SEVEN SPRINGS —
When Pete Kowalik heard that many of the world’s top amateur snowboarders would be hitting the same slopes he’s been skiing for decades, he had to see it for himself.
The results: “Amazing,” said Kowalik, a Seven Springs Mountain Resort regular.
“”I’ve been down this mountain. I’ve been skiing here since I was 16,” he said Sunday. “But these kids are getting everything out of these pipes that they are made for.”
Sunday’s events, which included halfpipe competitions, are part of a week’s worth of Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Qualifiers and U.S. Revolution Tour action at the resort. This not only marked the first time Seven Springs hosted a qualifier, but the first time Burton hosted a separate qualifying event anywhere outside Vermont.
The events turned part of Seven Springs mountain into a winter sports village, where vendors and sponsors like Mountain Dew and automaker Mini set up tents and other attractions for boarders and skiers who came to watch.
On the hill above, boarders from across the globe took to the steep, sloping halfpipe, vying to shred their way to a top 10 finish that would send them to the U.S. Open in Vail, Colorado.
Summer Fenton, 18, of San Francisco, topped 14 other fellow boarders representing four countries in the ladies halfpipe to earn her ticket to Vail.
“I’m stoked,” said Fenton, whose 90.2 score was more than six points higher than her closest challenger.
Fenton also gave good grades to Seven Springs, saying conditions were great, and that she hoped to return to the resort sometime soon.
Next up: Vail and, hopefully, junior world championships, she said.
It didn’t go as well for Nick Rockwood, 19, of who competed in the Men’s Halfpipe.
“The pipe was well-prepared – and the conditions were great,” said Rockwood, a southern Californian. “But it just wasn’t my day.”
Taylor Gold, a member of the U.S. Snowboarding rookie squad, finished first in the men’s halfpipe.
Contestants thrilled the crowd with flips, grabs and other aerial tricks.
“It’s so much different than watching it on TV,” said Kevin Anglemyer of Beaver County.
“They might not be Shaun White – but I can’t tell the difference,” Kowalik said of the pro boarder, a Winter Olympics gold medalist.
White is one of many snowboarding stars who competed in previous U.S. Open Snowboarding qualifiers on their way to bigger stages.
And hopefully, it’s just the start of big things between Seven Springs and Burton, too, said Jeff Coulter, a Seven Springs manager.
“Its just fabulous to bring something like this to western Pennsylvania,” Coulter added, calling it a milestone for the resort and an economic driver for the area.
“Hopefully, we can do something like this again.”
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