Bellevue's Kaitlyn Farrington will celebrate a big event when she turns 21 on Saturday, Dec. 18—but she celebrated a week early last Saturday at Copper Mountain, Colo.
Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation alumni Farrington kept rising in her drive to become one of the world's top female snowboarders by winning the season's first Visa U.S. Halfpipe Grand Prix Saturday.
Farrington, second to Olympic gold medalist Kelly Clark in Thursday's women's snowboard qualifications, made it all the way to the top of the podium with a risk-taking second run Saturday that included a backside 900 plus a 720 at the end of the run.
It was the first Grand Prix victory for Farrington, who was thrilled.
She told NBC television after beating runner-up Clark by a 28.30 to 26.80 margin, "I'm super stoked. I was so nervous coming in so I'm just glad to walk away having landed both my runs. It's a great feeling—I can't believe I won. I wasn't taking 'no' for an answer."
Farrington's winning run featured air, backside 9, front 7, cab 7, air to fakie, and she had a big reason to be excited about her effort.
"It was the first time that I've landed the backside 9, so I was stoked just to try it and land it. I worked on it a lot last year and I'm happy it all came together this year. It's a good way to start out the season."
Farrington, the 5-4, 115-pound athlete who attended Hailey's Wood River High School, has been tearing up the competition scene with a silver at the Dew Tour and a gold at Winter X Games Europe, and now she owns her first Grand Prix triumph.
NBC television announcers called the Copper Mountain competition "one of the most progressive women's events ever seen on the Grand Prix circuit," and Farrington led the way in an international field.
Americans filled the 1-2-7 spots in the final, while Japanese racers placed third and fourth, Australia fifth, Spain sixth and Canada eighth. The men's snowboard halfpipe winner was Louie Vito of Sandy, Utah.
In its 15th season, the U.S. Grand Prix is the longest running domestic snowboarding tour. Its only other stop during the 2010-11 winter season is Mammoth Mountain, Ca. from March 4-6. This year's tour prize purse is nearly $200,000.
SVSEF Snowboard Team program director Andy Gilbert said Farrington was pretty pumped and fired up by her victory—one that should give the defending Dew Tour women's snowboard queen a head of steam when the 2010-11 Dew Tour debuts Dec. 16-19 at Breckenridge, Colo.
"Kaitlyn got off to a rough start last season but had a great second half on the way to winning the Dew," said Gilbert, suggesting that Farrington might carry her momentum to a much better start in 2011.
Skier halfpipe at Copper
SVSEF skier halfpipe competitors were in the Copper Mountain Grand Prix field of 71 men and 33 women Dec. 8-10 at the Colorado resort.
Tai Barrymore was eighth in his qualifying heat. He finished 19th in the men's final competition. Colter Brehmer placed 35th and Tyler Wellman 59th. In the women's competition, Hannah Haupt was 15th and Brita Sigourney finished fourth.
Although SVSEF alum Brehmer, Sigourney and Wellman are out-of-town athletes, they signed up for the Grand Prix as Sun Valley Freestyle Comp Team members.
That's because they specifically asked SVSEF Freestyle coach Ben Verge to coach for them after watching Verge's coaching skills with Haupt and Barrymore last summer at the FIS Junior World Championships.