Olivero: Breckenridge local Jon ‘DC’ Oetken reflects on announcing Kings & Queens of Corbet’s
Park features built-in couloir for Jackson Hole contest
For a broadcaster who gets to call the X Games, Dew Tour and other big events each year, last week’s Kings & Queens of Corbet’s freeskiing and snowboarding invitational may just have been the wildest competition Breckenridge local Jon “DC” Oetken has announced.
Oetken effectively co-hosted the multihour broadcast of the coed, 24-athlete Red Bull contest at the iconic Corbet’s Couloir at Jackson Hole Resort. For Oetken, it was an opportunity to appreciate in person an event that is truly on the furthest boundary of freeskiing and snowboarding’s journey, one that combines the natural geologic challenge of a place like Corbet’s with slopestyle-like jumps created by Jackson Hole Resort’s terrain park crew.
“They had built nine features,” Oetken said, “but then they got over 3 feet of snow three days prior. So a lot of it got filled in so they had to dig it out and rebuild stuff. But it’s incredible. … It’s an amazing build and an amazing feat for that park and pipe crew to build such well-sculpted features that work. And they work with the fall lines of the couloir.”
On a livestream on your computer, the sight of Tuesday’s athlete-judged competition — which was won by Montanan Parkin Costain and Colorado College graduate Veronica Paulsen of California — is jaw-dropping. But Oetken and his fellow Corbet’s broadcaster Tina Dixon said to fully comprehend just how amazing the contest is, one must see the couloir, and the contest set-up surrounding it, up close and personal. The fact that athletes were hucking double back flips and switch spins before controlling their speed into slopestyle-like jumps — with geologic wonder walls closing in on them — is a sight to behold in person.
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“I’m sure there are people out there who are saying, ‘I’d backflip into there, whatever,’” said Oetken, who first dropped into Corbet’s via the more tame, traditional goat path in-run on his first trip to Jackson 15 years ago. “But until you are standing up there looking into it and seeing, then it you’re like, ‘Oh, OK.’”
In terms of Tuesday’s standouts, the sight of the 20-year-old Costain and fellow Montanan Jake Hopfinger manicuring a special in-run to have the right trajectory to land double back-flips into the 40-foot near-vertical drop off the top of couloir was mind-blowing. The sight of Paulsen becoming the first woman to stomp a backflip into the couloir was another all-time memory. Sam Kuch’s torqued-out double-cork 1080 may have topped them all, though, in terms of risking consequence.
“And those walls come up quick,” Oetken added. “Looking into it the day before (the contest), it’s obvious the best transition is up against that west wall, right up against the bottom of that west wall. So you’re flirting with that west wall if you land it a little edge heavy and hook.”
Oetken and Dixon also said the nature of the competition challenges and entices the world’s best young freeskiers and snowboarders to dream bigger. With more and more elite contest riders like Summit County locals Red Gerard and Bobby Brown — who was in attendance — desiring to bring their skills to the challenge of the backcountry, the trend seems clear when you see dream concepts like Kings & Queens of Corbet’s brought to life.
Back in Summit County, Oetken said he thinks the element of bringing park jumps to natural big mountain contest lines could be done. With Aspen having considered a similar type competition in the past at Highlands Bowl and Mammoth Mountain building jumps in The Hemlocks, there is growing precedent it can be done. When Oetken thinks of Summit County terrain that is somewhat similar to Corbet’s, Zoot Chute up in Breckenridge’s Lake Chutes comes to mind, as does First Notch on Arapahoe Basin Ski Area’s East Wall.
Time will tell if freesking and snowboarding embraces more big mountain contests in iconic geologic spots featuring park jumps and slopestyle elements. It also remains to be seen if and how Summit County gets in on the trend that has the whole ski and snowboard world buzzing.
“I think Breck definitely has the terrain for that,” Oetken said. “I think A-Basin does as well. Summit County very well could produce athletes who excel at these type of events. Let’s do it. It’s awesome.”
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