03/11/2009 | by Anna Langer
Markku Koski is by now a frequenter at the BEO. Photo by Sami Tuoriniemi
Burton’s European Open celebrated its 10-year anniversary in January 2009, so Onboard packed its bags and took a stroll down memory lane to glance back at the highs and lows over a decade of Europe’s premiere open snowboard contest. We already made a report in issue #105.
Photo by Sami Tuoriniemi
It’s 1998. Snowboarding has just seen itself swallowed by the global sports marketing jazzfest known as the Winter Olympics to a divided reception from the core. With control of the Olympic qualification wrestled from the ISF, and the ISF itself struggling financially, uncertainty about the direction of competitive snowboarding’s future is rife. Pre-millennium jitters of impending doom are not without substance.
It’s in this climate that Burton Snowboards decides that the time is right to introduce Europe to what has been successfully running annually in the US since 1982. With the emergence of Europe as a legitimate snowboarding power, it was a logical decision to replicate the successful US Open.
With Burton’s European HQ is in Innsbruck, it was a no-brainer to keep the inaugural event close to home. So in 1999, Seegrube, with its easy access and stunning view over the city, was chosen to play midwife to the newborn event by holding a primitive slopestyle Jam Session. The nipper had a more than decent babysitter for its first day in the sun as young local Burton rider Sani Alibabic became the BEO’s first ever winner before they upped sticks and setup for the pipe in the equally local resort of Axamer Lizum, where Thierry Brunner and Natasza Zurek would take the honour of being the first BEO pipe winners.
After a millennial hiatus, the BEO returned in 2001, this time to Fieberbrunn where it joined up with the infamous Lords of the Boards event. The second incarnation of the contest saw a corner jump on the cards, as well as giant slalom. Kier Dillon and Romina Massolini placed first on the hip, while Ueli Kestenholz and Ursula Bruhin had the pleasure of being the first and only spandex wearers to bag a BEO crown.
2002 saw the contest leave Austria to relocate in the tax haven of Livigno, Italy, which was to be its home for the next 3 years. It was here that the BEO started to develop more into the event we know today: pipe and slopestyle were firmly on the cards, as was a quarterpipe event, while GS was put back in the dusty cupboard. 2002 was also when the first junior contest went down that has since served as a veritable barometer for identifying the most promising groms on the continent, with kids like Olivier Gittler, Christian Haller, Mikkel Bang, Iouri Podladtchikov and Peetu Piiroinen amongst those who’ve announced their intent on this stage. This year Nicolas Müller bagged the pipe title, DCP the slopestyle, and David Benedek won on the quarter.
Markus Malin had some very good runs in the finals. Photo by Sami Tuoriniemi
A dark cloud was to envelop 2003’s edition of the contest when on 20 January, a meeting was called to break the tragic news that Craig Kelly had been killed in an avalanche while riding in British Columbia. With everyone shell-shocked, the contest was postponed for the day as a mark of respect. As if pre-ordained, the clouds cleared and all went riding powder with thoughts of Kelly the man and Kelly the snowboarder. When the contest recommenced, Vincenz Lüps nabbed first in the pipe ahead of Terje, and in the women’s pipe Natasza Zurek claimed her second BEO title. Arguably the best freestyle rider at the time, Jussi Oksanen, reinforced his claim by winning the slopestyle. Usually more of a rider-focussed event than a big crowd pleaser, this year they also stoked out the masses with a night shootout session held in the valley, which saw Thomas ‘Beckna’ Eberharter do his best Rick Kane impression, fighting his way through the qualifiers to win. And that mental Swedish fella Prippa jumped the pipe on his skidoo.
The final year of the BEO’s Livigno tenure was 2004, when Heikki Sorsa mounted the slopestyle summit, with the pipe being won Olympic golden boy Ross Powers for the men and Doriane Vidale for the women. In another nod to the future, Christian Haller, Luke Mitrani and Mikkel Bang rocked out on candy and soda to take junior titles. With that wrapped up, the contest bade farewell to the chintzy streets of the Italian town and struck out for Switzerland.
From the moment the BEO set foot in the Swiss resort of Laax, it seemed like it had fund its spiritual home, with the ethos of both parties harmoniously united in their raison d’etre. Both had believed in snowboarding before it was fashionable to do so, and with Laax having become well-known for the best pipe in Europe along with a rider-friendly mentality from the get-go, the heavy petting commenced in 2005.
Per- Iver at his impressing Slopestyle run. Photo by Sami Tuoriniemi
Here we were privileged to witness Andy Finch putting down one of the most insane pipe runs to date to take the men’s, and Kelly Clark stepped it up for the women. In the slopestyle, young Swede Chris Sörman took his first major career title, with Natazsa Zurek claiming her 3rd BEO win for the ladies. It was also here that 2008’s Global Open Series winner, Peetu Piiroinen, forced himself into snowboarding’s collective consciousness by placing first in the Junior slopestyle.
Come the following year, Peetu was old enough to compete with the seniors and duly blew them all away to win the slopestyle and Natasza Zurek bagged her 4th European Open win in the women’s event. As it was Olympic year several countries used the BEO pipe contest as the last qualifying event to select their teams, and the 0506 season was also the first year of the TTR World Tour, the BEO being awarded a 5 Star status in the Tour’s inaugural year. Subsequent years were to see it elevated to 6 Star status. 2006 saw Risto Mattila and Doriane Vidale take the honours in the finely sculpted U jump.
A crappy winter took its toll on the event for its 2007 incarnation. At the last minute the whole slopestyle was rebuilt up on the glacier due to a dearth of snow in the event’s usual location off the Crap Sogn Gion, but even this display of determination was to prove fruitless as high wind and fog caused the slopestyle to be canned. Rumours abound that the glacier course had been shaped so Shaun White could do all four 10s in his contest run, but it wasn’t to be. Furthermore, a clash of dates meant most of the heavy hitters in the pipe decamped to the US to attend the TV spectacular that is the X-Games. Nevertheless, Crispin Lipscomb and Holly Crawford put on a solid showing under now-bluebird skies to top the pipe podium, plus the BEO became integrated into the Burton Global Open series of events that rewards the highest placed riders with $100,000 each.
Last year’s BEO is memorable for perhaps one of the finest pipe finals ever, and certainly one of the most dramatic. With all and sundry in agreement that Shaun White had produced an unassailable performance and resigned to another ginger win, Kevin Pearce dropped and threw it out the window with a ballistic run that saw him chuck one of the biggest frontside 10s and McTwists to beat White at the last. Kelly Clark continued to show she’s head and shoulders above the rest of women’s pipe riding by going bigger than most of the dudes, and in the Slopestyle it was Shaun (with three 10s and a 9, no less) and Jamie Anderson who spun and jibbed their way to the top of the pile.
This was the opener of Kevins´last run. Photo by Danny Burrows
So, with champagne and balloons abound, the 10th edition of the BEO made party in Laax, and what a party it was. Both the men’s and women’s slopestyle were hotly contested affairs and saw leads changing hands on a run-by-run basis. For the ladies, Norwegian Lisa Wiik claimed the first major title of her career after struggling with injury over recent years and in the duder comp all signs were pointing to Peetu netting his second BEO slopestyle crown until the good American Danny Davis turned it up to 11 on his last run and blew all-comers away. The perfect bluebird and profusion of pink balloons set the stage perfectly for the super-duper pipe finals and, lo and behold, lightening struck twice as we were treated to a repeat of last year’s results. Kevin Pearce left it to the last run to put down an absolute barnstormer of a run – arguably better than his defining effort a year earlier – to again leave Shaun White nursing an ego bruise, and the women’s event was once more dominated by Kelly Clark whose last run when she knew she’d won was truly something to behold. All in all it was an epic party and a great way to celebrate a decade’s worth of Open snowboarding contests in Europe.
So, here’s to you BEO, and to another 10 fun-filled years of progressive contest shreddery. See you for your 20th when you can drink…