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Kickin' It Out at 1st Euro Open
Brunner, Zurek Take Pipe
February 17, 1999

Innsbruck was the place to be during the second week in February for the first European Open, modeled after the classic US and Nippon Opens. Every snowboarder who wanted to ride had the opportunity to compete with the stars thus it was fully "Open."

ISF World Tour
Satu Jarvela
At the first European Open, organized by the Air & Style Company and Burton snowboards, we saw an ISF HP World Series in the Axamer Lizum, not far from Innsbruck, and a Jam Session for invited riders at the Seegrube, which is the home mountain of Innsbruck. Top riders like Mike Michalchuck (CAN), currently ranked No. 1 on ISF halfpipe tour, Olympic Champion Nicola Thost (GER) and Trevor Andrew (CAN) showed up.

"On the podium after a two-year absence was Roger Hjelmstadstuen, who pulled out an unbelievable third run consisting of a clean 900 followed by a super high Mctwist..."

Sebu Kuhlberg (FIN) was lucky he managed to get to Innsbruck in time after being arrested in Lech (AUT) with his friends Youbi Ahmed (BEL) and Nikke Grunewald (FIN). They couldn't get out of the valley because it has been snowing heavily in Austria during the last week and so the government had to close streets due to avalanche danger. And Marius Sommer and Roger Hjelmstadstuen (NOR) were stuck in St. Anton.

ISF World Tour
Xaver Hoffmann
Innsbruck, the snowboard capital, was again the place to be. On Thursday was the halfpipe qualifications, in which the best riders of the pre-quals got to compete with the pros. Jan Michaelis, an upcoming young German rider, who is competing his first season in the ISF World Tour, was able to win the quals with clean runs and super high tricks. He finally showed what he is able to do.

Austrian Joachim Köffler, was also a surprise after he qualified with his first run.

There were no big surprises in the women's competition; it was mainly the favorites who made it to the finals like Nici Pederzolli (AUT), Natasza Zurek (CAN) and Stine Brun Kjeldaas (NOR). Bad luck for Nicola Thost, who bailed in her qualification run and had no chance for victory.

The finals were planned for Friday in the Axamer Lizum and the weather god must like snowboarders because it had snowed and the weather had been bad for the whole week, but just in time for the finals, the riders were rewarded with blue skies.

In the men's competition it was Therry Brunner who ruled. He was the man of the day; the most consistent rider, Brunner pulled off three clean runs including switch 720's in the 120 meter long pipe. Brunner was rewarded by taking his first victory on the tour. In second was German Xaver Hoffmann, who is currently ranked second on the ISF World Ranking list. And finally, on the podium after a two-year absence was Roger Hjelmstadstuen, who pulled out an unbelievable third run consisting of a clean 900 followed by a super high McTwist.

ISF World Tour
Roger Hjelmstadstuen
In the girls finals was Natasza Zurek (CAN), who was always half a meter higher than the rest. In second was European Champion Stine Brun Kjeldaas (NOR) and in third, ISF World Champion Martina Tscharner (SUI).

On Saturday everybody moved to the Seegrube over Innsbruck, where over 40 riders were invited to the Jam Session. Before they started though, the the first "Fun-Inferno" took place. Organized by Martin "Frejn" Freinademetz, the event consists of a group of 40 wild snowboarders racing from the peak down to the valley. And it's all just for fun; to enjoy the great powder we have at the moment.

Surprising was the winning time of 5:17, because it's nearly unbelievable to get down 1, 450 meters in such a time. We have no idea which line winner Marco Avi took. In any case, the Seegrube is his home mountain so you can be sure that he knows every little piece of this mountain. Respect! The Inferno was big fun for everybody and we just hope there will be this much snow next year when the 2nd edition will take place.

The first round of the Jam Session was planned for early afternoon, but due to snowfall and poor visibility it was nearly impossible to hold the session, where the riders judge themselves. So Saturday became a training day. Max Plötzeneder was probably most happy about the delay because he was out too late the night before!

The contest finally started on Sunday, but it had snowed again and the visibility was only a little bit better so the riders and organizers decided to hold a shorter version. All the riders had one hour to show what they could do with the two kickers and the quarterpipe. There was no special starting order and the riders just went through the park when they wanted to.

ISF World Tour
Marius Sommer
The judges attached importance to the overall impression and the guy who was the best rider in the hour was Innsbruck local Sani Alibabic (AUT) just before Roger Hjelmstadstuen and Marius Sommer (both NOR). Unbelievable stuff also came from Markus Rehrl (AUT), who took 4th. Some said he should have won.

Anyway, this Jam Session was pure snowboarding and everybody had fun. It also proved to be the "double-brother-sessions" of Max and Nando Plötzeneder and Joachim and Bernie Köffler (all AUT), who took the kickers together. This is a sick event for the spectators.

But these weren't even all the events. European Open 1999. The organizers built a leisure center in the "Hafen" in Innsbruck with a skatepark, computer games, basketball, and parties every evening. There was a lot going on for the people in Innsbruck.

All in all the first European Open was a successful event with the perfect combination of contests, parties and lifestyle.

— Birgit Gruber, Mountain Zone European Correspondent

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