Who's hot to watch in 2000?
by John Chorlton and Julie Gengo, Winter X Games snowboarding researchers
November 1999 The Industry
The numbers are in -- snowboarding is charging into the new millennium with increased product sales in boards and boots, and more people riding than ever before. The total number of snowboarding participants climbed to over five million, and snowboarders now account for nearly 25 percent of all resort visits. Snowboarding is enjoying the diversification of its participants with minority numbers on the upswing and women's participation predicted to climb as well. Snowboarders are spending more time and money on the slopes than in previous years. According to TransWorld Snowboarding Business, snowboarding "growth in overall participation, resort visits, and shop sales are solid indicators of good things happening across the country." Statistics from the national Sporting Goods Association (NSGA) and American Sports Data (ASD) report both confirm the upward momentum of the sport. The NSGA report showed snowboarding participation for the 1998-1999 season up 29.1 percent from the prior season. The ASD report noted a 28.6 percent gain in the same time frame. The biggest news in the snowboard manufacturing industry is consolidation. K2 has purchased both Morrow and Ride snowboards, bringing their total number of board brands to five. Burton and K2 now control 65 percent of the U.S. snowboarding hardgoods market. Now athletes and the rest of the industry wait to see what will become of the consolidated brands. The equipment that is being manufactured today is lighter, stronger, and more durable than equipment from the past. With better materials and design elements, camber is lasting longer, edges hold better, and bases are faster than ever. Step-in bindings are still coming into their own; the 1999-2000 season brings new ease into the binding and boot interface realm. High back step-in systems are the latest technology advance. Past Snowboarding winners
Snowboarding culture is continuing to gain exposure world-wide through outlets such as the Winter X Games, MTV, television commercials, magazine articles in non-snowboarding publications, and advertisements for everything from beverages to underwear to SUV's. The culture is rooted in the mountains and resorts where the athletes that live, breathe, eat, and sleep snowboarding push the sport to new heights, literally. Parks and pipes are popping up from coast to coast, creating breeding grounds for innovators to hone their skills. An increase in contest venues for halfpipe, big air, and boardercross has brought more competitors to the field, further pushing the progression of the sport. Athletes now have more consistent training facilities because of technological advances in pipe and park maintenance, as well as full-time resort boardercross courses. In the 1998-99 season, Colorado, Utah, New England, and the Midwest experienced unusually dry conditions for the second straight winter. The Northwest, however, set snowfall records (Mt. Baker, WA) and gave the summer camps plenty of snow to manipulate for the summertime kickers and pipes. Many of today's pros and contenders seek out the summertime sessions on glaciers to progress their skills and stay immersed in snowboarding year round. If following winter to the Southern Hemisphere doesn't satiate a riders desire for summertime riding, a stay at one of the glacier camps might do it. New at WX 2000
The 2000 Winter X Games will mix snowboarders and skiers together in a new racing discipline called UltraCross. This new format will pair the top 16 skiers with and snowboarders in a relay-style race on the Skier X course. The teams will be chosen at random the night before the event at a draw party. UltraCross will be an insane race of skills, guts, and unity. It will also serve to dispel the tiresome hype of the mythical skier/snowboarder rift. Boarders and skiers have been ripping together since the beginning. In its third year running, Red Bull and Global Event Management (our WX sport organizer) have brought UltraCross competitors a worthy prize purse and television exposure on ESPN and espn2. Since its birth in Tahoe, CA, UltraCross has been growing in popularity with competitors and spectators alike. This innovative new sport will bring an exciting twist to WX 2000. ISF Sanctioning
The Winter X Games will be sanctioned by the ISF (International Snowboarding Federation) - one of two major governing bodies for snowboarding. The other is FIS (Federation Internationale de Ski, the Olympic governing body). That means that riders will now be able to accrue ISF rankings points at Winter X. In 1999, the European Championships were held on the same dates as the Winter X Games so there was a noticeable lack of Euros in Crested Butte. The 2000 WX will not conflict with any ISF sanctioned event. Snowboarder X (formerly called Boarder X)
Mount Snow's Snowboarder X course will alleviate the problems that plagued Crested Butte's course, says Sport Organizer Don Bostick. "There won't be a flat spot in the middle of the course, and snowmaking capacity won't be an issue either." Big Air: New Course Design
The Big Air event will have a new format for WX 2000. Riders will have a choice of three different jumps to hit, and once they land, they will launch a quarterpipe at the bottom of the hill. The quarterpipe hit will count toward a significantly smaller portion of the riders' final scores. However, this places more emphasis on clean landings because if a rider sketches on a landing, he won't be in position to hit the quarterpipe. SuperPipe (formerly Halfpipe)
The WX Halfpipe event has been revamped and renamed the SuperPipe. This new, larger pipe will be constructed by pipe wizard Frank Wells with the new superpipe groomer. The new groomers are capable of cutting 17-foot transitions. Chris "Gunny" Gunnarson will return to the WX scene with his course construction skills. The 1999 Medalists:
Shaun Palmer, Winter X Games icon and still the only man to win the WX Snowboarder X gold, came in first place overall in the 1998-99 six-stop Swatch BoarderCross Tour and second overall in the ISF rankings. To keep up with the demand of this growing sport, Palmer Snowboards, Swatch and American Skiing Company, the country's largest owner of mountain resorts, partnered to build boardercross parks, "Swatch Palmer X Parks," at all nine ASC resorts in 1999 (including Mount Snow). And in Switzerland, the top resorts of Laax, the "Home Base of Team Palmer," and St. Moritz, "Engadin Boarder's Valley," will be the first in Europe to feature a Palmer-X Park. Palmer raced World Cup downhill mountain bikes for Specialized throughout the 1999 summer. Silver medalist Drew Neilson is getting fired up for WX 2000: "I beat Shaun Palmer in a boardercross race [Swatch Tour at Copper Mountain, CO], so that was pretty cool."
Scott Gaffney, two-time Canadian National Boardercross Champion and WX '99 bronze medalist, will be charging through the mix looking for the top spot on the podium. Both the '99 WX Women's Boarder X gold and silver medalists Madlle Ricker and Leslee Olson (respectively) blew out their ACL's after the WX Games last year. Leslee tore her ACL during the March '99 U.S. Open "on a woop section" of the boardercross course. Have no fear; both ladies will return to compete at WX 2000. Note that this discipline will be called Snowboarder X for 2000.Bronze medal winner Candice Drouin will be back for an attempt to climb higher on the podium at Mount Snow. Slopestyle and Big Air
Peter Line and Kevin Jones, who finished first and second, respectively, in the '99 Slopestyle event, and second and third, respectively, in the Big Air, spent the remainder of the year pushing the realm of technical freestyle snowboarding. Their efforts can be seen in Mack Dawg's video Technical Difficulties, and Standard Film's TB 8 Infinity. Line took the Big Air gold in San Francisco. Jones, for the first time in seven X competitions, came in outside the medal standing (he finished fourth). You can be sure he will throw down the gauntlet at Mount Snow.
Kevin Sansalone had an interview in the October '99 issue of TransWorld Snowboarding magazine. Regarding his '99 WX Big Air gold, he said, "It was rad that they let a Canadian kid win."
Jimmy Halopoff, the '99 Slopestyle bronze medalist and always a contender at the Winter X Games, will bring his progressive style and smoothness to Mount Snow in 2000. Women
The '99 Big Air and Slopestyle medal winners went out and blew it up after WX in Crested Butte. Tara Dakides (gold in Slopestyle, silver in Big Air) was featured in a full-length interview in Snowboarder magazine as well as being featured in TB 8 Infinity, and 1999.
Barrett Christy (gold in Big Air, silver in Slopestyle) had a television commercial with Nike, the cover of Women Outside magazine and had a feature in National Geographic Adventure -- two non-snowboarding magazines, and a victory at the X Games Big Air in San Francisco, stomping what the commentators dubbed the "Barrett Roll."
Jaime MacLeod, '99 WX Slopestyle Bronze medalist, is now a college student attending Plymouth State in New Hampshire and is ready to compete after having broken her tailbone last season. She says, "Hopefully I'll have an advantage because I'm from the East Coast and I'm used to icy conditions."
Janet Matthews, '99 WX Big Air Bronze medalist, has been cruising the motivational speaker circuits. She goes to schools and talks to kids about believing in themselves, and the concepts of success and failure. Halfpipe (Will be called SuperPipe in 2000)
The '99 WX Halfpipe gold medalist Jimi Scott has been busy planning and building a revolutionary new snowboard park for Mountain High in southern California. The park will be up and running for the 1999-2000 season.
Women's Halfpipe gold medalist Michele Taggart had several top-ten finishes during the 1998-99 season, but nothing to match her WX victory.
Shannon Dunn, the co-founder of Boarding for Breast Cancer and '99 WX Halfpipe silver medal winner continues to charge on and off her snowboard. Her commitment to community service has led to her involvement with Burton's Chill program, which takes inner-city kids to the slopes.
Cara-Beth Burnside, who took bronze in the '99 Halfpipe event, liked the added obstacles on the pipe because "I can carry over my skateboarding tricks." She'll be looking for new jib elements on the 2000 SuperPipe. East Coast Speculation:
Speculation about who will rule the infamously icy slopes of Vermont abounds. East Coast rulers Ross Powers, Keir Dillon, Tricia Byrnes, Abe Teeter, Jaime MacLeod, and Myles Hallen, among others, will have the home field advantage over the '99 WX pipe champs Jimi Scott, Michele Taggart, and the rest of the predominantly Western riders. New Faces on the scene
Watch for Myles Hallen, "ice-coast" local and the 1999 U.S. Open Big Air winner, in his first WX appearance. Youngsters Jarret Thomas and Andy Finch will be first-time competitors, both coming into the WX Games at 17 years old. Tommy Czeschin is coming off of an amazing season of competition. This 20 year-old Mammoth, CA, native is in the upper echelon of American halfpipe riders, and a definite threat for medal contention. Mount Snow local Kelly Clark and Montana's Sandy Theys, both 16 years old, will be competing in the Snowboarder X event. Who's Hot To Watch In 2000
Peter Line and Kevin Jones have ten Big Air and Slopestyle medals between them. They always have to be considered top contenders. Norwegian Daniel Franck, who has been missing from the WX scene since 1997, returns in 2000 with his unstoppable skills in the SuperPipe, Slopestyle, and Big Air events. Barrett Christy and Tara Dakides are double threats in the Big Air and Slopestyle events. Kimberly Bohnsack, Tina Dixon, and Jessica Dalpiaz will all bring their refined skills to the Women's Big Air and Snowboarder X courses. Slopestyle
J.P. Walker will bring his outlandish jibbing skills onto the Slopestyle course. Everyone will be watching him for the progressive rail and aerial maneuvers. Jimmy Halopoff has medaled in two out of three of the last WX Slopestyle events. He is certainly a contender in 2000. Jaime MacLeod has been silently gaining momentum as a professional snowboarder. She will be a threat on the rails and hits with her new school prowess and East Coast roots. Snowboarder X
Shaun Palmer remains the man to beat. European racers who missed WX '99 will definitely heat up the Snowboarder X course. Watch for ISF President Bertrand Denervaud, a formidable opponent on the course. Christoph Maierhofer is another European threat. There are several "dark horses" to watch for, including Ryan Neptune, Dave Dowd, Jason Troth, and Andy Finch. Maëlle Ricker will defend her title. And although Mayumi Fukuda finished toward the bottom of the heap in WX '99, few would be surprised to see this Canadian on the medal stand in 2000. SuperPipe
Landing out of medal contention at WX '99 will feed Ross Powers' drive for the podium at Mount Snow. Olympic Gold Medalist Gian Simmen will, no doubt, be looking to broaden his medal collection. Tommy Czeschin, America's hottest up and coming pipe rider, will be one to watch. Bavarian Xaver "X-man" Hoffman, is on top of his game-definitely a figure to keep an eye on. Tricia Byrnes had an incredible competition season during 1998-99. Watch for her powerful pipe riding skills in the SuperPipe. Nicola Thost is a contender everytime she drops into the pipe. She won the U.S. Open and the ISF overall halfpipe title during the 1998-99 season. Jennie Waara, who shattered her elbow during WX '99 in Crested Butte is going to be charging hard for a spot on the podium. Shannon Dunn is another Winter X Games medalist who is going to be tough to beat. The Euros Are Coming
With the ISF sanctioning the Winter X Games at Mount Snow, there should be an influx of European competitors who were absent from the '99 WX Games due to the conflict with the 1999 ISF European Championships. Olympic halfpipe Gold Medalist Gian Simmen, and powerhouse boardercross racers Phillipe Conte, Bertrand "Berti" Denervaud, and Catherine "Ine" Poetzl are among those on the invite list for WX 2000 who were M.I.A. at the '99 event.