By Jason Blevins
The Denver Post
Torin Yater-Wallace in 2011 was the youngest athlete to medal at the Winter X Games at age 15. Two years later the halfpipe phenom is a battle-scarred, heavy-medaled veteran.
After a momentous 2012 that included the first-ever 1800 thrown in competition and gold medals at both the Europe Winter X Games and the first World Cup contest of the 2012-13 season in New Zealand, the 17-year-old is still on track for an explosive performance in halfpipe skiing’s debut at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
This week Yater-Wallace will announce a sponsorship deal with Red Bull — but he keeps the Target lid — and returns to the halfpipe for his third X Games at Aspen after surgery to repair his shoulder.
Joining him in the halfpipe this show are his best pals, 18-year-old Aspen native Alex Ferreira and Crested Butte 16-year-old Aaron Blunck. The contest will highlight the newest-school halfpipe skiers and weathered patriarchs of pipe Simon Dumont and Tanner Hall.
“We have always skied together, and they have supported me so much in the last two years, and now seeing them get this opportunity, it’s just awesome,” Yater-Wallace said of his friends during a phone interview this week. “My first X Games was terribly nerve-wracking, so I kind of know what they’ll be feeling. I think it will definitely loosen it up, just to be hanging with good friends at the pipe. It could feel like just another day, you know.”
Watch for combinations of double-corks in the pipe as last year’s X Games gold medalist David Wise and this year’s Dew Tour champion Justin Dorey battle with Yater-Wallace and Ferreira as the only skiers with both-way double cork tricks.
Meanwhile, Hall and Dumont hope to ignite the decade-long rivalry that defined pipe skiing in its nascent years. The duo likely won’t be spinning like the kids, but watch their first hits eclipse all others in amplitude.
Hall, in an interview with The Denver Post last month, said he won’t be throwing any double-flipping 12s, but he still can be competitive.
“I’ve got a good run in my head, and it will contend with those back-to-back 12s, for sure,” said Hall, who is staging a pipe comeback after sitting out four years with injuries. It was a span that spawned a new generation of pipe tricksters.
“You have to take it in short strides compared to these 16-, 17 year-old kids these days,” Hall said.
Yater-Wallace said the presence of Dumont and Hall is inspiring.
“These guys are legends in the sports. They’ve been doing the X Games since I was pretty much in diapers,” he said. “The span of a career in this sport isn’t as long as other sports, but still, looking at Tanner and Simon, you can see it being longer. I mean, I could be competing 10 years from now. I could potentially still be in the X Games in 2025.”
Jason Blevins: 303-954-1374, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/jasontblevins