Antonio Olivero: Amid coronavirus shutdown, Summit locals, pros get creative to ride in their backyards
DILLON — With ski resorts and uphill access closed due to social distancing measures surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, Summit County’s backyard ski and snowboard scene has seen a sudden heyday.
From the Fagan freeski twins, Kiernan and Deven, building and greasing rails in Frisco to pro snowboarders descending on Red Gerard and family’s moto-rope-tow backyard rail garden in Silverthorne to snowskate compounds in Breckenridge, Instagram has been flush with Summit County backyard videos in recent weeks.
For young Breckenridge up-and-comers like Axl Bonenberger, the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting closures have completely upended their typical ski lives. The 15-year-old slopestyle and halfpipe freeskier Bonenberger had to come home to Breckenridge from his Park City ski team once everything began shutting down.
Once back home, Bonenberger got the email that the United States of America Freeski and Snowboard Association’s Nationals had been canceled — an unprecedented move that shocked many annual national-championship competitors like Bonenberger.
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“That was a really big game changer,” he said.
Staring at the end of his season, Bonenberger had to get creative to keep his ski days alive. So a couple weeks back, when the backcountry snow was a bit better, he joined his Breckenridge buddies William Remias and Sawyer Bates, big-mountain skiers for Team Breckenridge, to skin up and find cool little places to build jumps. The trio explored mountain-bike trails they’re familiar with near their homes in Breckenridge and found several little hills to make the most of.
Bonenberger said the skiing and jump-building was really good after the couple of storms during quarantine in late March. The trio built a couple of smaller jumps at first before they found a great spot above the Wellington neighborhood with a 35-foot gap between sweet spot and takeoff. The jump took an hour-and-a-half to build, and once they realized the landing was “super good,” they amped up their tricks before throwing and landing double backflips.
“It’s really nice to be able to know that I can still get out there and do the stuff I still love,” Bonenberger said.
Over on the other side of town, Harrison Bell and the Aloud snowskate crew already had had a great backyard riding season at a home where one of the crew lives in the Peak 7 neighborhood.
But once Breckenridge Ski Resort closed uphill access and locals like Bell weren’t able to access the resort’s terrain parks on U.S. Forest Service land, Aloud leader Eddie Sixberry’s Peak 7 backyard compound became that much more of a necessity and evolved that much more.
“The jump is now too big for the property line,” Bell said with a laugh, “so we started sling-shotting each other into the jump to have enough speed from the property line without trespassing. It’s hilarious.”
Bell said the Aloud crew has had five guys at the compound digging regularly, snowboarding and snowskating the compound each day to build it up more and more. As of Saturday, Bell said the riding and snow at the compound was as good as it’s been this season, as Breck locals like Zach “Z Griff” Griffin, Scott Kenkel, Adrian Holcomb and Rich Fisher have done their part through the season.
The compound, Bell said, consists of a huge 12-foot quarter pipe (Sixberry broke his ribs on it the other day), as well as a jump with a 10-foot gap over a fire pit, a ride-on tube, a big green plastic tube, a gap to a box that used to be at the Frisco Skatepark, a small snake run a little tabletop jump, an oil drum perfect for tail taps and an actual more traditional snowboard round rail.
“It’s super packed in though,” Bell said. “I want to say a 1-2 acre compound. It, basically, wraps all the way around the house. It’s everything but the house. The landlord said ‘no house features!'”
“Breck has always had a strong backyard scene,” Bell added, “everybody has always traded features back and forth. You hear about people stealing features, it’ll show up somewhere else. There’s always been that culture here. I think people have been respecting the resort closure and building and riding backyard parks to stay sane.”
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