Snowboarding: an extreme sport by choice
Scotty Lago sat comfortably on a bed of snow with his feet propped on top of his board and his eyes – shaded from the bright Park City sun with his goggles – staring straight ahead as he watched his fellow competitors cleanly landing their runs on Park City Mountain Resort’s 22-foot halfpipe. All around him sat Olympic hopefuls talking, not about the tricks they just attempted or the possibility that they could get hurt if they didn’t land their runs just right, but instead, about what they wanted to eat for dinner.
With only one Grand Prix event left for the group of 30 athletes to secure the remaining Olympic spots – Shaun White and Kelly Clark already have two of those spots with Louie Vito nearly impossible to beat – the snowboarders are more concerned about having a "sick" run than they are about falling and suffering a traumatic injury.
But that doesn’t mean it’s far from their minds. With their friends Kevin Pearce and Danny Davis in Utah hospitals, the athletes know how dangerous the sport is – if you focus on it too much, that is.
"If you’re worried about getting hurt then chances are you’re going to get hurt," Broc Waring said.
Waring, a good friend of Davis’ who expected to compete with him this weekend at PCMR, said he believes Davis will be "healed up quick" and back on the mountain. Lago, who reportedly witnessed Pearce’s accident, said he felt Davis and Pearce could have taken those Olympic spots if they hadn’t been injured.
Pearce suffered head injuries Dec. 31 while training at PCMR on the halfpipe. Doctors said they are optimistic about his recovery and that he continually makes new strides. Davis was injured Jan. 17 while riding an ATV. He underwent surgery the next day to repair an L3 spine fracture. A message on his Facebook page said the surgery had gone well.
Davis’ friend, Elliott Levitt, also injured in the ATV accident, is being treated in intensive care for a fractured femur, but Lago would not comment on Levitt except to say that he is a fellow snowboarder and is doing well.
"I just feel really bad for him," Lago said of Davis. "I think he would have been a great person to be on the U.S. team. He represents snowboarding well. I think he’d be a great representative to go show the world what snowboarding is all about. It’s just so unfortunate."
Despite the injuries to their fellow snowboarders, and partly because Davis was injured in a non-snowboarding sport, these athletes seem undaunted.
Lago said he’s been working on a backside 10, when his normal run consists of a backside 9, and a cab 1080.
"If I need to throw down a hammer (at this weekend’s Grand Prix), then I’m gonna go to those tricks," he said. "They’re not my most consistent tricks, but if I do them good, then I’ll be in (the top three). I believe I can do what I need to do without doing those tricks. If I can’t, if it comes down to it, then I’ll throw them."
Waring said the pressure to do well, and add new tricks to each run, is something the athletes put on themselves.
"We choose it on our own," he said. "We’ll see what tricks are working and where in the pipe and kind of link them together. Each year, people are going bigger and doing new tricks. Double corks are like the new hotness this year."
Brennen Swanson added: "Everyone’s pushing it as hard as they can all the time. It’s not like we’re doing it and it’s not fun. Progressing is really fun for us. You can learn a new trick, and no matter how scary or crazy the trick was, it’s a really good feeling when you land it. It really just depends on how bad the athletes want it and how (hard) they’re going to push it. I think with any sport, when you’re trying to be at the top and trying to be the best, you push it to its limits. That might mean you’re going to get hurt. And if you don’t end up getting hurt, then you’re the No. 1."
Swanson agreed that, when it comes to pushing the limits, it’s the athletes, not the parents or coaches, who are fueling their ambition to do better. He said snowboarders don’t want to be told to slow down.
"That’s the last thing we want to hear," he said. "The opportunities and the tricks we can learn are endless so I don’t know why people would ever stop progressing.
And although the 22-foot halfpipe is new to the Olympics this year, Waring said they’ve been riding it for three years and no longer wanted the 18-footer.
"This is something we wanted," he said. "Some of the Dew Tours are still using 18-foot pipes so it’s always a hard transition from the 22. We’re a lot more comfortable on the 22-foot pipes now."
Waring said that while the 22-foot halfpipes are faster, they are actually safer.
"You got more wall to land on," he said. "It’s not as easy to fall apart and land on a flat bottom or land on the deck."
Throughout the competition this weekend, Swanson said the athletes will be thinking of their friends, Davis and Pearce.
"They’re two really good people," he said. "I just hope they get well. We need people like those guys around to continue helping guys like me and (Waring) to continue to push ourselves."
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
The Park City Planning Commission held a lengthy meeting about a development proposal at Park City Mountain Resort, centering the discussion on traffic and transportation.