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Season preview: 2019/20 FIS Snowboard Halfpipe World Cup
Queralt Castellet (ESP) last season in Laax © Buchholz/FIS Snowboard

The 2019/20 FIS Snowboard Halfpipe World Cup gets underway this weekend in Copper Mountain (USA), the first of five stops on a tour that this season will see the world’s best halfpipe riders compete in the USA, China, Switzerland and Canada over the next three months. With no world championships or Olympic Winter Games on the docket for this season the World Cup looms even larger in importance, with the crystal globes for the season’s best riders looming on the horizon as 2019/20’s ultimate prizes. 

Venues (click for more info):

Copper Mountain (USA), Dec 12-14, 2019 - One of the most important resorts for the star-studded US Snowboard team, Copper Mountain has been a stalwart World Cup host since the 2012/13 season, and the resort’s halfpipe has consistently proven to be amongst the best in the world. With the legends of the sport like Chloe Kim (USA), Kelly Clark (USA), Torah Bright (AUS) on the women’s side, and men such as Scotty James (AUS), Shaun White (USA), and Ayumu Hirano (JPN) all gracing the Copper World Cup podium in years past, the competitors at this season’s Land Rover US Grand Prix Copper Mountain should all be ultra-motivated to land in the top three and add their names to a distinguished list.

Secret Garden (CHN), Dec 20-22, 2019 - After Copper it’s a hop across the pond to China for what will be the third iteration of the Secret Garden halfpipe World Cup - a stop on the tour that grows in importance every year that we move close to the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games. This is because, as you might already know, Secret Garden is slated to be the host resort for halfpipe and slopestyle competition at the next OWG, and there’s no denying that familiarity and experience in the pipe upon which that the whole world will be gazing in three years’ time can only be of benefit to the riders hoping to shine on snowboarding’s biggest stage.

Laax (SUI), Jan 14-18, 2020 - The first halfpipe competition of the new decade will go down in what is perhaps the snowboard world’s best-known and most well-loved resort - Laax, Switzerland. 2019/20 marks the fifth season of the Laax Open in its current form and the fourth straight year that the Open has also been a World Cup event (though the resort has been a host of memorable top-level snowboard competition dating all the way back to 1993). With massive crowds lining Laax’s always-perfect pipe to watch the world’s most explosive snowboarders sending it under the lights in the nighttime finals, the atmosphere at the Laax Open is will be short of electric. Mark this one on the calendar. 

Mammoth Mountain (USA), Jan 29-31, 2020 - After Laax it’s back Stateside to a venue no less legendary in snowboarding’s history, as we return to California for the Land Rover US Grand Prix Mammoth Mountain for the fourth time in the past five seasons. Mammoth’s Unbound terrain park and halfpipe have seen essentially any rider who’s anybody put in their laps over the past several decades of snowboarding, and pure vibe around the resort is a joy to take in every season. Pulling into that parking lot and seeing the massive woolly mammoth sculpture that greets the resort’s visitors inspires a little bit of awe in everybody who makes the trip, and on days when the sun is shining there’s no better place to be for a day of World Cup halfpipe competition.

Calgary (CAN), Feb 13-15, 2020 - The 2019/20 FIS Snowboard Halfpipe World Cup season will come to a conclusion in mid-February in the Great White North, at Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park. One of the host venues for the Calgary 1988 Winter Olympic Games, Canada Olympic Park has since then become one of Canada’s most important high performance sport training centres. And, located as it is just 20 minutes from downtown Calgary, a city of some 1.3 million people, COP is also one of the most conveniently located venues as you’re likely to find anywhere in the world. With Canada’s best halfpipe and the excitement of the halfpipe World Cup finals going down in one of the world’s best snowboard nations, the Snow Rodeo in Calgary is sure to be a fitting ender to the season.

Three to watch - Women (click for FIS bio):

Maddie Mastro (USA) - After riding in the shadows of her compatriot Chloe Kim for the past couple of seasons, 19-year-old Maddie Mastro is ready to take her place in the spotlight. And while Kim announcing that she’s stepping back from competition to focus on her studies this winter, Mastro may stolen attention away from her teammate this season regardless, based on what we saw at the US Open last year. There, dropping in for for her final run, Mastro made history by becoming the first women’s rider to stomp a double-invert in competition when she put down a near-perfect double crippler on her second-to-last hit. It was the first major competition victory of her career and a huge moment for snowboarding, announcing loud and clear that Mastro may be the top woman in the halfpipe world in 2019/20. Oh, and did we mention that she took Utah 2019 world championships bronze, as well?

Cai Xuetong (CHN) - Last season saw 26-year-old Cai Xuetong put her name into the record books as the most successful World Cup freestyle snowboarder of all time by winning her fifth halfpipe crystal globe. The epitome of consistency since her debut on the World Cup, Cai has only finished outside of the top-10 three times in her decade on tour, while picking up 23 podiums and 10 victories in her 32 competitions entered during that period. Throw in back-to-back world championships gold medals from Kreischberg 2015 and Sierra Nevada 2017 and a silver last year at Utah 2019 and it all adds up to making one of the sport’s all-time greats.

Queralt Castellet (ESP) - Despite being one of the older riders in the field at the age of 30, Queralt Castellet continues to be one of the world’s top competitors even as she enters her 15th season of World Cup action. In fact, 2018/19 was one of the best seasons of her career, as she picked up two podiums in four World Cup starts (including a win in Calgary), as well as X Games silver and a fourth-place finish at the Utah 2019 World Championships. In the youth-powered world of competitive snowboarding, it’s the veteran Queralt Castellet of Spain showing the kids that you don’t have to stop ripping into your 30s.

Not to be overlooked - Kurumi Imai (JPN), Hikaru Oe (JPN), Arielle Gold (USA), Wu Shaotong (CHN), Sena Tomita (JPN)

Three to watch - Men:

Scotty James (AUS) - In 2018/19 25-year-old Scotty James had, quite simply, one of the greatest, most dominant seasons of all time for a halfpipe rider. Starting off with a win at the season-opener World Cup in Copper Mountain, James then went on to win the X Games, the Laax Open World Cup, the Utah 2019 world championships, the Dew Tour modified superpipe and, finally, the Burton Open, making it six wins in six events for a staggeringly impressive perfect season. And don’t forget, James’ Utah 2019 gold was his third-straight world championships title, which, along with his PyeongChang 2018 Olympic bronze medal, four total X Games golds, and two crystal globes, makes him one of the most decorated riders of all time. Needless to say, we don’t expect anything less than amazing any time Scotty James drops in to the pipe. 

Yuto Totsuka (JPN) - Since landing on the World Cup scene as a 16-year-old in 2017/18, Yuto Totsuka has done nothing except blow everyone’s minds. He won the first World Cup of his career in Cardrona, has hit the podium in eight of nine career World Cup competitions, claimed the halfpipe crystal globe in both of his first two seasons, earned silver at all three of the Utah 2019 world championships, 2019 X Games, and 2019 Dew Tour, and done it all with some of the most jaw-droppingly explosive runs we’ve seen since his countryman Ayumu Hirano was on the scene. Totsuka is still just 18-years-old and only getting better, and the rest of the world is going to have a tough time keeping up.

Toby Miller (USA) - Already four season deep into his World Cup career at just 19-years-old, Toby Miller last season showed that he’s ready to take the next step, winning the junior world champs in Cardrona before going on to score his first career World Cup podium with a second place in Copper. He missed the podium at the Utah 2019 world championships by the barest of margins - scoring 90 points only to get best by Pat Burgener’s (SUI) 91.25, while also making his way to the finals at the Aspen X Games where he finished 8th. With last year’s experience under his belt, expect Miller to take his place amongst halfpipe snowboarding’s elite in 2019/20.

Not to be overlooked - Jan Scherrer (SUI), Patrick Burgener (SUI), Ikki Anai (JPN), Chase Josey (USA), Derek Livingston (CAN), Taylor Gold (USA)

Livestream:

Perhaps the biggest news of the off-season for fans of FIS Snowboard, Freestyle, and Freeski World Cup action was the announcement that all World Cup events - save for those with special broadcast rights restrictions such as the ones seen in Switzerland and Austria - will be live streamed on the FIS Snowboard or FIS Freestyle YouTube channels this season.

While geoblocking restrictions will limit the free viewing of our livestreams, the new agreement with broadcast rights holder InFront Sports and Media is an important and exciting one for our sports moving forward, and we look forward to growing engagement and viewership over the season as awareness spreads.

Quick links:

 
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