ESPN, snowboarders to honor Jake Burton Carpenter in first X Games since his death
There will be a void at the bottom of the superpipe this weekend as X Games Aspen is held for the first time since the death of Jake Burton Carpenter. But expect the emotions to run as high as the rider above the deck.
The father of snowboarding, Burton, 65, died in November after a second battle with testicular cancer. He was a staple as the X Games grew from the late 1990s to the show it has become and Olympic sports it helped launch.
From his beginnings in a Vermont barn to the top of the industry, Burton’s legacy is undeniable. Riders from around the world joined the Burton crew, and this weekend they’ll honor him, some still with a heavy heart.
“Two years ago at X Games we went for some powder runs in between competitions,” Olympic and X Games gold medalist Anna Gasser said Wednesday afternoon. “With how the weather’s been with the little bit of snow the past two days it’s almost a sign that he’s still here and that he wants us to have a good time.
“Jake was never a boss. He was always like family.”
Watch for Mark McMorris and Danny Davis, two of the current stars on the men’s side and Burton riders who were close to him, to have an extra level of emotion.
When ESPN launches its on-air coverage Thursday night, the first event is men’s snowboard superpipe. Host Jack Mitrani, a former professional boarder who has deep roots in Vermont, became friends with Burton and will do the tribute.
“It just happens that we’re coming on the air first with snowboard superpipe, and so from our perspective, we felt that it was right to hit it and acknowledge Jake right off the top as we’re about to get into our first snowboard event,” X Games Vice President Tim Reed said Wednesday standing in the middle of the Buttermilk venue. “Jack has a long relationship with Jake so he’s the perfect person to say a few words and do what’s right.”
A Rhode Island native, Reed, 45, also has a New England connection with the Burton lore. His first Burton board was in the early 1980s when he was 8 years old, and it was the early version of Burton’s Snurfer.
“I still have it. It has the ‘JBC’ on it,” Reed said. “When I was growing up, our favorite thing at the holidays was our mom let us pick one thing out of the Burton catalog. … Burton was always the New England company.”
The U.S. Open started in 1982 in Vermont, more than a decade before X Games came onto the scene, and Burton was there.
The event, now known as the Burton U.S. Open, goes off each winter in Vail. This year’s event is Feb. 24 through 29 at Vail Mountain.
As the X Games grew, and Reed moved up the ranks from his first gig in Crested Butte in 1998 to now vice president, he’s seen how a Burton sighting upped the atmosphere.
“It was great how much support he gave to the riders who are a part of this. His impact is just undeniable,” Reed said. “You would see him at venue and you could tell everyone was just so stoked that he was here,” Reed said. “It was like, ‘Oh, Jake’s here.’”
Mitrani said Burton’s presence was felt no matter where he went, but certainly he enjoyed being around the riders. Burton was at the X Games pipe last year when snowboarding icon Kelly Clark made her final run.
“I just remember him at the bottom of the superpipe just holding court and having an aura around him,” Mitrani said. “His energy is definitely going to be upon us this weekend.”
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