Antonio Olivero: 3 winter sports events to look forward to this winter
A new year will hopefully bring new steps forward for winter sports — even if that’s not on local snow. The U.S. Grand Prix and Dew Tour slated for Copper Mountain Resort have been canceled, but some of our favorite local athletes will finally get to compete elsewhere in the coming weeks.
Here are the top three events to look out for:
Jan. 9-10: World Cup Big Air, Austria
A month after the first International Ski & Snowboard Federation World Cup big air event of the season was set to take place at Copper, it will go down in Austria starting Thursday, Jan. 7.
At finals on Friday and Saturday, a slew of the country’s best big air snowboarders and skiers — including World Champion Chris Corning and 2018 Olympic silver medalist Kyle Mack — will drop into a big air contest for the first time this winter. That’s a victory in and of itself that you can watch at 10 a.m. both days via Peacock stream.
The fact that a World Cup event on European snow will take place with some Americans present is a major milestone in progressing toward a somewhat normal park and pipe season amid COVID-19. Being able to host big air, slopestyle and halfpipe events — whether in Switzerland, Canada or California — is crucial because 2021 is an Olympic qualification year.
Jan. 29-31: X Games, Aspen
Pitkin County coronavirus regulations have resulted in ESPN whittling down this year’s number of competitors at X Games Aspen substantially. Initially, it seemed like that would result in Steamboat Springs native and Breckenridge resident Taylor Gold — the country’s top ranked men’s halfpipe rider — not competing. But in recent weeks, Gold has been added to the official invite list for the men’s snowboard superpipe competition, meaning the local rider will get the chance to prove his mettle against the likes of Shaun White, Scotty James and Yuto Totsuka.
In slopestyle, Olympic, Dew Tour and Burton U.S. Open champion Red Gerard of Silverthorne will go for the one championship medal that has eluded his grasp in his storied young career. After Gerard had reconstructive surgery on his meniscus in August, the slopestyle savant has returned to snow with as much passion as ever.
Gerard narrowly missed out on an X Games gold last year, when he led for the majority of the contest. In the end, a new, numberless-scoring system left more questions than answers for many in attendance, including those who watched Gerard get bumped out of the top spot seconds after he dropped in for his final run.
Feb. 3-9: Natural Selection, Jackson Hole
Without any local contests this winter, this one will be a must-see for backcountry-loving Summit County residents glued to their phones.
The event is a one-of-a-kind contest dreamed up by snowboard legend Travis Rice. He and other riders — including popular snowboarders like Danny Davis and Ben Ferguson — scoped out terrain in the summer and built natural and hybrid features to hit once the powder arrives.
Sixteen men and eight women are slated to ride the venue, a complex zone within one of the most rugged pieces of inbound terrain at Jackson Hole.
It remains to be seen who all will get invited. Some invitations are outstanding while some are locked in for the likes of Rice, Ferguson, Nils Mindich. But in a weird winter where everything else is different, this inimitable event will be one you won’t want to miss.
In the lead up to the event, which will be aired on Red Bull TV, Rice has said Natural Selection is designed “with Mother Nature as the main character” and “with mutual respect for and from snowboarding.”
Hold onto your butts.
Antonio Olivero is the sports and outdoors editor for the Summit Daily News.
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