Mike Riddle rocked it at Copper Mountain and got the first-place trophy to match.
The national halfpipe team member continued his streak of podium finishes by winning the U.S. Grand Prix competition at the Colorado resort on Friday (Jan. 11), which doubled as a FIS World Cup.
The spoils? A nice payday and a custom-painted guitar recognizing the victory.
“This is the coolest trophy I’ve ever gotten,” Riddle said of the six-stringed prize. “It’s really sick — definitely going on the wall.”
Riddle posted scores in the 90s on both his runs in the 12-man final, and his 91.2 on the second trip through the pipe ended up being the winning mark. In the women’s contest, teammate Rosalind Groenewoud took silver.
Riddle has won three of his last four events dating back to last season’s AFP World Championships in Whistler. He shared the podium last week with Americans Aaron Blunck (87.0) and David Wise (83.6).
Gusting winds blew snow into and over the pipe for finals, but Riddle had no trouble working a double-cork 1260 and multiple 900s into his runs. But bad weather hasn’t been a problem for the 26-year-old in the past.
“The last one I remember (being that windy) was world champs in Park City, so I seem to do well when it’s bad conditions,” he laughed, referring to his win at the 2011 FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships.
Riddle’s 12th-place finish in qualification on Jan. 9 gave him the last finals berth by just a third of a point. It also made him the first guy to drop on Friday, which was a good thing considering the conditions.
“They do a slip right before finals start so I probably had the best pipe out of anybody, so I tried to use that as an advantage,” he said.
Riddle’s teammate Matt Margetts posted the two best runs in qualifying, but couldn’t hold a clean run together on Friday, finishing 10th.
“It was a tough day for Marge, I really wanted to see him land a run because I know he’s got the skills to podium,” said Riddle. “I know his day is coming.”
Noah Bowman, who was 17th in qualifying, was the next best Canadian in the event. Whistler’s own Simon D’Artois also came up short of the finals.
Groenewoud now has back-to-back podiums to start her season after finishing as runner-up to U.S. skier Maddie Bowman on Friday. California native Brita Sigourney was third.
“I’ve definitely skied better, but my first run I had a ton of snow and my second run had some gale-force winds, so I think for the conditions, I’m happy with how I skied,” said Groenewoud, who scored a 79.2 on her best run.
The 23-year-old said maintaining speed in the pipe was a challenge due to the conditions as well.
“When there’s a bunch of snow in the transition like there was today, that definitely has to be a big focus and my legs were burning by the end of the pipe with how hard I was working them,” she said.
Canadian Megan Gunning had a solid result by finishing fifth, while Whistler resident Cassie Sharpe showed she’s capable of skiing with the world’s best last week.
Sharpe, a WinSport Academy team member, qualified for finals in third position with an 86.6. The 20-year-old’s aggressive style paid off despite her 12th-place finish in the finals, as she took home the award for biggest hit.
“I’ve always been on the brink of finals; I’ve never really pushed myself into finals. So to qualify third was unreal,” said Sharpe, originally from Comox. “The goal was to make the finals and everything after that was a bonus, so to get the biggest hit award was awesome.”
She looked like she might have a shot at the podium when throwing massive, back-to-back flairs on her second run, but under-rotated the second one and was shaken up after smacking her head on a crash landing. She said Tuesday (Jan. 15) that she wasn’t feeling any lingering effects.
Canadian team member Keltie Hansen was 14th in qualifying.
Pemberton’s Yuki Tsubota finished seventh in the women’s slopestyle finals held Saturday (Jan. 12). She finished second in qualifications earlier in the week, and the national team member’s performances early in the 2013 season have head coach Toben Sutherland impressed.
“She’s solid and clean and easy; and she’s got staying power,” said Sutherland.
Tsubota’s Canadian teammate Dara Howell took second place between winner Keri Herman of the U.S. and Australia’s Anna Segal. Montreal’s Kaya Turski, who was undefeated all of last season, finished fifth.
Alex Beaulieu-Marchand earned a bronze for the Canadian men’s team in Saturday’s slopestyle finals. U.K. skier James Woods and Australia’s Russ Henshaw took first and second place, respectively.
In snowboarding at Copper Mountain, the national halfpipe team coached by Whistler’s Dan Raymond was unable to qualify an athlete for finals. Whistler rider Mercedes Nicoll was the top Canadian in the women’s event, finishing 23rd.
In men’s slopestyle, local riders Darcy Sharpe and Jon Versteeg didn’t advance from qualifiers. Maxence Parrot was sixth for the best Canadian result. Spencer O’Brien struggled on her women’s final runs and the North Vancouver rider was eighth.
Whistler PPOS up next
The North Face Pipe and Park Open Series has been ongoing in Whistler this week and will wrap up with halfpipe finals on Blackcomb Thursday (Jan. 17). Though the contests are lower-tier AFP events, a handful of national team skiers in both disciplines will be on hand to compete.
Canadian slopestyle team members T.J. Schiller and Noah Morrison were among the 12 men advancing from Tuesday’s park qualifier to Wednesday’s (Jan. 16) final. Tsubota was also scheduled to ski the women’s finals on Wednesday, but results were not available at press time.
D’Artois and Kris Atkinson will lead the Canadian contingent into Thursday’s pipe qualifiers, which begin at 10:45 a.m. Thursday. Cassie Sharpe earned a direct entry into the women’s pipe final and said another good result could earn her an entry into the Winter X Games later this month in Aspen, Colo.
“There’s definitely a lot riding on this contest,” said Sharpe, “so I’m going pedal to the metal to put a run together and get on the X Games train.”