You’d be hard pressed to meet a snowboarder from the East Coast without some sort of US Open memory. For nearly 30 years, the event was a annual gathering of debauchery and progression, which any self-respecting snowboarding enthusiast would be a fool to miss. As the Open grew at Stratton, bag checks tightened, the halfpipe walls doubled in size, and legends were made year after year. That is, until three years ago – when the Open moved to Colorado. The decision was based on many factors including money, terrain, weather, but mostly money, leaving Stratton locals with nothing but memories and the Stratton staff with a few less headaches.
But now that the US Open is just another snowboard contest in Vail, and the east coast spring party has moved to New Hampshire for Last Call, some worried Vermont’s legacy as the home of competitive snowboarding would soon become a distant memory. However, something much more magical has happened. Stevie Hayes and a group of dedicated Southern Vermonters have kept the dream alive with the Vermont Open, a three-day event that features a rail jam, slopestyle, banked slalom, snufer races and concerts, on par with those of the US Open glory days. For 2015, instead of a big air, the retro pipe was reborn.
Much to my delight, the hand-dug dude tube was on East Byrneside – otherwise known as the original location of the US Open halfpipe – before it was moved to Sunrise, out of the way of the general skiing public, or whatever. With walls topping out at 12 feet and several man-made one hitters carved into the uneven surface – the chances of anyone being able to double cork were slim (although those Japanese kids probably could do it.) It was a specimen straight out of the late 80s, which riders young and old struggled equally to negotiate, but still managed to put on a show and finish with smiles on their faces.
In the tradition of classic Vermont weather, mist fell from the sky on March 14, 2015, and fog shrouded the well-lit halfpipe, illuminating the scene, which no matter if you were there or not, harkened back to the good old days. Local legends like Jerry Tucker, Seth Neary, Charlie Cavanaugh and Ross Powers joined the new guard of Vermonters such as Jack Kyle for a perfect lesson in “how things used to be.” Some riders opted for retro boards, or dressed in classic Craig Kelly attire, and the only thing there to really reminded you it was twenty years later were the ubiquitous GoPros. There were no 1620s and no rehearsed routines. Just tweaks, grabs and the occasional 720.
The Vermont Open is still small, but as history has a tendancy to repeat itself, growth is inevitable. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll get there next year so that you can be the one who says, “Remember when?” Maybe we’ll bring the cage.