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Pros throw down at Showdown

Top prize goes to Calgarian, 17

The ninth annual Sapient Showcase Showdown – and the inaugural Pipestyle competition – wrapped up under the lights on Saturday night after two days of qualifiers and semi-final events. Ten men and five women moved on to the finals, from a field of 75 qualifiers, to compete for $25,000 in prizes.

The crowd got larger as the night went on, and by the time the finals were underway spectators were stacked five deep on the halfpipe walls, and packed the bottom area of the pipe.

Pipestyle is a new event, conceived by organizers at Showcase, that combines halfpipe and slopestyle events into one. It took place at the Base II superpipe, with hip jumps up top, boxes along the middle, and a series of gaps to rails on the bottom section.

According to the judges, they were looking for riders who went big off the hip, grinded the middle boxes, made good use of the halfpipe, and did something on the bottom rails "to get the crowd going".

Calgary’s Dustin Craven met that criteria and then some, launching huge 540s over the first hip, following up with frontside 720s, switch 540s, getting well out of the pipe to grind the rails, and spinning 270 off the bottom handrail. Other riders went bigger, added more spins, and hit the huge gap to the flat rail at the bottom, but nobody put everything together as well, or as consistently, as the 17-year-old Craven.

"It was so much fun," he said, thanking all the volunteers and organizers for putting the event together.

"I like it (pipestyle), it’s really good for the people who ride everything, both halfpipe and terrain park.

"It tests all of your skills. You really have to push it for every feature."

The $10,000 first prize was his biggest haul to date, although he won $1,000 in a slopestyle the previous week at Canada Olympic Park.

Chris Wimbles finished second and collected $4,000 while Neil Connolly took third and $2,000.

A jet-lagged Crispin Lipscomb, fresh off a flight from the Torino Olympics, took $1,000 for fourth, and Travis Williams $500 for fifth.

As always the results don’t tell the whole story. In his first run in the finals Williams launched about 20 feet in the air off the first hit, then followed up with a 15-foot method on the superpipe wall. He doesn’t ride the pipe that often, but what he lacked in spins he made up for in size and guts.

Jesse Kumlea was seventh, but could have easily made the podium if he hadn’t missed the middle boxes on both his runs. He was the only competitor to go inverted off the first hip, throwing huge, slow-spinning Michalchuks more than 15 feet out of the pipe.

Connolly, who usually competes in big air and slopestyle, proved he could ride the pipe just as easily, and threw down perfect run after perfect run.

Whistler’s own Tim Orr was eighth after making a few little mistakes, but consistently got some of the biggest air of the day.

And Craig Beauleu, fifth overall, took the biggest risk of the evening when he attempted a backside 270 over the 15-foot gap onto the flat rail, which is basically a blind jump. He didn’t quite stick it, but got one of the biggest cheers of the evening from the crowd.

In the women’s contest, the top prize of $5,000 went to local Pilar Peterson, who launched the biggest airs off the top, had no problem grinding the middle boxes, and impressed judges with her rail skills.

Peterson only enters a few pro contests a year. Before the Showdown her best result was a 10 th at the U.S. Open in slopestyle, and she competes in the odd Triple Crown event in the U.S. She’s not a sponsored pro per se, but gets support from Burton and Smith.

"I’m not really into contests as much these days, but I do enjoy this contest, whatever the format, in particular. The Showcase Showdown has always been just good times and good commentary. Without the commentators it wouldn’t be quite the same," she said.

"It’s all your friends riding in the contest and all your friends watching, so it’s a lot more fun than going to a contest somewhere else.

"Five thousand is the most money I have ever won, so I’m really stoked about that."

She found the pipestyle format "refreshing", and hopes to see more of them in the future. Peterson also admits that she prefers freeriding to the park, but will hit the park if there’s no fresh snow to ride.

As for the rest of this year, she might enter the slopestyle during the World Ski and Snowboard Festival, but will otherwise save her biggest airs for powder days.

"To be into the contest scene you have to spend a lot of time in the park," she said. "I’ve already had both ACL’s repaired and ankle surgery too, so I take it a little easier now."

Second place and $2,000 went to Calgary’s Charmaine Ironside, while Star of Peace Quinn, who packed more tricks into her runs than the other riders, claimed third with $1,000.

Leanne Pelosi and Alexis Waite were fourth and fifth.

Vancouver-based Sapient Snowboards put up most of the cash and prizes for the event, and gave away several snowboards to fans during two days of competition.