Hall defends U.S. Open pipe crown | AspenTimes.com

Hall defends U.S. Open pipe crown

Devon O'Neil
Summit Daily staff writer
Tanner Hall grabs a ski while high above the halfpipe during the men's U.S. Freeskiing Open halfpipe finals at Copper Mountain. Hall placed first in the competition for the second year in a row. (Kristin Anderson)

Aspen, CO Colorado

COPPER MOUNTAIN ” International skiers may have owned the first two men’s competitions at the 10th annual U.S. Freeskiing Open this week, but the Americans still have Tanner Hall, and Hall still owns the halfpipe.

He proved as much Sunday afternoon at the Copper Main Vein pipe’s major event debut, defending his 2006 U.S. Open crown with a 95.25-point first run that bested high-flying Breckenridge upstart Matt Philippi’s 92-point, runner-up effort. New Hampshire’s Colby West took third (91 points) to secure the only all-American podium of the week.

For Hall, the victory solidified his standing as the top pipe skier in the world; he hasn’t lost a superpipe contest since the 2005 Winter X Games, when Simon Dumont beat him (Dumont did not compete on Sunday). This win was Hall’s third career U.S. Open pipe crown, and his sixth Open win overall, combined with the three slopestyle titles he’s claimed.

The iconic 23-year-old said he was simply happy to get a confidence boost going into Winter X Games 11 next weekend.

“That’s my safety run right there,” he said of the ultratechnical and switch-heavy string of tricks he landed. “X Games is definitely gonna ramp it up a lot more. I’m gonna try to go a lot higher, a lot more revolutions of spin, per se, in the run in Aspen. But I just want to stay consistent and just keep having fun. The main thing that I had today was fun, man, and that’s what anybody always has to remember is when they’re doing contests, if you can be having fun, that’s how you’re gonna do well.”

The freshly bearded Hall, a decorated competitor, has recently moved away from competing and has chosen to focus more on backcountry powder skiing. He did not take part in either the slopestyle or big air competitions this week, although he hardly appeared rusty when he finally did take the stage.

“Pipe just fits in as some fun stuff to do in the meantime, when there’s no pow to be shredded,” he said. “That’s what pipes and parks are for ” when there’s no pow in the backcountry, you come have some fun on some jumps and in some pipe.”

As for his ability to thwart the attempts of so many others intent on unseating him, Hall said, “That’s the thing, man: I’ve been competing for so many years of my life, I’ve got a great mental headgame on my shoulders. Like when I’m up there and I’m having fun, you can’t worry about what anybody else is doing.”

It’s a good thing he wasn’t worried, because the way Philippi and West performed would’ve made it easy to get distracted. Philippi, a 20-year-old from Boston who was added to the Breck Freeride Team this season after an impressive first winter in town last year, put together a sensational first run that featured the day’s most impressive amplitude and culminated with a switch 720 at the bottom.

“On my (second) run there I went for a switch 9 and dragged my hand,” he said. “If I could’ve stomped that, oh man, I would’ve been so stoked. But I landed every run I did today so I’m just excited. Everything’s great right now.”

West, meanwhile, fought through Saturday’s qualifying rounds just to make it to Sunday, where he showed he’s a contender in any event he enters. He punctuated his breakthrough performance (he’d failed to make the finals in each of his two previous U.S. Open entries) with a switch 900 at the end of his second run.

“Pretty much, that was the best I could do, I think,” said West, 21, who recently bought a car and has been driving around the West to compete ever since, sleeping in his ride when a better option isn’t available.

“I didn’t do a lot of events last year, spent most of my time filming,” he said. “This year is my comp year.”

Charles Gagnier of Quebec put together a pair of technically smooth runs less than 24 hours after he won $10,000 in Saturday night’s Big Air Invitational, though it was his second-run score of 87.25 that secured fourth place.

Niklas Karlstrom of Sweden rounded out the top five with an 85-point first run.