Take 5: Breck ski halfpipe up-and-comer Jaxin Hoerter
X Games Oslo
What: The combination winter and summer X Games, hosted in Norway with men’s and women’s slopestyle, superpipe and big air for ski and snowboard, plus men’s street skateboard
When: Feb. 25-28
Watch: Highlights on ABC Feb. 27 at noon or Feb. 28 at 7 p.m.
Each of the four days is broadcast live on ESPN 3. To catch Jaxin Hoerter, tune in to ESPN 3 on Feb. 28 at 6 a.m. for elimination and 10:30 a.m. for finals. To see a complete schedule visit xgames.espn.go.com.
About three weeks ago Jaxin Hoerter heard the news he’d been waiting for since first clipping into skis: He was going to the X Games.
On Sunday, the 15-year-old Summit County native boarded a plane for Oslo, Norway — another first — to compete in the first-ever combination winter and summer X Games. The four-day extravaganza kicks off in downtown Oslo on Feb. 25 with snowboard superpipe qualifiers and the street skateboard street comp. It’s an experimental format, which makes the 2016 Euro X Games a much bigger (and more intense) event than ever before.
Come this Sunday, just a week after leaving the states, Hoerter drops into the Oslo superpipe with 17 of the biggest names in the sport, guys like David Wise, Gus Kenworthy and Kevin Rolland (aka the podium at the Sochi Winter Olympics) — plus fellow Colorado up-and-comers Aaron Blunck and Taylor Seaton.
Earning an invite to X Games is a major accomplishment for Hoerter and one of just several in a whirlwind season filled with firsts. He earned a spot with the U.S. Freeskiing developmental program before winter began and made his big-league debut back in December, when he claimed yet another first by competing in the Dew Tour ski superpipe. He barely missed the cut there — he took third place in the last-chance qualifier and only the top LCQ finisher moves on to the finals — but performed well enough through the meat of the season at Grand Prix events and elsewhere to earn the Euro X Games invite.
Now, it’s time for him to start truly leaving his mark on the international ski scene. The Summit Daily sports desk caught up with him a few days before his flight to Europe for a talk about the invite, his breakthrough season and what needs to happen under the floodlights to make the podium in Oslo.
Summit Daily News: It’s your first season on the U.S. team and first trip to an X Games. Did you expect to be here back in October?
Jaxin Hoerter: Not really — not at all. I’m happy to be here, but it’s also a little overwhelming. This is my first trip to Norway. I went to Italy last year, and I was there for a competition. It’s fun to be with your teammates for all the competitions, just being part a team and doing well yourself. I’m just going with the flow right now.
SDN: When did you first feel like you were good enough to compete at this level?
JH: I’m not sure. I kept doing the comps and kept getting better and better. It was just too much fun to give up. That first year (I competed), I was getting onto podiums. I was top-five through most of the season, and then, at the end of the year, I took second. That was when I figured, “Alright, let’s do it again next year.”
SDN: What’s your halfpipe run looking like at this point? Do you have anything new or unexpected in store for Oslo?
JH: Right now, I’m going left 900, right 1080, switch 1080, right 900, left 1080, switch right 900. I like that entire run start to finish. The left 900 is where I’m most comfortable. I’ve been doing that trick the longest, and it’s just the most fun trick in my run. I can get the height and the grabs I want. I’m working on a few things here and there, so I might pull something new out.
SDN: Talk about the season so far. What have you enjoyed about training and traveling with the U.S. Team? Was it a major change of pace?
JH: Sometimes (as a team) we do movie night, go bowling — whatever. On powder days, we’ll head out and go find the pow on brand-new mountains. I haven’t been to too many ski areas this season, but I get to explore more. Like, I’ve been to Mammoth before, but I haven’t been there when there’s as much snow as we’ve had this year.
I also get a lot more coaching than I have in the past, so I feel like I’ve really progressed this year. Because I was self-taught, it has really helped to have a coach helping with tricks and progression. I like it — it’s really helped me try new tricks. It’s helped unlock my potential.
SDN: What’s been the hardest part about a new team and travel schedule this season?
JH: I think the biggest thing is that I haven’t been home in a month and a half. I’ve been traveling around and doing competitions, and that’s definitely been weird. At the beginning of the season, I may have felt it, but, once you’re doing it, you just have to get used to it. It’s not like I had to change anything — I just joined a new team. You go to new places, try new parks that are almost as good as Breck — you just have a chance to see so much new stuff.
SDN: What about Dew Tour, then? What was it like to compete in your hometown competition?
JH: It was awesome. That was such a fun competition, (and) the pipe was just amazing that weekend. A lot of my mom’s ski-instructor friends — the people who taught me to ski when I was growing up — they have to see or hear about my competitions on Instagram or Facebook. They got to see me in person at Dew Tour and they were really excited about that.
SDN: How did Dew Tour prepare you for the rest of the season?
JH: I don’t know — I really thought it was going to be Dew Tour and Grand Prix this year. I got the email about X Games, and me and my mom were just jumping around the house, just so excited. I called my dad and told him right after that. He had left like two days before, so he kind of missed the excitement, but I’m sure he was jumping around at home.
SDN: What are your hopes for X Games? I don’t want to jinx anything …
JH: I would love to make finals, but, at the end of the day, I just want to land a good, clean run and score well. It’s just such a big competition that it might feel like a practice run. You know you won’t get top-five, but you know that you can make it into finals.
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