro and talented surfer, was all about freestyle. Although their visions could not have been more different, it’s hard to imagine what would have become of snowboarding without the influence of both Sims and Burton. Without Tom, we’d all be wearing hard boots and racing gates; without Jake, we’d be banned from every ski resort.

1990-99: Golden age

Ask any old shredder who remembers, and they’ll tell you this was the time to be a snowboarder. The sport was growing at an alarming rate, riders like Craig Kelly and Terje Håkonsen were pushing progression even faster, and attendance at the US Open doubled year on year. Racing was out, freestyle was in and in 1996 the pros showed up in Stratton to be told that, as of 1998, snowboarding would be an Olympic sport.

2000-2020: Endless progression and end of an era

Shaun White, Travis Rice, Kelly Clark, Jamie Anderson, Danny Kass are just a few of the legends who launched their careers at the US Open over the past two decades, and it’s likely we’ll see more emerge during the coming week but, with the unexpected and untimely passing of Jake Burton last November, this 38th edition of the US Open will be one that is tinged with sadness at the loss of one of snowboarding’s true founding fathers.

Who’s going to send it in 2020?

BUSO 2020 Men’s Halfpipe favourites

Scotty James has to be the clear favourite. The blue-eyed Aussie has been on a winning streak since 2018, and with only Japan’s Yuto Totsuka coming close to challenging Scotty’s dominance, we’re expecting to see him successfully defend his 2019 title.

BUSO 2020 Women’s Halfpipe favourites

Maddie Mastro‘s first career win in 2019, with a run that included the first-ever double crippler in women’s competition, was superb but her form seems to be off this season: not so Spanish ripper Queralt Castellet, who’s running beyond hot in 2020, with major wins at the Laax Open and Winter X Games under her belt.

BUSO 2020 Men’s Slopestyle favourites

The toughest discipline of all to call, but last year’s winner Red Gerard has to be considered the man to beat, while Canadian Darcy Sharpe must be feeling hopeful after his big X Games win a couple of weeks back. Still, if we had to choose an outsider for the win, how’s about Judd Henkes? Judd’s been progressing solidly the past couple of seasons and is long overdue a big win, we reckon. No pressure, Judd!

BUSO 2020 Women’s Slopestyle favourites

Almost as tricky to call as the men’s as champion Kiwi Zoi Sadowski Synnott is the rider to beat, but with Jamie Anderson (USA), Kokomo Murase (JAP), Laurie Blouin (CAN), Julia Marino (USA) and Miyabi Onitsuka (JAP) all showing stronger form than Zoi so far this season, it’s anyone’s guess how the podium will pan out.

Follow the Burton US Open live HERE.

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