MVP Saku Tillikainen. Photo: James North
Vans have been running their rootsy, style-centred Hi-Standard series for several years now and, after Chamrousee and Grindelwald played hosts last winter, this year it was the iconic 55000cm of Awesomeness at Talma, Finland that welcomed the crew in Europe.
The concept is simple, yet guaranteed to get everyone - riders, onlookers and judges - stoked: Jam format, no spins over 720, cash-for-tricks, free registration. With an emphasis on rewarding style and creativity over anything else, the Hi-Standard always brings together the local scene for an onslaught of tweaked-out hot lapping and the Talma edition was no different. If anything, with the resort's long history of producing some of the most stylish riders in the game, the event found its spiritual home on this 55m hill close to Helsinki.
With conditions close to perfect, a host of riders and spectators turned out for a full day of sick riding. Cash for tricks was the order of the day, Vans rewarding each rider that pushed their limits and demonstrated creativity for the assembled onlookers. And while every rider who showed up played their part in creating a memorable spectacle, a few stood out and were worth of special mention.
The MVP is the award dished out for the best overall rider, and there was no doubt that this day it belonged to Saku Tiilikainen who spent the day pushing boundaries with über-styled back rodeos and a bonkers array of tricks on the rails. As MVP, Saku deservedly bagged an all expenses paid trip to the grand-finale of the Hi-Standard in Sierra-at-Tahoe to battle it against all other MVPs from the tour's other stops.
Ville Jukola was singled out as the Most Improved Rider thanks to a series of incredible frontside sevens and a relentless, day-long assault on the park. Judges were in agreement that this guy was one to watch for the future.
The Van Doren Best Rail Trick session was an incredible demonstration of typically Finnish jib finesse, with Kalle Jarvilehto standing out amongst a ridiculous level of riding to win with a huge back 360 50-50 font 180 out on the donkey rail. The under 16s were also getting amongst it and showing the fully-growns that they'll be coming for them sooner rather than later - Annina Perhovaara took home the Under-16 Van Doren Best Rail Trick award for a perfect frontside boardslide on the up rail.
As the Hi-Standard spirit took over, riders were pushing themselves all over the park. None more so than Jaame Saatinen who claimed Best Slam with a huge over rotated backflip late 180 and paid the price as a result, not that it stopped him from killing it for the rest of the afternoon.
Finland is renowned the world over for the insane level of snowboarding talent it regularly pumps out, and Talma gives an insight as to just how and why. It’s not just the incredible freestyle facilities that make this possible but the fact that snowboarding is so well-loved amongst the Finns. It is for this reason the Vans Hi-Standard was suited so perfectly. Helsinki-raised snowboarding legend Heikki Sorsa is a living, breathing example of this and was happy to join the panel of judges in his own back yard (alongside fellow Finnish snowboard legend Joni Malmi and current Vans rider Benny Urban). He summed up the overall vibe perfectly: “Talma is where I grew up so really awesome to see so many talented kids to come here. The riding level was sick, I was judging and it didn’t even feel like it because it was just so awesome to watch."
Amen, brother. And nice one, Vans!