Vans Cup riders wow crowd |

Vans Cup riders wow crowd

Photo by Josh Miller/Sierra SunTruckee's Andy Finch catches some air during the Vans Cup at Northstar last weekend.

The announcer with the Australian accent described the action Saturday at Northstar as well as anyone could.

“These guys are going ballistic,” he said, his tone oozing with excitement. “This is absolutely insane today.”

He was referring to the dazzling display of high-flying tricks being performed by each of the nine final competitors in the superpipe competition of the Vans Cup.

According to event organizers, the three-day Vans Cup is the most important snowboarding competition on the West Coast this winter, with nearly every big name in snowboarding and a total prize purse of more than $200,000. The competition started Friday with the Rail Jam and ended Sunday with an event dubbed the B.A.R., or Best All-Around Rider.

The finalists in the half pipe Saturday, narrowed down earlier in the day from a large crop of professional riders, included Andy Finch, Shaun White, Danny Kass, Elijah Teter, Keir Dillon, Mason Aguirre, Xavier Hoffman, Scotty Lago and Chris Nelson.

The judges had their work cut out for them.

After two of three runs they announced that Finch, who impressed the crowd by charging the walls of the pipe with abandon, was in first place. Kass was in second and Aguirre third.

Finch, a native of Fresno who now lives in Truckee, had a rooting section made up of family members a half-dozen strong at the bottom of the pipe.

“It’s funny, man, I came down and I could hear them all the way from the top of the pipe,” Finch said after his final run, in between autograph signings and photos. “It’s a blast having them out here. They’re a great family.”

Finch’s mom, Joanie, said that seeing her son snowboard in person is rare these days, and witnessing the gravity-defying tricks first-hand keeps her on edge.

“We only get to see him when he comes to California,” she said. “[Watching him] is very nerve-wracking. We pray for him, and I just want him to land on his feet. He did that, so that’s good.”

Finch’s enormous airs and technical 900s were good enough for second place, and $12,000, as the judges awarded Kass with first place honors ” $20,000 ” after his third run included double grab 720s, back-to-back 1080s and a smooth cab 900.

Keir Dillon, who crashed violently on the upper lip of the pipe in each of his first two runs, bounced back to win third place, and $7,000, on his final run, which was highlighted by huge McTwists.

In the women’s superpipe, Hannah Teter took first place, which was worth $17,000. Elena Hight, from South Lake Tahoe, placed second and won $8,500 and Kjersti Buaas earned $3,000 by placing third.

On Friday, Wyatt Caldwell won the men’s Rail Jam, and on the women’s side, Leanne Pelosi took first place.

Caldwell also placed first in the B.A.R. on Sunday, earning him $25,000 and a total of $40,000 during the three-day competition.

The B.A.R. course began with a double set of 25-foot stair rails that flowed into a 65-foot table, and finished with a towering quarterpipe/hip combo. Caldwell, after sliding the two rails with ease, stomped his Cab 900 mellon grab over the 65-foot table, then pulled off a stylish Cab 720 on the quarterpipe/hip combo.

Nate Sheehan placed second in the B.A.R., which was good for $15,000, and Andreas Wiig won $7,500 by placing third. In the women’s B.A.R. competition, Natasza Zurek took first place, and $17,000, Anne Flore Marxer won $8,500 and second place and Mary Sallah took home $3,000 with a third place finish.

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