Vans Triple Crown rides into Northstar |

Vans Triple Crown rides into Northstar

On Sunday, as temperatures topped out at a balmy 52 degrees and the sun warmed the slopes of Northstar-at-Tahoe, more than 100 pro snowboarders cranked up the heat another notch with stellar performances in the finale of the Vans Triple Crown of Snowboarding Championships.

Snowboarders from all over the world have competed in the three-stop Vans Triple Crown Series in two previous competitions held earlier this year in Breckenridge, Colo., and Mammoth Lakes, Calif., to accumulate points for the overall men’s and women’s titles.

For the women, 2002 Winter Olympics halfpipe gold medalist Kelly Clark, 20, of Mount Snow, Vt., swept the overall point series, landing her a trip to Hawaii. For the men, the overall point series prize, a brand new 2004 Ford Ranger FX4 truck, went to Danny Kass of Vernon, N.J. Clark also took first in Sunday’s Superpipe finals. Kass finished sixth on Sunday and third in the Slopestyle finals held on Saturday.

Clark had the most amplitude by far and clearly swept the field (on Sunday), judges said.

“I feel killer,” Clark said after her first run. “I just really wanted to land everything on my feet, and I had great rides.”

In the Superpipe, competitors were judged on their amplitude, trick difficulty, progression, control and fluidity while cruising in and out of the 300-foot, 15-foot deep channel cut in the snow. Slopestyle finalists were judged on their fluidity in linking tricks on as many obstacles as possible on the tight course, spinning in all four directions and earning style points for form.

For the men’s Slopestyle, top three and $12,000, $8,000 and $5,000 respectively went to (first) George Oakley of Aspen, Colo., (second) Pat Moore of Water Valley, N.H., and (third) Kass. The women’s top three, for $8,000, $5,000 and $2,250, in Slopestyle went to (first) Janna Meyen of Bend, Ore., (second) Izumi Amaike of Japan, and (third) Natasza Zurek of British Columbia.

The top three Superpipe finishers for the men went to (first) Steven Fisher of St. Louis Park, Minn., (second) Luke Wynen of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., and (third) Mason Aguirre of Duluth, Minn. For the women, Clark took an overwhelming first, four points ahead of second place Hannah Teeter of Belmont, Vt., and third place finisher Kjersti Buaas of Norway.

All competitors wowed the packed audience with big air, big tricks and solid execution, but possibly the hottest ride of all came from one of Truckee’s own, Andy Finch, 22, who finished fourth in the Superpipe and sixth in Slopestyle.

Finch, originally from Fresno, Calif., opened his first run with “the biggest McTwist this judge panel has ever seen,” according to the judges and followed the crowd-pleasing trick with a solid double overhead frontside 1080, and Haakon flip into a frontside inverted switch 900.

But halfpipe jargon aside, the ride was big, smooth and solid.

“I wasn’t planning on doing that hard of a ride on my second run, let alone on my first. I was just feeling it and went with it,” Finch said after his ride.

Finch moved into second place after his first ride and was “clearly on his way to first place,” according to judges, on his second ride until his last trick, when he blew 14 feet out of the pipe and landed on the deck, on his head. Finch tumbled through the landing, losing both his snowboard and goggles in the process, but he finished with his hands raised high in the air as his family cheered him on with signs at the bottom.

“It’s great having my family out here,” Finch said. “It reminds me of when I played soccer in elementary school and they would come out and cheer.”

Local competitors drew plenty of attention with Elena Hight leading the pack in the women’s Superpipe in fifth place ($1,250). Other local finalists in women’s Superpipe included South Lake Tahoe resident Joanie Anderson in 11th, Autumn Rose, Truckee, in 12th, Kimmy Fasani, Truckee, in 19th and Paige Warner, Tahoe City, in 20th.

Erin Comstock of Incline Village led the pack for locals in women’s Slopestyle in seventh, earning $800, while Fasani followed in eighth ($700).

“I felt really good on my run,” Fasani said. “I did my first back-to-back backside threes. I came in today to the Superpipe feeling hot. I’m going big ’cause that’s what it’s all about.”

Joanie Anderson took 14th and Hight took 19th.

For the Tahoe men, Finch took sixth ($1,500) in Slopestyle and fourth ($3,500) in Superpipe. South Lake Tahoe resident Jimi Tomer took 13th for $300 in Superpipe.

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