Dew Tour returned to Copper Mountain in full force on Monday, with practice officially underway on both the superpipe and Slopestyle courses.
The sun was out, new snow last week helped set up pristine course conditions, and everyone was thrilled to be back, following a pandemic gap year for the event. The stakes are extra high this year, with the Dew Tour doubling as a World Cup designated tryout event in the Olympic qualification criteria.
“The course is running great, with lots of options to get creative on the rails and jumps,” New Zealand’s Zoi Sadowski-Synnott said after Monday’s Slopestyle practice. “More than anything, I think everyone is just excited to have Dew Tour back on the contest calendar after a tough year last year and to get to see everybody again.”
Chris Corning, a Summit County local who considers Copper Mountain his home resort, said the crews from Snowpark Technologies and Woodward at Copper crews nailed the Slopestyle course build.
“It’s awesome to be on a full course again after all the camps and stuff we’ve been doing over the summer and fall, where you’re often hitting just one jump over and over again,” Corning said. “This course feels really good: the rails are all super fun and a little on the technical side, so it’s a good puzzle challenge to start thinking out some lines and what might be possible here. The jumps are really good and a little bit different from what we’re used to, so it will be fun.”
Defending 2020 Dew Tour gold medalists Red Gerard and Jamie Anderson were among Monday’s Slopestyle practice standouts. Gerard grew up riding at Copper Mountain and said winning in front of friends and family last time around was a career highlight that brought emotions he’s eager to feel again.
“It’s always good to win in front of your people, but anyone will tell you it’s anyone’s day out there: everyone’s so good, everyone’s got tricks that other people don’t, and different courses suit different people,” Gerard said. “I just try to go out there and have fun on my snowboard and see what happens.”
The stoke was similarly high over on the superpipe course, just days after the U.S. Grand Prix event, another Olympic qualifier event. China’s Xuetong Cai, Japan’s Sena Tomita, and Spain’s Queralt Castellet took the top spots in the women’s event and will be favorites this week; Japan’s Ruka Hirano, Switzerland’s Jan Scherrer, and Japan’s Yuto Totsuka took the men’s podium.
“The halfpipe is amazing, and honestly Dew Tour is just my favorite event of the year,” said Summer Fenton after Monday’s practice. “‘I’m so happy that it’s back in action.”
Fenton is one of eight women vying for just four superpipe spots to represent U.S.A. in the 2022 Beijing Olympics. Chloe Kim and Maddie Mastro will almost certainly claim the top two spots, leaving a big fight for the remaining two.
“The Olympic year really ignites a fire in me to work to be where I want to be,” Fenton said. “The vibes are a little different this year!”
Jiayu Liu, the defending 2020 Dew Tour women’s Halfpipe gold medalist, was among the standouts in Monday’s practice, as was Chloe Kim, who skipped the Dew Tour in 2020 to focus on her freshman year studies at Princeton but is now very much back in the game: she won every major contest in 2021, including X Games, the FIS World Snowboard Championships, and World Cup events in Aspen, CO, and Laax, Switzerland.
Kim did not compete at the U.S. Grand Prix last week, so she is coming in fresh this week. Maddie Mastro also skipped the U.S. Grand Prix: watch for two different doubles in her contest runs this season. The new frontside double cork 1080 she learned at Saas-Fee, Switzerland in November, and the double crippler she landed in competitions last season.
Yuto Totsuka, who won every major contest in the 2020-2021 season (but dropped to third in last week’s U.S. Grand Prix event), was riding like a man possessed in the first practice on Monday, determined to climb back to the top of the podium this week. The Japanese rider declined a brief interview at the base of the pipe, but he’s absolutely one to watch as the week unfolds: he’s one of three riders – alongside Ayumu Hirano and Ruka Hirano – who landed the first-ever triple corks this fall in a training camp at Saas-Fee, Switzerland in October. Triple corks have never been landed in halfpipe competition, but they are absolutely coming.
Ayumu Hirano, the Halfpipe silver medalist from the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics behind Shaun White, took several years off from snowboard competition to focus on qualifying for and competing in Skateboarding at the Tokyo Olympics. Hirano said landing the frontside triple cork 1440 in October, shortly after his return to snowboarding, gave him confidence as he faces a busy contest season between now and the Beijing Olympics.
“It depends on the pipe conditions, my physical and mental condition, and the competition situation,” Hirano said, of the chances for seeing his triple cork this week. “If all of those elements are in place and it feels right, I will try the triple. It is my nature to take the next step forward.”
Dew Tour is free to attend, with qualifiers beginning at Copper Mountain on Wednesday, December 15, and finals beginning on Friday, December 17. Dew Tour VIP passes for priority seating, and other perks are available for purchase.