MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) – Shaun White will be there, looking for his fourth straight halfpipe title. Vermont natives Kelly Clark and Kevin Pearce will be there, too, hoping a little home cooking will add up to big air – and big scores.

And don’t forget the fans – up to 40,000 of them – taking advantage of free admission and balmy weather to get an up-close look at the brightest stars on boards this weekend at Stratton Mountain.

At the 27th annual U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships, Olympic greats and professionals trade backside 900s, cab 1080s and other aerial tricks with up-and-coming unknowns in what’s become the granddaddy of the snowboarding circuit. Competition runs Friday through Sunday.

White, 22, of Carlsbad, Calif., has been coming to it – as a fan or rider – since he was 8. He likes that the founder of sponsor Burton Snowboards always attends.

“Jake Burton’s from here, and he shows up. It’s definitely cool to have the guy who’s basically the founder of our sport be at your event,” said White, who’s competing in halfpipe and slopestyle.

This year, the quarterpipe event is back after a seven-year hiatus. It’s scheduled for Friday, followed by the halfpipe semifinals and finals Saturday and the slopestyle and junior jam competition – for children 13 and under – competition Sunday.

One crowd favorite who won’t be flying high is Hannah Teter.

The 22-year-old Belmont native suffered a dislocated shoulder last weekend in a fall at the U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix and is sitting this one out.

“The injury is not bad, but the doctors have advised that she not ride for a couple of weeks for a speedy recovery,” said event spokeswoman Melissa Gullotti. Clark, 25, of West Dover, is participating in the women’s halfpipe and quarterpipe contests.

Pearce, 21, of Norwich, is in the halfpipe, slopestyle and quarterpipe events.

In the Open format, amateurs and professionals chosen via lottery for the 100 spots in the halfpipe and slopestyle contests compete for 40 spots in a qualification round, then for 10 spots in the semifinals, where they go up against the event’s 32 invited riders. On the women’s side, there are 50 people vying for five spots in the semifinals, where they meet up with 16 invited riders.

Sometimes, it’s the unknowns who steal the show.

“You’ve always got an underdog story,” said Liam Griffin, global events director for Burton Snowboards. “You never know who that kid is going to be, but you’ll know once you see who’s made it through the pre-qualifying rounds and how they stack up with the invited riders.”

The amateurs, some of whom have been practicing all week at Stratton, have a slight advantage over the pros who arrive later in the week. They also tend to get more crowd support.

“The more competitive, the better,” White said Thursday. “It’s definitely tough when you see some kid doing some new stuff you’ve got to now learn to compete with them. But it’s cool. You need motivation to keep growing.”

The weather should be good for spectators, but not so good for riders. Saturday’s forecast calls for sunny skies and highs in the mid-40s, which could make for slushy conditions.

The event, which started in 1982, is the longest-running snowboarding event in the world, organizers say.

Not that it’s always been on this scale.

Like the sport, it started small – on a community ski hill in Woodstock using snowboards and Snurfers, which were boards with a rope attached to the front.

It moved to Stratton Mountain in 1985, drawing 200 competitors the following year. The halfpipe debuted in 1988, big air and rail jam contests were added later and in 2003, it began getting television coverage.

This year, NBC-TV will televise the finals – on tape delay – on March 29, from 1:00-2:30 p.m. EST.

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