Burton European Open 2011 kicks off

Norway's Torgeir Bergrem makes hay while the sun shines Photo: Marcel Lammerhirt

Arriving in Laax for the 2011 Burton European Open, Whitelines finds that the buzz is already well and truly built up. The posh restaurants and swanky atéliers of the luxury Swiss resort have been invaded by sweaty snowboarders for a week. Yes, the rumours are true, Kazuhiro Kokubo is here, heading into his first ever European Open pipe comp tomorrow; yes, there’s a massive crew of Americans come over for the event, including Luke Mitrani, Eric Willet, Jamie Anderson, Chas Guldemond, and more groms than you can shake a stick at; and yes, there’s a sizeable UK contingent representing too. They’ve already kicked the week off in serious style with Katie Ormerod and Becky Menday finishing 2nd and 3rd in the junior slopestyle – how rad is that?!! Hit more to read the full report of the day’s events.

Eric Beauchemin - a relatively unknown yank with some mad rail skillz. Photo: Marcel Lammerhirt

With qualifiers out of the way, today was the day when things really got going, with all the big name invited riders dropping beside unknown locals for the men’s slopestyle semi-finals. With the sun struggling to break through the heavy clouds, riding the legendary Laax slopestyle course was always going to be tricky. But thankfully those who turned out for the occassion put out. In proper style. With the (until recently) unknown Jan Scherrer, the kid who finished third in last week’s O’Neill Evolution halfpipe comp, dropping first, the standard was set high. Chas Guldemond took an early lead, sweeping down the course with a super-clean run. Belgian youngster Seppe Smits was also riding well, and Roope Tonteri, reigning World Rookie Champion also looked like he meant business. After the first run, those three had claimed the top qualification spots. And while the ten-man cut-off point for the final at that stage included our very own Jamie Nicholls (a qualifier last year, the holder of a golden ‘invited rider’ ticket this time around), it didn’t include several of the biggest names. Both Seb Toots and Mark McMorris fell on their first runs, as did Iuori Podlatchikov, and, incredibly, Peetu Piiroinen! Meanwhile several young Scandi usurpers had snuck their way into the top ten – Sven Thorgen’s run in particular was a master class in restrained style. It seems rubbish conditions don’t really phase you when you’re used to plying your trade in the frozen wastes of Scandiland! With the clouds swirling around and the brief burst of early sunshine turning into a snowy whiteout, it looked like those big names who had fallen would struggle on the second run. We were in for an interesting final.

Jamie Nicholls just fell short of the top 10 but still impressed. Well in lad! Photo: Marcel Lammerhirt
Craig McMorris goes big. Photo: Marcel Lammerhirt

But when the chips were down and the clouds were in, the big guns pulled it out of the bag. Mark McMorris, dropping into an almost complete whiteout, somehow stomped a massive double back rodeo nine to claim the top spot off Chas. He was followed down the course by Peetu, who did what Peetu always does in these situations – threw down. His super-clean 9s and 10s were enough to take the lead. Seb Toots followed on down, claiming his place in the final, ensuring that Jamie – who unfortunately fell on his second run – was out of the running. During a pause to let the clouds clear, the remaining crowd of hardcore fans, riders’ mates and curious skiers was kept amused by Jon Weaver’s entertaining verbal diarrhoea, before the last few riders dropped. Neither Eric Willet, Mikkel Bang or I-Pod had yet earned their place in the final. The harsh riding conditions ensured they wouldn’t make it – I-Pod had a particularly nasty stack on the second kicker, landing nose and face first on a double back rodeo 9. Thankfully, he rode away with nothing more serious wounded than his pride. That brought to an end an impressive day’s riding, made all the more impressive by the shithouse conditions.

Burton European Open
Mens Slopestyle Semis -Results

1 Peetu Piiroinen
2 Mark McMorris
3 Chas Guldemond
4 Seb Toots
5 Roope Tonteri
6 Sven Thorgren
7 Seppe Smits
8 Christian Haller
9 Roger Kleivdal
10 Ethan Morgan

13 Jamie Nicholls


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