Copper Mountain has a longstanding history with the U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix tour, having hosted events in 1998, 1999 and last season.
Last week, the Copper halfpipe was stacked with big air and beauty as the best women in the sport hit up the 22-foot walls for runs at the Grand Prix. To no one’s surprise, 2006 Olympic medalists Gretchen Bleiler of Aspen, Colo., and Kelly Clark of Mt. Snow, Vt., were the first- and second-place qualifiers of the day.
Kelly Clark of West Dover, Vermont owned Saturday’s final and boosted the best runs of the day to win her third Grand Prix in a row in the U.S. It was the first chance riders had at earning Olympic qualifying points. By the time all four Grand Prix events are contested this year, only four Americans will make it to Vancouver.
While Clark has said that this is a season for her to reflect on her riding as a whole, as opposed to being in it for the competition, she needed no extra help in winning the top prize as she threw down the two highest scoring runs of the day. “It’s really encouraging. I didn’t know how my approach was going to go today. My focus has really been on the fundamentals these last few months and I’m really excited to have done so well just focusing on the basics,” Clark said.
Fellow Vermonter Hannah Teter made a successful return to competition after taking a season off and was riding strongly as she took the third place spot. For Teter, the podium spot was especially important as her winnings go directly to a village she sponsors in Kenya called Kirindon. “I’m really excited with being on the podium. I come in with the intention of wanting to do really well, especially for my kids to make more money for them,” Teter said.
The day was a standout for the freestyle rookies including 14-year-old Madeline Schaffrick (Steamboat Springs, CO) who threw down a heel side drop into a front 7, cab seven, front five and back seven to finish fourth. “It’s amazing. I mean – Gretchen Bleiler is standing next to me! To be at the same competition level riding I can’t believe it. Just being in the same pipe as them is amazing,” Schaffrick said. The teen phenom finished just off the podium.
Most of the Grand Prix riders will compete in this week’s Dew Tour in Breckenridge, with the next chance for Olympic qualifying coming Jan. 4-10 at two Grand Prix pipe contests at Mammoth Mountain, Calif.
1. Kelly Clark, West Dover, VT, 43.20
2. Soko Yamaoka, Japan, 37.60
3. Hannah Teter, Belmont, VT, 37.50
4. Madeline Schaffrick, Steamboat Springs, CO, 36.60
5. Elena Hight, South Lake Tahoe, CA, 32.30
6. Gretchen Bleiler, Aspen, CO, 29.30
7. Kaitlyn Farrington, Bellevue, ID, 24.20
8. Clair Bidez, Minturn, CO, 17.70