Airbags prove a useful training tool for X Games competitors

Bobby Brown slides down the hill after wiping out in the men’s ski big air finals at the Winter X Games. The use of an airbag in training can help develop the body mechanics needed for big tricks, but it also increases the risk for athletes striving for glory in action sports now defined by increasingly technical and dangerous tricks. (Photo by Daniel Petty/The Denver Post)

By Jason Blevins
The Denver Post

Backflips are taking over skiing and snowboarding. Spinning double and triple-corked trickery was the golden ticket in every competition at last weekend’s X Games in Aspen.

The sketchy-to-learn tricks have expanded the training toolbox for athletes to include massive airbags.

Superstar Shaun White honed his triple-cork on a private airbag at Breckenridge. His airbag training at a private pipe at Silverton Mountain in 2010 greased his way to Olympic halfpipe gold that year. Today, the massive bags aren’t just for the pros but also the young aspirants nipping at their heels.

“It’s just changed everything. It’s so valuable and such a great in-between step, that difficult step between imagining a new trick and actually doing it. Now we can have the luxury of taking that step and not get hurt,” said Aspen’s Gretchen Bleiler, who sessioned an airbag at Mammoth Mountain ski area two weeks ago as she regained her snowboarding pipe form after suffering an eye injury while training on a trampoline.

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Shaun White slides into X Games slopestyle and superpipe finals

Shaun White competes in men’s snowboard slopestyle at the X Games on Thursday in Aspen. White qualified for the finals by placing seventh. (Photo by Aaron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)

By David Krause
The Denver Post

ASPEN — With some of the more exciting qualifiers rolling through Thursday afternoon to open the X Games, crowds were looking to the skies on a regular basis.

With only one finals event Thursday at Buttermilk Mountain, the opening day for the X Games features plenty of qualifying runs down the superpipe and the slopestyle course for the men.

Shaun White squeezed into the slopestyle finals, advancing for the first time since 2009 when he won gold. White qualified seventh Thursday after two runs in the elimination round.

Later in the evening, White, who has won the past 11 superpipe events he’s entered, put down a basic first run and earned 87 points, which was tops for the round. However, he dropped to second overall after Iouri Podladchikov, know better as I-Pod, had an 87.33-point run in the second round.

White had a chance to best I-Pod, but White bottomed out on his first hit of the second run.

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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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