The Breakdown: Boarding’s folly – It all adds up to 4 ft. |

The Breakdown: Boarding’s folly – It all adds up to 4 ft.

summit daily news
Summit County, Colorado
Sports editor Bryce Evans

There’s an old cliche in sports about fighting for every inch during competition, because, in a game, one inch could wind up being the difference between winning and losing.

Last week at the Winter Dew Tour in Breckenridge, everything came down to 4 feet. Or at least, all the talk surrounding it did.

For those that weren’t doing the Dew all last week, I’ll explain. It’s pretty simple: The Olympic standard for halfpipes is to have 22-foot-high walls; the Dew Tour only had 18-foot walls.

So what’s the big deal? Well, the change in height scared away a lot of the top competitors. Shaun White, Louie Vito and Danny Kass all pulled out because of it, but it was the women’s field that was hit the hardest. The top-four women in the world decided not to compete – Gretchen Bleiler, Kelly Clark, Torah Bright and Hannah Teter. Although Teter officially withdrew due to injury, it was unlikely she would’ve ridden anyway, or so I was told.

Most riders have been gearing up for the Olympics by riding exclusively in 22-foot pipes for the past six to eight months. And some common thinking was that a week in a “sub-standard” pipe could throw them off, and it simply wasn’t worth the risk, especially with the Olympic qualifying schedule heating up at the start of the new year.

So, the show went on without them.

In case you were wondering, Alli Sports, which runs the event, explained through a statement why the pipe wasn’t up to the new standard: “Through our work with the local ski resorts hosting the Winter Dew Tour events, all parties decided it was best to leave behind a pipe that was rideable to the masses, and this is something we will continue to monitor and evaluate each year.”

Breckenridge Ski Resort is in agreement with that statement, said communications manager Kristen Petitt.

There was a mixed reaction from the riders who did choose to compete.

Olympian Elena Hight told me that, while it was hard to get used to the change, she didn’t see it having any long-term effects on her riding whatsoever.

“I’m going to take a break after this week anyway,” she said. “So getting back in a halfpipe will be the same feeling if it’s 22- or 18-feet.”

And the winner of the men’s contest at Breck, Danny Davis, felt that it shouldn’t be an issue.

“You should be able to ride anything,” he told me.

At the same time, though, Davis didn’t feel the competition was the same because of the smaller pipe. Riders couldn’t get the same speed or height because of the missing 4 feet, he said.

“I think they kind of messed up a little bit,” Davis said in regards to not making a 22-foot pipe.

Though Davis’s feelings were shared by the majority of riders, his riding didn’t back him up. The two-time Dew champ was able to land, with relative ease, the run – which included two double cork 1080s – he failed to stick in Copper Mountain’s 22-foot pipe the week before at the U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix.

Maybe he would have landed it better in a 22-foot pipe, maybe not. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the sport, so I’ll leave that to more knowledgeable people to decide.

Either way, though, I think two things are fairly clear.

While the Dew Tour is trying to establish itself as the progressive future of the sport, last week’s showing in Breck set them back quite a bit. Without the best competition on the best courses/pipes, it’s simply not going to gain the attention or respect needed.

That being said, all I ever hear from snowboarders is how they want to help grow their sport. That’s pretty hard to do sitting at home and skipping a nationally televised event.

I know that the Olympics is the ultimate stage to showcase snowboarding. It’s a world-wide audience, and winning a medal is more lucrative than anything else a pro rider can do.

At the same time, these riders owe it to their sport to compete. To give credit, some athletes did still show up, like Steve Fisher, Scotty Lago and Davis. But a pipe contest without White is like a PGA Tour event without Tiger Woods. That is to say, it’s borderline meaningless.

Both the Dew Tour and its athletes have the same goal, and that’s to bring snowboarding to a wider audience. If the sport is to ever become mainstream, it can’t afford weeks like in Breck.

Four feet may not sound like much to you or me, but, in the end, it’s going to be the difference between a sport succeeding or failing.

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