Is Vail’s Burton US Open competition gone for good? New series seems to say so

Sean Naylor and Scott N. Miller
Vail Daily
Pat Burgener gets inverted during the men’s halfpipe semifinals of the 2020 Burton U.S. Open in Vail.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

VAIL — Burton officials on Tuesday announced a new snowboard event series: The Burton Mystery Series. But to Vail locals, the bigger mystery is what’s going to happen to the Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships, which have been hosted in Vail since 2013.

The short answer is the annual celebration of snowboarding won’t return to Vail in 2022. In fact, the U.S. Open format looks to be a thing of the past.

Burton’s announcement drew comparisons to the U.S. Open and spoke of the event in the past tense, but fell short of making any definitive statement on the future of the contest.

“Unlike the Burton US Open which was always held in the United States, this final, pinnacle event would ideally be hosted in a different country each time, opening up the new event series to more international riders,” the release states.

“One of the major goals of the Mystery Series in the years to come is to get back to the roots of what events like the original Opens were all about — the idea that a young unknown rider could break into snowboarding through Burton events,” said Donna Carpenter, owner of Burton. “With all the passionate people working to build the new Mystery Series, Burton will continue its long legacy of hosting the greatest snowboard events in the world.”

When the Vail Daily reached out to Burton media contact Taren Dolbashian to see if this announcement meant the U.S. Open would not be returning to Vail anytime soon, the response was concise but clear.

“That is correct,” Dolbashian said.

Town of Vail Economic Development Director Mia Vlaar said the town and Burton have been talking for much of this year, so Burton’s announcement was no surprise.

With that in mind, the town hasn’t budgeted for a 2022 event. The town budgeted $490,000 for the 2020 event, which finished a bit more than a week before the state’s ski industry shut down.

Burton’s announcement follows last year’s cancellation of the 2021 event, originally slated for March 1-6. At the time, the event held the title of the world’s longest continuously running snowboard event.

The last Burton U.S. Open took place in 2020, about four months after Burton Snowboards suffered the loss of its founder, Jake Burton Carpenter. The competition that year was largely dedicated to Carpenter, with memorials and décor that told the story of the snowboarding pioneer who not only founded one of the sport’s most popular brands, but also helped push for the inclusion of snowboarding culture at large ski resorts across the U.S. Carpenter had a particular history in Vail, which started long before moving the U.S. Open there.

Snowboarder Anna Gasser competes in the 2020 Burton U.S. Open in Vail.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

“Jake was a huge Vail supporter,” Vail Mayor Dave Chapin told the Vail Daily in 2019.

While the “mystery series” is still developing, Vlaar said Town of Vail and Vail Resorts officials hope the series finds a way to host some kind of Vail event.

Holding the U.S. Open in late February and early March came at a time of need for Vail, which benefited from the lodging bookings associated with the event.

Beyond just bringing people to town, Vlaar said Burton also brought international TV and social media exposure for Vail. That’s hard to replace.

Vlaar said the town is looking at other possibilities for winter events, although it’s unlikely we’ll see what comes of those efforts until the 2022-2023 ski season.