China's Xumei Wang competes at the 2013 Sprint U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colo. (file photo: Sarah Brunson/U.S. Snowboarding)

Sprint U.S. Grand Prix Kicks Off At Copper

Copper Mountain, CO – The Sprint U.S. Grand Prix returns to Colorado’s Copper Mountain this week with four back-to-back days of halfpipe action to kick off the 2015 season for both freeskiing and snowboarding.

Copper Mountain and its 22-foot halfpipe have been a staple on the Grand Prix tour for the better part of two decades and this season will be no different. Copper Mountain has been blowing snow and shaping its Main Vein halfpipe for a return to competition for 2014 Olympians. Olympic Champions Kaitlyn Farrington, Maddie Bowman and David Wise will be competing along with an international field of competitors that will include Olympic women’s snowboarding finalists Hannah Teter (USA), Xuetong Cai (CHN), Shuang LI (CHN) as well as Sophie Rodriguez (FRA), Mirabelle Thovex (FRA) and Queralt Castellet (SPA). On the men’s side of things, the likes of Olympic snowboarding Bronze medalist Taku Hiraoka (JPN), and Sochi snowboard finalists Yiwei Zhang (CHN), Tim-Kevin Ravnjak (SLO), Kent Callister (AUS) and Greg Bretz (USA) will compete.

China's Xumei Wang competes at the 2013 Sprint U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colo. (file photo: Sarah Brunson/U.S. Snowboarding)
China’s Xumei Wang competes at the 2013 Sprint U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colo. (file photo: Sarah Brunson/U.S. Snowboarding)

National associations have filed in their team registrations. By now, roughly 80 athletes from 17 nations are ready to drop in and compete at the sole halfpipe event prior to the FIS Snowboard World Championships next January.

“It’s always great going to Copper for the first contest of the year, it’s great to start the season off in a good pipe and at a good event like the Grand Prix,” says pro snowboarder Louie Vito, of Sandy, Utah. “I’m very excited to get the season rolling and get back in the swing of things and see all our friends.”

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Copper’s snowboard competition will be the first held under a new format approved at the FIS Congress in Barcelona, Spain, last spring. Riders will now have three runs instead of two to showcase their tricks in style in halfpipe and slopestyle contests.

“We met the wish of riders and national federations by adding a third run. It will reduce the pressure on the finalists and also show the best snowboarding possible,” FIS Snowboard Race Director Uwe Beier commented.

With the addition of a third run in the finals, the number of finalists was reduced in order to still complete the finals within 90 minutes. From this season on, six women and 10 men will go for the win. In past years, six women and 12 men were allowed to start in the finals.

The first stop on the Grand Prix Tour will also be the first FIS World Cup of the 2015 season plus a Platinum level Association of Freeskiing Professionals (AFP) event and a World Snowboard Tour International level event. In addition to David Wise and Maddie Bowman, male U.S. Freeskiers set to compete include Simon Dumont, Gus Kenworthy and Torin Yater-Wallace, while  Annalisa Drew, Devin Logan and Brita Sigourney are among the U.S. women skiers who will be dropping in.

Both halfpipe events, snowboarding and freeskiing, will be broadcast in the U.S. on NBC and NBCSN along with live streaming of the finals on nbcsports.com and on the NBC Sports LiveExtra app.

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Additional stops on the Grand Prix circuit this season will take place at California’s Mammoth Mountain, and Park City Mountain Resort in Utah.

“The success of the Grand Prix over 19 years has been based in great part on having the support of key resorts. Copper, Mammoth Mountain and Park City are all classic Grand Prix venues that provide domestic training and competition opportunities for U.S. snowboarders and freeskiers,” says Eric Webster, Grand Prix Tour Director. “This support has lead to a tradition of success for U.S. athletes at elite and Olympic levels.”

EVENT SCHEDULE
Wed. Dec. 3 – Freeskiing halfpipe qualifier 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. MT
Thu. Dec. 4 – Snowboarding halfpipe qualifier 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. MT
Fri. Dec. 5 – Freeskiing halfpipe finals 12:30 p.m.-2:00 p.m. MT
Sat. Dec. 6 – Snowboarding halfpipe finals 12:30 p.m.-2:00 p.m. MT

BROADCAST SCHEDULE (times ET)

Live Streaming
Finals will be live streaming on nbcsports.com and on the NBC Sports LiveExtra app
Dec. 5 10:30a.m.-12:00 p.m. (Freeskiing)
Dec. 6 10:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. (Snowboarding)

TV
NBCSN – Dec. 6, 5-6 p.m. (Freeskiing)
NBCSN – Dec. 7, 2:30-3:30 p.m. (Snowboarding)
NBCSN – Dec. 20, 6-7 p.m. (Snowboarding & Freeskiing)
NBC – Dec. 21, 3-4 p.m. (Snowboarding & Freeskiing)

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