Whistler Blackcomb was the first stop of The North Face Park and Pipe Open Series yesterday with competitors enjoying clear skies and snow covered slopes. Emerging victorious from a lineup of stellar competition was Roz Groenewoud, a Whistler-native taking the women’s title, and Gus Kenworthy, who hails from Telluride, Colorado seizing the men’s title. $10,000 in prize money was awarded to the two in total.
In addition to the competition, Whistler served as the final event in the 2012 Winter X Games athlete selection process where the committee gives competitors one last opportunity to earn an invite to ride in the X Games halfpipe competition. Of these hopefuls, Megan Gunning and Kris Atkinson, both from Calgary earned this final opportunity to RSVP for the X Games.
The North Face Park and Pipe Open series partners with the Association of Freeskiing Professionals (AFP) on the competitions judging process and is considered a gold-level event. The judging decisions are based on an overall impression based on creativity, degree of difficulty, combinations, variations, style, and amplitude.
“It’s great being here at The North Face Park and Pipe Open. This event really shows the level of talent in Freeskiing right now. The depth of athletes that we saw here today is pretty unbelievable and it really sets things up as we look ahead to Russia in 2014,” Head Judge Mike Atkinson.
Roz Groenewoud led the competition after her first run scoring an 88.2, and ended up being the only female competitor to include a right side 900. South Lake Tahoe’s Maddie Bowman was a short distance behind with 84.4 and Keltie Hansen from Calgary took the third podium spot with a 79.4.
Since these top three women already qualified for the X Games, the fourth place finisher Megan Gunning was given the opportunity to compete at the 2012 X Games.
“It wasn’t the cleanest run of my ski career but it felt really good to put down my tricks. The Canadian Team has been training here for the last week and we all really wanted to compete, to support Whistler as much as we can. This is the best the pipe has been in a while, and it felt good to put down a full run in preparation of some of the big events coming up,” Roz Groenewoud, women’s Champion.
Gus Kenworthy, the men’s champion endured some gear challenges earlier in the day with a broken binding. Despite missing a majority of the training session fixing his equipment, Kenworthy was able to nail two forward 10′s, in both directions that included a switch hit to earn his title with a score of 88.2. He came ahead of Calgary’s Kris Atkinson who had an 83.2. Atkinson’s hard-fought battle not only got him silver in the day’s competition, but it got him an invite to the X Games halfpipe event. Park City’s Joss Christensen took third with a score of 82.2.
“This is an AFP Gold Level event, so the only other events that rank higher than this throughout the year are X Games, Euro X and Dew Tour. So if an event is up in that same bracket of points, it’s super important for me to attend. I’m trying to win the overall again. Plus there’s good prize money as well as a good pipe here in Whistler. It’s just awesome to keep competing in between these big events,” men’s Champion Gus Kenworthy.
When asked about his invitation to the upcoming X Games, Atkinson was beyond excited, “The X Games has always been a dream for me, ever since I was a little kid. I can’t believe I’m finally going to be there!”
The North Face Park and Pipe Open Series moves next to Northstar Resort, CA, on February 9-12, and to Waterville Valley, NH, on March 8-11, 2012. Athlete registration for Northstar and Waterville Valley is now open at www.thenorthfaceppos.com.