Burton’s Junior Jam features world’s top young talent in US Open kickoff event
VAIL — The Burton US Open Junior Jam brings the top up-and-coming riders of the sport of snowboarding to Vail to compete each year and features an international field. This year, the field of nine girls and 16 boys featured five Ski & Snowboard Club Vail riders, including 8-year-old “phenom” Patti Zhou.
“Patti rides with Ski & Snowboard Club Vail,” SSCV coach Dylan Kobriger said from the finish area at Golden Peak on Tuesday as young shredders ripped up the 22-foot modified halfpipe. “She’s a phenom. I ride with a bunch of the young kids, and she’s their best friend. They love her. She’s so nice. She’s encouraging. She high-fives everybody, wants to ride with everybody, be friends with everybody and always has high stoke.”
The 8-year-old could be seen with a big smile on her face the entire competition and was usually the first to congratulate other riders in the finish area.
“I can’t even believe it,” said Listle Isaacs, whose daughter is friends with Zhou. “She’s just an amazing little phenom ripper with a personality to match.”
As the Junior Jam was going down in the halfpipe, the pros were getting some practice on the slopestyle course, and Zhou excitedly spotted Mark McMorris doing practice laps.
“That was really fun,” she said after coming down the halfpipe that towers over her. “I just keep practicing, and I always have fun.”
Zhou and her family are from China and are living in Frisco this winter. This year’s Junior Jam was her first as she finished in sixth place with a score of 42.20.
“That 8-year-old girl was ripping,” said Jared Campbell, a local ski tech at Ski Base who took in the Junior Jam on his day off Tuesday. “She aired out right in front of my face.”
Sonora Alba, of San Pedro, California, won the girls Junior Jam with a score of 75.00. The 13-year-old crashed on her first of two runs before landing the winning run.
Alba will now compete in the women’s halfpipe semifinals Thursday.
“I’m so hyped about it,” she said. “It’s one of the greatest events of the season.”
Alba jumped from last to first with her second run, topping Rinka Nishizuka, of Japan, who finished second. SSCV rider Kailey Bogart, 14, finished third and was visibly excited in the finish area about her second run that featured a smooth crippler, a trick she had trouble landing in practice.
“I just visualized it right before my run and talked about it with my coaches and came in and landed it,” she said beaming with pride.
Bogart had to also handle the nerves of being the first rider into the pipe Tuesday.
“I’m so proud of her,” said her mother, Jen. “I couldn’t be more proud. I mean, only she can do it and we can only hope that she does.”
The Bogarts, a military family, spend time in Hawaii. This winter, they are living in Avon.
Edwards resident and SSCV rider Olivia Lisle also competed — to a specially requested song. In the finish area were friends, family and teachers.
“We actually ski, but we’re her friends,” said Taylor Hale and Audrey Crowley, who were there supporting their friend.
The girls were able to watch the competition before heading to school later in the afternoon.
“This is the cross-pollination of the academy right here,” said Steve Crowley. “Kids that ski and snowboard together.”
Boys Junior Jam
The toughest rider of the day in the entire field was Brooklyn Depriest, of Edwards, who took a gnarly fall in warmups yet still made an attempt at the course. The 14-year-old’s father said he was cleared by medical staff of a concussion but was pretty banged up and having a hard time walking.
Brooklyn’s brother, Beckett, also competed. It was his first Junior Jam and he saw big air out of the halfpipe in both his runs.
“It’s super nice just being out here and living here,” he said.
Fynn Bullock-Womble, of Orlando, won the boys Junior Jam with a score of 95.40. The 15-year-old had the top two scores of the day, with a 90.80 on his first run.
“It’s awesome. I couldn’t believe landing it,” he said of the winning run. “It was the first time I did that. I learned the cab 10 three days before this contest and I was just really happy to land it.”
With the victory, Bullock-Womble will compete in the men’s semifinals on Thursday.
For these young riders, ages 8 to 15, experience matters. This was Bullock-Womble’s third year competing in the Junior Jam before winning it.
“Last year I got third, and it just gave me more of a drive to get first this year, so I’m happy,” he said, long hair flowing in the finish area before being drenched on the podium.
For Alba, the girls winner, this was her fourth year competing and her first podium.
Bogart, who finished on the girls podium, was competing for the third year at Junior Jam.
“Definitely having experience is really big for me,” she said. “I’m not nearly as nervous.”
It’s good news for young riders like Zhou and Beckett Depriest, who is 10 years old.
“That 8-year-old is just insane,” said spectator Jamison Murray.
The Junior Jam each year provides a glimpse into the future of snowboarding — which is looking awfully bright — and local.
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Puckett was a five-time Olympian and World Cup skier