Torin Yater-Wallace returns to X Games halfpipe as ‘veteran’

Torin Yater-Wallace has the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in his sights as he throws tricks that include the first-ever 1800 in competition. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

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.”

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Steamboat ski area celebrates a rich history during its 50th anniversary

This classic 1958 photo was taken atop Storm Mountain, which became Mount Werner in 1964 and now is the top of the Steamboat ski area. From left are Jon Elliott, Jim Temple, John Fetcher, Buddy Werner and Loris Werner. (Steamboat Ski Resort photo)

By John Meyer

The Denver Post

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — At first glance, perhaps it doesn’t look like such a special photo: five guys on skis posing at the summit of Storm Mountain in March 1958. But that shot taken by Merle Nash represents so much of what Ski Town USA and the Steamboat ski area — currently celebrating its 50th anniversary — are all about.

The men in the photo that day were exploring the mountain that would become a great ski destination known worldwide for “champagne powder.” It includes Jim Temple, the area’s founder, and John Fetcher, its other visionary. The others are Steamboat Olympians: Buddy Werner, the first great American ski racer, along with brother Loris, who made Olympic teams as a ski jumper and alpine racer, and jumper Jon Elliott.

It’s such a symbolic picture. Temple and Fetcher were ranchers in a town built on ranching. Both loved to ski and saw great potential in Storm Mountain, which would be renamed Mount Werner after Buddy was killed in a Swiss avalanche in 1964. The Werners and Elliott grew up competing at historic Howelsen Hill near downtown Steamboat Springs.

At a recent gala to celebrate the 50th anniversary, Loris Werner recalled how Temple fell and ripped the seat of his pants the day that photo was taken, near the bottom of what is now the Rainbow trail.

“So henceforth the saddle of Rainbow, we always referred to it as Temple’s Crotch,” Werner said.

Steamboat has to be America’s friendliest ski town, and I had a wonderful time at the party, catching up with so many longtime friends. Temple and Fetcher are dead, but their sons were there.

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Shaun White may have triple-cork down before Winter X Games in Aspen

By Jason Blevins
The Denver Post

As Shaun White ramps up for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, all eyes will be watching him in the slopestyle competition next week at Aspen’s Winter X Games.

He’s gunning to compete in both halfpipe and slopestyle in Sochi and is pretty much a lock for the halfpipe team. His push for slopestyle is less certain, despite his enthusiasm and a list of slopestyle win that eclipses his halfpipe tally.

“I love to compete in slopestyle,” he said last month in an interview before the Breckenridge Dew Tour, where he won the halfpipe competition and didn’t compete in the slopestyle event. “It’s definitely more exciting to me than halfpipe right now.”

After two seasons off from slopestyle competition to prepare for the 2010 Winter Olympics halfpipe, White’s return to the realm of money booters foundered. He failed to make the finals in the 2011 X Games and qualified last in the 2012 X Games. The next month he won the X Games slopestyle comp in Tignes, France with back-to-back double corks.

But double corks, while the double-flipping winners in the pipe, are so 2011 in slopestyle. Teenager Mark McMorris and Canadian Sebastian Toots battled in last year’s X Games slopestyle contest with dueling backside triple-cork 1440s. (That’s four rotations and three flips — and pretty much ridiculous.)

So the question has been whether White would develop the triple cork in time for a slopestyle showdown on the X Games Buttermilk course. Videos posted Wednesday from White’s practice sessions in Breckenridge’s terrain park seem to indicate that he’s ready.

Early December snow floats resorts through holidays, but just barely

By Jason Blevins
The Denver Post

The holiday snow in the high country arrived too late to rescue lodgekeepers in December but boosted bookings for January and February.

The latest Mountain Travel Research Program — or MTRiP — survey of 160 property management companies in 16 western resort communities shows December 2012 lodging occupancy finished 7.9 percent behind the previous December. But the average daily room rate climbed for the 19th consecutive month, increasing 2.6 percent over December 2011.

Still, the late snow that followed a dismally dry November and early December helped. Reservations heading into December were down 12.3 percent.

“What a difference a month makes,” said Ralf Garrison, director of MTRiP, in a statement released Wednesday, Jan. 16. “Mother Nature finally delivered some much needed snow from coast to coast just in time for the Christmas holidays and the fresh powder really helped fill some December lodging vacancies at ski resorts as well as generating buzz and bookings for January and February.”

The snow also stirred bookings for the rest of the season, with December bookings through May up 10.4 percent over last season. January bookings climbed 3.5 percent and February is up 8.6 percent.

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New winter sports for the family to experience on snowy terrain

Riding bumper cars on ice — these are at Howelsen Ice Arena in Steamboat Springs, Colo. — is one of a number of relatively new diversions being offered in winter recreation destinations, along with airboarding, snow bikes and snowkiting. (Photo by Karen Schwartz/Associated Press)

By Karen Schwartz

Associated Press

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — After nearly 50 years of living in the Rocky Mountains, I thought I knew how to enjoy the winter. I’ve gone skiing, skating, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, tobogganing, sleigh riding, dog-sledding and more.

But until this winter, I’d never heard of bumper cars on a skating rink. And it wasn’t until recently that I had my first chance to carve turns down a ski hill on a snowbike.

It’s part of a trend to provide visitors to ski resorts and other snowy destinations with a wider variety of choices, said Troy Hawks, managing editor of the National Ski Areas Association Journal.

“What we’re seeing is a larger swath of the family — you’ve got the grandkids all the way to the grandparents — and all of them have their idea of how they want to spend their day,” he said.

Some activities are more popular in certain regions, and some aren’t well advertised, so for a different spin on a snow-destination vacation, here are some things to look for:

Air bags
These massive, inflatable air bags are placed at the bottom of jumps to allow skiers and boarders to try flips and spins. Nail the landing on your feet and you ride off down the hill. Fail, and you have a soft landing. or

A high-tech spin on winter tubing, these snow body boards are inflatable sleds with molded plastic runners on the bottom and handles on the top. The sleds can reach speeds of 60 mph or more (nearly 100 kilometers per hour), and users steer by shifting their body weight. They’re offered at some ski areas (though banned at others) as well as through some private operators. has a partial list of rental locations.

Bumper cars on ice
Just what it sounds like, these are turning up at skating rinks from coast to coast. The battery-operated “cars” are large rubber tubes with molded seats that can hold one adult or an adult and small child. Controlled by two joysticks, they are easy to steer or spin as they bump along on wheels with tiny cleats. Most rinks have age, height or weight restrictions.

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Video: Snowboarder Shaun White chops signature locks for worthy cause

The Denver Post

Shaun White left Breckenridge recently and went straight to the salon to have his red locks removed.

White, whose trademark long red hair has promoted “The Flying Tomato” nickname he picked up early in his career, posted video of getting his long ponytail cut off.

He said he has been thinking about it for a “long while” and wanted to donate it to Locks of Love.

“Somebody needs it more than I do,” he says during the car ride to a random salon. And after the final cut: “I did it for you, Locks of Love.”

The Locks of Love organization makes hairpieces for financially disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.

White seemed a bit nervous during the 2-minute video as he arrived at the salon and as he gained the courage to sit in the chair.

“I haven’t had this short of hair in forever,” he says in the video.

Maybe he’ll be used to it by the time he comes to Aspen to defend his X Games title on Jan. 24-27.

It’s been a slow start to the ski season, but skiing Sunday was grand

Arapahoe Basin Ski Area opens for it’s first day of skiing and snowboarding of the year on October 17, (2012 Mahala Gaylord, The Denver Post)

By John Meyer
The Denver Post

Like most avid skiers, I’ve been increasingly stir crazy waiting for an opportunity to get in some real skiing through what has been a very lean season for snow thus far.

Oh, I made a few turns on manmade snow when I had access to the U.S. Ski Team Speed Center one morning last month. I took a day when I made a run or two each at Loveland, Arapahoe Basin, Keystone and Copper Mountain — and then rode my bike from Copper to Vail Pass. I got so anxious for skiing that I went up to Loveland one afternoon, skiing the same two runs over and over again.

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