VAIL — This is the way it should be.
Tricks individually scored. Slopestyle features and a halfpipe sculpted by the world's top park designer. Qualifying and finals on separate days. Three runs for finals.
Weeks after the world's best snowboarders endured a cluster of rookie mistakes by Olympic organizers in Russia, riders celebrated the end of the competitive season at the 32nd annual Burton U.S. Open in Vail. It's a contest that has grown over decades with athlete input.
"This is a rider's event. It's all about snowboarding. It's all about the riders," said halfpipe rider Hannah Teter who left Russia with a disappointing fourth place finish.
The problems in Russia were well documented. The pipe was a mess, hindering necessary practice sessions. The slopestyle course required extensive changes. Judging perplexed riders. Qualifying and finals were crammed into one long day.
On her way to Olympic bronze last month in Russia's Olympic halfpipe, Kelly Clark had a six-hour break between her qualifying run and her final run. In that span, more than 200 Olympians carved down the pipe. By finals, the pipe was trashed.
"It's nice to have a pipe that you don't have to think about. You can actually think about your snowboarding," said Clark, who was the top qualifier heading into Saturday's U.S. Open halfpipe finals.
But it was the format — training, quarterfinals, semifinals and finals in a single day — that was worse than the pipe conditions, said Clark, the most-medaled snowboarder in history.
"It's just not similar to any other format we have. We had a 10-hour day on the hill. You can't get ready for that," she said. "There is no way to prepare yourself for a marathon day of snowboarding."
The bungled pipe in Russia — when carvers tried to fix the walls and they ruined the bottom of the pipe — left riders with little to no practice.
"It's hard to strategize when you don't have practice. The pipe was different every day," said Taylor Gold, the Steamboat Springs Olympic rookie who washed out on the final hit of his semifinals run and didn't advance to the Olympic finals.
His technical run at the U.S. Open qualified him second for Saturday's finals.
Taylor's younger sister Arielle said on the first day of training in Vail, some athletes were grousing about a bump in the bottom of the pipe at the U.S. Open.
"I was like 'You don't even know,' " said Arielle, who took an uncharacteristic fall in the soft snow of the Olympic pipe during training, injuring her shoulder. "It's just a bummer they couldn't make the best if they want us to be riding the best and making it the highest level contest in the world."
Over 32 years, the U.S. Open has evolved much closer to TTR World Snowboard Tour standards than those preferred by the ski-dominated International Federation of Skiing, or FIS, which governs all Olympic-level skiing and snowboarding.
Scores at the U.S. Open — per TTR's Snowboarding Live Scoring system, or SLS — are 60 percent trick and 40 percent flow, with each trick scored individually. Finalists get three runs. In Russia, athletes in slopestyle and pipe were ranked by "overall impression" and there were only two runs in finals.
The SLS itemized scoring allows riders to more easily adjust their runs to judging criteria. In Russia, slopestyle athletes were left guessing whether judges preferred progressive, technical trickery over style.
"I think there are definitely things that FIS can take from TTR that they are doing really well and use to improve for Korea" in 2018, said Canadian slopestyle rider Spencer O'Brien, who won silver in the women's U.S. Open finals on Friday.
Riders are scheming a sort of union to bolster their requests after disappointing conditions and formats in both the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics.
"I think we definitely need our own tour to have the right park builders building safe and consistent jumps ... and also having people on board who are looking out for our best interest," said Olympic slopestyle gold medalist Jamie Anderson, who won her fourth U.S. Open title on Friday. "FIS does not really care and that's clear to all of us."
Riders are organizing. The initial plan calls for the TTR tour's top five riders in both slopestyle and halfpipe to work with the FIS to institute new formats and scoring systems in both the Olympics and the Olympic qualifying tours.
That will unify the snowboarding voice, said Canadian Mark McMorris, who won his second U.S. Open slopestyle title on Friday.
"We can at least pitch something. That's the first step. We need to organize before we do anything. We are taking the first step but it's not an easy task by any means," McMorris said.
FIS spokeswoman Jenny Wiedeke said it was premature to discuss potential changes. Any decision on format changes would be initiated through committees at the FIS Congress in Spain in the first week of June, she said.
Clark said the struggles in Russia alone should prod significant changes for the Winter Olympics in 2018 in South Korea.
Clark said FIS officials "apologized to me the whole time" during the halfpipe competition in Russia.
"They have the same goal as us. They want a good halfpipe and now that they have tried and failed on their own accord perhaps they will look to what's working to make it successful," Clark said.
Switzerland slopestyle rider Isabel Derungs, who heralded the Russian slopestyle course, said FIS-hating is not the way to persuade the federation to listen to snowboarders.
"It's not what is good or bad with FIS or TTR. I think they should both learn from each other and just cooperate," said Derungs, who took third in Friday's slopestyle contest.
Jason Blevins: 303-954-1374, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/jasontblevins