Summit County pro skiers and snowboarders return to training on and off snow |

Summit County pro skiers and snowboarders return to training on and off snow

Local athletes hit airbags, water jumps and high-altitude snow

Breckenridge 15-year-old freeskier Axl Bonenberger tweaks out a grab while practicing on the airbags at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Park City, Utah, last week.
Courtesy Axl Bonenberger

BRECKENRIDGE — Chatting by phone from Mount Hood in Oregon on Tuesday afternoon, U.S. Pro Team halfpipe snowboarder Chase Blackwell couldn’t remember the last time he’d been off snow for three months. For the Dillon resident and Longmont native, the longest he could remember being off snow in the past decade was maybe a month or two.

But with the pandemic, everything was thrown off since Blackwell last snowboarded in Jackson Hole as part of filming the upcoming “Teal” movie. And despite a lot of skateboarding and some wake surfing, Blackwell said his legs were stiff as he hit the spring-like snow at Timberline Lodge Ski Area with fellow U.S. halfpipe snowboarders.

“We’re just up here for fun on our own,” Blackwell said. “The U.S. (Snowboard) Team is hooking us up with lift tickets and halfpipe access. So we’re up here training. But it’s mainly about getting back on snow, getting our legs back for a little bit. Maybe they will open the airbags, and if camp goes well, maybe we’ll try some new stuff in summer conditions.”

Coming off his best season as a pro, Blackwell is just one of many Summit County skiers and snowboarders who in the past few days have strapped into their gear for the first time in months. Blackwell and Breckenridge resident Taylor Gold were able to ride a three- to four-hit halfpipe that Blackwell said was riding “super good” and “dished out.”

Off snow, up-and-coming Summit athletes, like U.S. Revolution Tour freeskier Axl Bonenberger of Breckenridge, are back on skis again, too. On Tuesday, Bonenberger chatted about joining a drop-in session at the U.S. Ski Team’s Olympic Park airbag in Park City.

It was Bonenberger’s first time back on skis in a few months. For two hours a day for three days, Bonenberger skied down the center’s ramp, getting the feel of landing on the sloped airbag with his leftside double-cork 1080, leftside double-cork 1260 and right cork 720s.

And if the skilled slopestyle skier gets another chance to practice on the Park City airbag later this summer, Bonenberger thinks it could be an ideal spot to minimize the consequence of trying new tricks, like a leftside double-cork 1440 and a rightside double-cork 1260.

Next week, Bonenberger will travel to Mount Hood, where he might run into Blackwell and the U.S. Pro Team group. After that, Blackwell hopes to drop by Woodward Copper’s summer ski and ride park setup at Copper Mountain Resort to “get the kids hyped.”

Longmont native and Dillon resident U.S. Pro Team halfpipe snowboarder Chase Blackwell enjoys his return to snow for the first time in three months at Timberline Lodge Ski Area at Mount Hood, Oregon, on Monday.
Courtesy Jason Wolle

As for Team Summit, the county’s largest ski and snowboard club, athletes have been returning to on- and off-snow elements of their sports. Currently, the club is headed up to Steamboat Springs where mogul skiers can practice jumping on water ramps. Then next week, the club’s park and pipe skiers and riders will get a chance on the airbags in Park City.

On the homefront, the club has created a physically distanced strength and conditioning setup at Summit Middle School, where athletes in the club’s academy program can do coach-led lifting, range of motion and flexibility exercises.

And starting July 13, the club’s park and pipe programs will hit the snow for three weeks at Woodward’s summer park at Copper Mountain.

Then late July into early August, Team Summit Executive Director C.B. Bechtel said the club will make its own trip up to Mount Hood. Considering coronavirus, it will be different than year’s past. The club is dubbing it a “family camp,” meaning the club won’t transport athletes or host them overnight. Rather, families will have to have one parent or guardian go to Mount Hood with athletes.

“It’s not ideal because we know not every family can take time away,” Bechtel said. “But given the circumstances, it’s providing a good training opportunity while we’re still taking significant precautions to not be contributors to the spread of coronavirus.”

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