COPPER MOUNTAIN, CO – Ski halfpipe took center stage Wednesday as the sport made its debut at the 2011 Visa U.S. Halfpipe Grand Prix. Simon Dumont (Bethel, ME) and Jen Hudak (Salt Lake City) led the qualification rounds for U.S. men and women in third and second at Copper Mountain’s 22-foot superpipe, marking the first of what will likely be many appearances for the sport on the Grand Prix tour.
Under bluebird skies 71 guys and 38 girls dropped into the 22-foot pipe at Copper for the Visa U.S. Halfpipe Grand Prix skier halfpipe qualifier with only 12 each advancing to Friday’s finals. Spearheading the qualifiers were Canada’s Mike Riddle and Roz Groenewoud as the ski halfpipe athletes lobby for a spot in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.
“It’s big for us, I feel that our form of skiing is getting viewed as a little more legitimate,” said Dumont. “It’s cool to be in a contest incorporated with snowboarders and it’s also nice because it’s a FIS and USSA event. Hopefully we will get a little better organization to make that push to the Olympics.”
NBC will air live coverage Friday at 12 p.m. MT.
“Over the last few years freeskiers and snowboarders have begun to share venues and competition sites a lot more. It’s really great to finally have that merging happen at the Grand Prix level as well,” explained Hudak. “The energy was really good, everyone was excited about it and the pipe was riding great, so it’s definitely a great opportunity for us to show the world what skiers are capable of and hopefully it will help in our push for the Olympics.”
As athletes make the push for a ski halfpipe debut in 2014, young riders like 17 year old Devin Logan (West Dover, VT) and 15 year old Torin Yater-Wallace (Basalt, CO) will look to shine on the Grand Prix stage. Both Logan and Yater-Wallace will compete in Friday’s finals, vying for a World Championship spot.
“It’s been really tough in the past because we’ve only had a few events over the last few years. A lot of open events went away so we’ve been competing at only invitational’s – there weren’t opportunities for new girls to get their foot in the door,” said Hudak. “It’s so good for us right now because it is an open event we had over 30 girls competing today and everyone was doing tricks and skiing really well. There is definitely a huge depth in the field now that I don’t think people knew existed.”
U.S. athletes are competing in the Grand Prix for a spot on the 2011 skier halfpipe World Championship team. The sport made its first appearance at World Championships in 2005. Jen Hudak is the 2009 reigning bronze medalist going into the Champs event.
Skier halfpipe has been making consistent waves as one of the fastest growing international snow sports, putting innovation to traditional freestyle and allowing athletes to create tricks that incorporate stylish grabs, incredible spins and flipping all on two skis.
“Come out and watch Friday because qualifying was quite the warm up for everybody – getting those first run jitters out of our system,” said Dumont. “It should be a good show.”
The skier halfpipe action continues Friday with men’s and women’s finals.
Freeskier Magazine will air live streaming at www.freeskier.com/grandprixlive.