From March 6 to 9, the Vermont Open will celebrate its second year as a newly developed snowboarding and music festival held at Stratton Mountain.
In an effort to be more organized, registration for the event opened earlier this year. People began signing up on vtopen.com starting in December.
"We had a great contest last year," said former professional snowboarder Steve Hayes. "We had some challenges and we're making every effort to improve from last year. It was a smooth event, just a little chaotic behind the scenes."
Last year, there were many people who registered on site after seeing the various courses and features. More than 170 snowboarders participated in the different competitions, which included rail jam, halfpipe, big air and bank slalom. This year's VT Open will offer the same competitions throughout the weekend. Hayes told the Reformer it makes it a little more challenging when people don't register until the day of the event. He expects more competition this year.
Eight students from Stratton Mountain School have committed to participating and other area academies are likely to make commitments. Some professional snowboarders may not be around to compete due to the Olympics, which are being held in Sochi, Russia this year.
Now there is an advisory board for the VT Open, which includes other former pro snowboarders such as Tony Recchia and Olympic athlete Ross Powers.
Hayes, who is one of the organizers of the event, was part of the original Burton Snowboard Team in the 80s. He recalls competing for the company in 1985 when the first U.S. Open was held at Stratton.
"It became part of our culture in the snowboard world," said Hayes. "To have a springtime event like the U.S. Open."
After 27 years, Burton moved the event to Vail, Colo. It left a void for both the snowboard community and general public, Hayes told the Reformer. He then initiated the creation of an event called the Washed Up Cup six years ago. There had been a lot of trash talk going on through social media.
"It was designed for washed-up pro snowboarders to put their money where their mouth is," Hayes laughed.
For the 30th anniversary of the U.S. Open, Burton asked Hayes if the Washed Up Cup could be included as part of the celebration. He agreed and the event was a success. Management at Stratton then contacted him, asking if he planned to move the event.
"I said, 'Absolutely not.' I couldn't think of a better place to keep the Washed Up Cup," Hayes said.
At that point, he decided to make the event evolve. The name was changed to the VT Open and it became an open competition in the purest sense of the word. "Anyone from Brattleboro to New Hampshire to Stowe could come and compete on the same arena and the same course as juniors, amateurs, today's pros and the washed up ones, which we could call legends," said Hayes.
Local snowboard shop owner Pete Ripley competed in every one of the Washed Up Cups.
"He's a true definition of washed up, once was a pro, now dedicated his life to the industry," said Hayes. "He's shown his perseverance in hard economies, good and bad snow years. He's shown his dedication to his shop and providing snowboard products to the youth."
The highlight of last year's VT Open, Hayes said, was the Snurfer Challenge. It is a competition in which people ride down the hill using a model of snowboards that date back to the first ever made.
Currently, organizers have raised close to $10,000 which Stratton Mountain matched. There will be $20,000 in overall prize money. Jeff Grell who makes custom snurfer boards will be designing models for the champions of this year's challenge. Those prizes will have all the sponsors of the VT Open printed on it. Scott Palmer will be the chief of race while Green Door Pub Beverage Director Pete Christy will be assisting with finding musicians and performers for the festival. So far, local jam band Twiddle is booked for the Saturday night at Stratton Base Lodge.
During the festival weekend, a poker tournament will be held. All proceeds will go towards the Ross Powers Foundation, a grassroots organization that advocates for a level playing field in snowboarding. Scholarships are made available for those who may not have the financial support to make it to events that require traveling.
For more information and to register, visit VTOpen.com.