U.S. Revolution Tour returns to Copper with slate of national, international halfpipe hopefuls | AspenTimes.com

U.S. Revolution Tour returns to Copper with slate of national, international halfpipe hopefuls

Phil Lindeman
plindeman@summitdaily.com

The first superpipe in North America is ready for its close up.

Today through Saturday, more than 120 youth athletes from across the nation and world come to Copper Mountain for the first U.S. Revolution Tour stop of the 2016-17 season. The tour — a recently revamped pipeline event hosted by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USASA) — gives snowboard and freeski hopefuls the chance to show off their stuff in the Main Vein superpipe, all in hopes of earning enough points to keep moving up the pipeline and earn invites to the big shows: Dew Tour, X Games and, with enough luck, the Winter Olympics.

For most of October and November, low snowfall and above-average temperatures made resorts and competition officials across Summit County nervous. The superpipe, which usually opens in late November, wasn't ready for riders until the first day of Rev Tour competition. Even Dew Tour opted to nix the superpipe events, and hardly anyone, from pros to beginners, has had the chance to practice in a true pipe.

What's that mean for Rev Tour, then? One answer: A level playing field.

"In the end, this is the opening competition of the season and everyone is just getting their feet wet," said Paul Krahulec, event director for USASA's Rocky Mountain Division, the local organizer for Rev Tour at Copper. "Quite a few of the kids make it to the southern hemisphere these days, so it's not like they haven't been on snow. They just haven't been on snow here."

Pipe to pipeline

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A slow-starting winter won't totally derail Rev Tour's Copper stop, but Krahulec and crew were already forced to make a few adjustments. This week's event is superpipe only, with one day of snowboard competition on Dec. 8 and one day of freeski competition on Dec. 10. Practice begins today and the pipe will be closed to everyone except for Rev Tour competitors. There are no athletes from local clubs on the start list.

Last season, USASA redesigned Rev Tour to be more "meaningful" as a pipeline event, Krahulec said. In past years, athletes (aka parents) could enter high-level events simply by paying the entry fee. It put the wrong competitors in the wrong contests, which muddled the line between who deserved to be there and who needed more time in entry-level events.

"The cool thing they did is they're trying to get the grassroots program more involved with the pipeline," said Chris Hawks, director of Team Breckenridge's freestyle program. "They're doing a better job. In the beginning, there was no correlation between these events, but now we have points and rankings to get kids on the points lists."

And earning points at Rev Tour can open doors — big doors. Krahulec gives more than a half-dozen success stories: Kaitlyn Farrington, a former Rev Tour competitor who went on to win halfpipe gold at the 2014 Winter Olympics; Taylor and Arielle Gold, the Steamboat Springs twins who have both made finals for pipe at Dew Tour and X Games; Chris Corning, another Colorado native who won snowboard slopestyle at 2016 USASA Nationals in Copper and now competes in the Grand Prix.

The benefits of a streamlined — and tightly controlled — pipeline don't end there. In the end, Krahulec said the entire system is built to put youngsters in touch with their dreams, and it starts with the latest generation of champions.

"If you want a heartwarming story, check out what happened with Jacob Knight," said Krahulec, referring to the 7-year-old USASA member who had his first competition at 5 years old. Corning won a miniature snowboard at a USASA event, and instead of tossing it in a closet, he gifted it to Knight.

"Chris Corning, a world champion, taught Jacob Knight to snowboard in his backyard before he was a world champion," Krahulec said. "He was shredding it forward, if you want to think of it like that."

2016 U.S. Revolution Tour Copper schedule

Dec. 7 — Training at Main Vein halfpipe, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Dec. 8 — Halfpipe snowboarding qualifications and finals, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Dec. 9 — Training at Main Vein halfpipe, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Dec. 10 — Halfpipe skiing qualifications and finals, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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