Breckenridge hosting U.S. freeski and snowboard teams prior to X Games Aspen | SummitDaily.com

Breckenridge hosting U.S. freeski and snowboard teams prior to X Games Aspen

Sebastian Foltz
sfoltz@summitdaily.com

With the X Games in Aspen less than two weeks away, the U.S. Freeskiing and Snowboarding teams have taken up shop in Breckenridge this week.

"We have our whole squad," head freeski and snowboard coach Mike Jankowski said Thursday. "Everybody from gold medalists Maddie Bowman and David Wise on the pipe ski team to (four-time Olympic snowboarder) Kelly Clark. In addition to our pros we have our rookie teams here as well."

Why Breckenridge? Jankowski credited dependable conditions and the mountain's world-class park features, which annually play host to the Dew Tour to kick off the winter season.

It's same reason a number of team athletes, like Olympians Bobby Brown and Keri Herman, either call Breckenridge home or spend much of their winter training time there.

"Breckenridge always has some of the best terrain features," Jankowski said. "It sets up the environment we need to learn tricks, to progress and to make it fun along the way."

Fun was the operative word Thursday and Friday in the terrain park. Aside from athletes throwing down tricks that most amateur terrain-park riders only dream of, it was hard to tell there was a training camp going on.

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"Working together and keeping it fun is what keeps us successful, in my opinion," Jankowski said. "This is snowboarding and freeskiing; at the end of the day it's about having fun with your friends, and you never want to lose that."

That approach was responsible for an impressive 10 medals in Sochi, including men's slopestyle skiers Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper swept the podium.

"It's not always about the coaches. It's really what the riders want and it's really that peer-driven environment," Jankowski said. "It may seem casual, and in some ways it can be. At the same time there's goals that are out there that we put together at the beginning of the season and revisit throughout the year."

Each athlete works at his or her own pace.

"Everybody is working on something different, from a basic 720 or 900 to double corks and triples," Jankowski said.

For the rookies on the team it's a chance to see how the pros handle themselves and get a feel for the routine, while for athletes like Olympic snowboarder Taylor Gold of Steamboat Springs — who started this season with wins at both the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper and the Dew Tour at Breckenridge — it's a chance to fine-tune for X Games. He was among the snowboarders who got a jump on next week's halfpipe training camp by practicing Thursday.

The U.S. slopestyle teams have been training since Monday with early-morning sessions that started each day at 7, before the lifts opened to the public.

The U.S. halfpipe teams will arrive for a pre-X Games training camp next week. But a number of halfpipe athletes, like Gold, his sister Arielle and teammate Kelly Clark, have been at it this week, showing why they each already have two podium appearances this season, at the U.S. Grand Prix and the Dew Tour.

The morning practices are closed to the public, with the terrain park opening along with the rest of the mountain.