Grand Prix returns to PCMR
After a successful U.S. Freeskiing and Snowboarding Grand Prix last February, it seemed to take a while for the event to announce its return for the 2016 winter season. Now, though, plans have been finalized and a schedule has taken shape for the event, which will be held at Park City Mountain Resort Feb. 3-6.
Despite the delay in the formal announcement, U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) Senior Director of Events Eric Webster said it was never in danger of going away.
"We’ve been talking with the group at Park City since the event last year," he said. "For whatever reason, it just took us a while to get the details sorted."
Complicating matters this year are the X Games, which will be held Jan. 28-31 in Aspen, Colorado. But, Webster said, the USSA decided to bookend the X Games to try to draw top competitors to its Grand Prix schedule.
"You’ve got the X Games the last week of January and our other Grand Prix in Mammoth, California, is the week before X Games," he said. "We’ve created a sort of North American swing. Athletes from around the world can come compete in three world-class events in three weeks. It’s a great way to capture the world’s top talent and showcase three great events."
This year’s Grand Prix will be different than last year’s. In 2015, both slopestyle and halfpipe competitions were held for skiers and snowboarders. This year, only ski and snowboard halfpipe competitions will be featured.
Though it was a challenge for PCMR to open the King’s Crown slopestyle course last year due to a severe lack of snow, Webster said that wasn’t a factor in deciding against slopestyle competitions this year.
"That was definitely an off winter," he said. "But part of it was Park City made the decision not to build the slopestyle course in King’s Crown this year. We as an organization didn’t want to go to an alternate venue — King’s Crown is a world-class venue."
But, Webster added, the USSA wanted to make sure it took advantage of PCMR’s Eagle Superpipe by showcasing it with a pair of top competitions.
"In our opinion, [the Eagle Superpipe] is one of the best in the world," he said. "Last year, it arguably hosted the best freeskiing event in the world. Park City does an amazing job with the preparation."
Plus, Webster continued, the USSA wants to maintain a presence in Park City.
"It’s vital for us to be here," he said. "The fact that it’s in our hometown is key. The motivation level for us to host events [at PCMR] is high."
With the superpipe right in the USSA’s backyard, halfpipe athletes can take advantage of it all season long.
"It creates great training opportunities for our team," Webster said. "Having that opportunity for our USSA athletes is integral to our programs and our goals."
The Park City Grand Prix falls on the same weekend as the Deer Valley Freestyle World Cup this year, so Webster said it will be a good way to practice for 2019, when Park City will host the Freestyle, Freeskiing and Snowboarding World Championships.
"The way [the Grand Prix] fell on the week of the Deer Valley World Cup gave us a way to test that concept a bit," he said. "There will be elite competitions happening day and night to test for the 2019 World Championships. It stretches our resources a little bit and it’s going to be a super busy week, but hopefully it’ll be vibrant."
The freeskiing halfpipe finals are scheduled for Friday, Feb. 5, at noon. The snowboard halfpipe finals are scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 6, at noon.
2016 Park City Grand Prix Schedule
Feb. 3 — Freeskiing Halfpipe Qualifiers — 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Feb. 4 — Snowboard Halfpipe Qualifiers — 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Feb. 5 — Freeskiing Halfpipe Finals — 12-1:30 p.m.
Feb. 6 — Snowboard Halfpipe Finals — 12-1:30 p.m.
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