SEVEN SPRINGS - Some of the world's top up-and-coming snowboarders will converge on Seven Springs Mountain Resort this weekend for the Burton U.S. Open 2014 Snowboarding Qualifiers.
The Seven Springs event, which runs Saturday and Sunday, serves as the U.S. Open's lone qualifier. Competitors will attempt to twist, turn and flip their way to the 32nd annual Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championship, set for March 3-8 in Vail, Colo.
This year's qualifier is full, with 150 snowboarders scheduled to compete, said Burton spokesman Ian Warda. The athletes hail from North America, Europe, Japan and several other countries, he said.
The top six men and three women in the Halfpipe and Slopestyle events will advance to compete in Vail against the likes of U.S. Olympic Halfpipe and Slopestyle Snowboarding team members Shaun White, Greg Bretz, Taylor Gold, Kelly Clark and Arielle Gold.
"We have a very limited number of invitations allocated for the U.S. Open finals, so this is the way to get in," Warda said of the Seven Springs qualifier. "It's one event, you show up and ride your way in. We're going to see a lot of really good athletes coming out this weekend to make the show in Vail."
This is the second year for the Burton qualifiers at Seven Springs.
"Seven Springs has developed a name in the industry for being a big supporter of snow sports. We are setting [the industry standard] for snowboarding and skiing," resort spokeswoman Anna Weltz said. "We were honored when we heard back from Burton saying they wanted to return this year."
Some of the biggest junior names in the world will compete at Seven Springs. Weltz said Taylor Gold won the Halfpipe event at Seven Springs last year during the Burton qualifier on his way to being named to this year's Olympic squad.
"Most of these competitors are teenagers and people in their early 20s," Weltz said. "Last year, Taylor Gold took home first in the Halfpipe. He recently earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic team and will be heading to Sochi. People who come out to watch these competitors could very well see someone else representing our country in four years."
Burton, for its part, appreciates its relationship with Seven Springs and the work the resort puts into the event, Warda said.
"Seven Springs has been a great partner and supporter of Burton over the years. We are very impressed with how they handle events such as this. They really go the extra mile," Warda said. "This venue is a great place for us to showcase some of the best riders in the world."
"We have one of only two Olympic-size Superpipes on the East Coast," Weltz added. "Our terrain park crew has added some innovative features that will make this a challenging and memorable course. It's very spectator-friendly and you can walk around the grounds for great looks at the course. Plus we will have a big video board up for people to watch."
Warda also said there will be plenty to do for those attending this weekend's event, which is open to the public.
"This really is a spectating-friendly event," he said. "We will have interactives at the resort including a Riglets park, which is Burton's learning program geared toward the youngest children, ages 3 to 6, to get them on a snowboard early. Seven Springs has a permanent Riglets park on site, and we'll be setting up another temporary park, as well."