3 to see: A trio of Summit County winter sports storylines to keep an eye on in the new year
Though this will be an off year from the Olympics and Paralympics, there will be no shortage of sports and outdoors storylines to follow in Summit County through 2019.
With that, here are three winter sports storylines to keep an eye on over the next few months:
What is Chris Corning’s ceiling?
Silverthorne snowboarder Chris Corning may not have finished on the podium at last February’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics like his Silverthorne mates in gold medalist Red Gerard and silver medalist Kyle Mack. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a park and pipe snowboarder who has worked harder on his craft and athleticism since departing South Korea last year.
That drive ultimately led the now 19-year-old Corning to capture the International Ski & Snowboard Federation’s World Cup Crystal Globe trophy at the end of last season. An honor bestowed to the rider who finishes the season at the top of the World Cup points leaderboard, and the then-18-year-old Corning accomplished that with overall consistency in both slopestyle and big air World Cup events.
Then, to follow up the 2017–18 campaign, Corning won the season-opening FIS World Cup event in Cardrona, New Zealand, in September by becoming the first ever American to land a quad-cork 1800. It’s a truly epic trick that requires inverting four times while rotating horizontally five times. Since Cardrona, Corning finished second at an Italian World Cup big air event and second at the Dew Tour slopestyle competition. During December’s Dew Tour at Breckenridge Ski Resort, Corning came alive on the rail features, showcasing his newfound core strength to execute more difficult tricks. Corning also said he’s figured out some of the smaller details to more consistently land his quad-cork 1800, which should be a scary notion to other riders in the competition scene.
Corning credits it all to his countless hours spent in the gym. Don’t be shocked if this healthier, stronger Corning wins one of snowboarding’s big three annual competition events. With the Winter X Games in Aspen and the Burton U.S. Open in Vail on deck, Corning appears primed to better his finishes at those two events from last year, which included a close second-place finish behind Canadian star Mark McMorris at the Burton Open. Corning has also hinted that his lingering lower back and hip injury from last year may ultimately require an operation. However healthy he is and however he performs, Corning is a competitor who has shown since the Olympics that he’s ready to rise up to any moment. It feels like after several strong second-place showings in the past calendar year, he’s ready for the big one at either the X Games or Burton Open.
Can Summit Nordic win the Colorado Cup?
The primary goal of the Summit Nordic Ski Club is about personal growth over winning, according to head coach Olof Hedberg.
However, this winter we may see the Summit Nordic Ski Club best Ski & Snowboard Club Vail in the coveted Colorado Cup for the first time under Hedberg.
For years, the Summit Nordic Ski Club has played the part of bridesmaid to other elite Rocky Mountain clubs like Vail. But this year feels different for the club, evidenced by their huge home meet team win in December where they topped Vail and the other best teams in the Rocky Mountain division.
Overall, Hedberg is more excited about the club’s increasing participation numbers than any singular victories. He believes if there is high interest in this snowsports-crazed county for his sport and club, everything else will take care of itself. The elite youth talent of skiers such as Nina Schamberger and Aisley and Galen Grohusky do merit mentioning though. The future may be bright for Summit Nordic, but so is the present. And that may mean more success than ever before.
“Having more skiers than Vail this weekend is a great step toward this goal,” Hedberg said in mid-December. “Vail has won the cup for at least 10 years running, but we’ve been moving closer and almost took it last year. Winning the Cup is the next barrier for us to break, and I think this weekend shows it is possible. It’s now within our reach.”
Just how long will the good skiing last?
The first part of the 2018–19 skiing and riding season has blessed Summit County locals with several firsts. Breckenridge Ski Resort opened its Imperial SuperChair and terrain across its five peaks earlier than ever before. At Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, Montezuma Bowl also had its earliest ever open. Those were just a few of the early season good news items for those skiers and riders who prefer to get their turns in-bounds. Out-of-bounds? Well, the powder was plentiful there too. Certainly better than last year at this time.
The resort openings were thanks to the strong snowpack throughout November and December. But will the above average conditions continue through the new year?
With last year’s relatively scant snowfall, skiing closed down at Keystone Resort just a week into April while Breckenridge and Copper Mountain Resort stopped turning their chairs not soon after. Up on the Continental Divide at A-Basin, skiing in Montezuma Bowl closed about halfway into May while the Basin struggled to have skiable conditions into June. Here’s hoping Mother Nature will bless the High Country with cold and precipitous conditions to elongate the season — both at the resorts and in the backcountry.
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