Stoked: Vermont Open coming to Stratton

STRATTON - One of the remaining Open competitions on the east coast will take place at Stratton Mountain this weekend, March 7-9, and this year there have been a couple of changes.

The Vermont Open - now in its second year - began with registration and a Welcome Party on Thursday, March 6. The first event - a rail jam - is set for Friday with the halfpipe, big air, banked slalom, Washed Up Cup, and snurfer challenge events set to take place throughout the weekend. After the success of the inagural competition last year, the event has shown signs of growth.

"We had 118 pre-registered riders where last year we had about 45," said the organizer of the event Steve Hayes. "We shut down the registration and I'm getting all kinds of panicking inquiries about when and how and where can they register."

Registration opened again on Thursday night and from there Hayes said that registration for each event will be done on the day the event is set to take place.

"The biggest turnout in registration is in the banked sla lom," said Hayes. "We just had to extend our number of entrants from 120 to 140 participants because of the overwhelming demand. That banked slalom is, or will be, sold out, no question about it because just from the response people are freaking out about the fact that they can't register online."

With on-site registration the day of the event, Hayes said it was his feeling that anyone who showed up on Thursday or Friday and registered for a Roots Package - which is registration for all four events excluding the Washed Up Cup and snurfer challenge at a discounted price - would be guaranteed a spot in the banked slalom.

Some of the more notable riders that will be competing in this year's Open will be Leon Townsend, Ross Powers - who won a gold medal at the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah - Josh Wylie, Tyler Emond, and Ben Jacobellis. Hayes said that an invitation has been extended to Ben's sister Lindsey Jacobellis who won a silver medal in the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy and is one of the most decorated snowboardcross riders in the history of the sport. As of press time, however, Hayes said he had not received a response from Lindsey Jacobellis.

The prize money being given out this year is equal for both men and women with $1,000 purse for 1st place in rail jam, halfpipe, big air, and banked slalom.

"This is a big thing in that [the] first place man wins $1,000 [and the] first place woman wins $1,000," said Hayes. "So, there's a nice chance for a man and a woman if they were to win each division, four events, and the overall to take home $5,000 for the top finishing woman and top finishing man."

In addition to the cash prizes which total more than $20,000, Hayes said that there is probably about another $10,000 in prizes that competitors could win at the Open.

Another part of the event this year will be the snurfer challenge, which Hayes said was a highlight of last year's competition.

"It was an effort to pay respect and tribute to the early days of snowboarding," said Hayes. "The way a snurfer challenge goes is it's an invitation to anyone in possession of an original 1970s snuffer. It's a big part of our event now and there's a ton of excitement around the snurfer challenge."

Last year Hayes said there were about a dozen competitors and believes that number could double this year due to the notoriety that event received. One of the things that Hayes said they have noticed coming into this year's event is that there is a second generation of snowboarders. Some of the former professional snowboarders such as himself and Powers now have children who are competing in the Open - as well as a couple other father-son or father-daughter combinations - something Hayes said might lead to an additional event next year.

"I think next year we may even try to form a father-daughter, father-son dual generation team to score points and have that [as] another division of the contest," he said.

Among some of the competitors in the legends division will be Hayes and his brother Mike Hayes, Seth Neary, Powers and Ryan Foley - who has contributed more than $10,000 to the event over the past two years, Hayes said.

The roots of the Vermont Open go back six years when Hayes started the Washed Up Cup, which was held during the same weekend that the U.S. Open was being held at Stratton Mountain. After Bur ton moved the U.S. Open to Vail, Colo. last year, Hayes said he was approached about keeping the Washed Up Cup at Stratton. Hayes agreed and told Stratton Mountain officials that his vision was to create an Open event for junior, amateur and pro riders as well as former legends.

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