Burton Snowboards have just announced that the legendary US Open – the longest running freestyle comp in the world and a massive showcase for the brand every year – is to move home. Having been held at Stratton Mountain in Vermont for nearly 30 years, the contest is now moving to Vail, in Colorado, for the first time.
Apart from the excitement of going somewhere new (and the additional media coverage a change of scenery will inevitably bring) it’s not immediately clear what’s behind the move to abandon the East Coast after 27 seemingly successful years. Perhaps Vail saw the kudos garnered by neighbouring Aspen’s hosting of the annual X Games extravaganza, and wanted in on the action. Maybe Burton realised that the more guaranteed snowfall in the Rockies would make their lives easier? Or perhaps Vail Resorts, the company behind not only Vail but also Breckenridge, Keystone and Heavenly-at-Tahoe amongst others, simply offered a more attractive package than the owners of Stratton (and part-owners of Whistler) Intrawest? Certainly it’s hard to imagine that the East Coast resort, a fairly small hill with only 15-or so lifts, would have driven the big B out of town.
But whatever the reasoning, the move could well prove a smart one. Vail is a lot further away from Burton’s home base in Burlington which might make it harder for Burton’s bigwigs, but on the flipside, travelling to the comp may now be more convenient for riders, many of whom are based locally or on the West Coast – either in California or further north in Oregon or Washington State. Riders may also appreciate not having to put up with the famously icy conditions of the Appalachians any more. Certainly Mark McMorris and Kelly Clark, the riders bought along to check out the new site with Jake Burton, seemed stoked on the change. McMorris said: “I’m so excited to compete here next winter”.
However, although Vermont’s conditions may not always have been perfect, we are left wondering whether Vail will be able to bring the same sense of history to the contest. There was something quite special about watching today’s riders go head-to-head in a halfpipe that had seen greats like Craig Kelly and Terje Haakonsen competing back in the 90s. Similarly, we wonder what it will mean for the large East Coast snowboard community? Will Vail – more famous as a playground of wealthy, fur-lined skiers than as a hardcore shredders’ resort – be able to accomodate the hundreds of ordinary shredheads who take advantage of the open format to compete against their heroes every year? But for all that, we’re pretty stoked to see what Vail with their vast resources and incredible park shapers can do for the comp. And while the history is important, it’s not going to be lost just because of a change of location. And anyway, perhaps it was time to move, and freshen things up. Who knows, maybe Jake just got a bit bored of riding the same 20-odd runs?