The Limelight: 2016 Aspen Open champ Ethan Swadburg
Call it the Miracle in Aspen.
On Feb. 19, just a day before superstars like Gus Kenworthy and Jossi Wells threw down on the Winter X Games slopestyle course, Dillon-based freeskier Ethan Swadburg put down the run of a lifetime on the same course.
It marked the 19-year-old’s fourth year competing in the Aspen Snowmass Freeskiing Open — the amateur counterpart to the X Games — so he knew what to expect at Buttermilk: monster features and steep competition. Sure, he missed the first day of practice due to the Feb. 15 rockslide in Glenwood Canyon, but “I got comfortable on the course pretty quickly,” he says.
It showed on the second run of the finals.
“All my rail tricks went smoothly, and I went big on my jumps while staying in control,” he said. “It feels like a miracle that everything went smoothly, one of those moments where you body takes control and there is no thinking — just doing.”
The run was enough to earn an 88.50 and put him on top of the podium, more than two points ahead of Vermont’s Alex Hackel in second and three points ahead of Australia’s Ryley Lucas in third.
Miracle or no (maybe more of a euphoria than an instance?), the win in Aspen demonstrated what Swadburg can do in the park. The Colorado Springs native and Team Hawks protégé has already been at it for a few years: He took first place overall for the U.S. Revolution Tour slopestyle division in 2014, then followed it in 2015 as a finalist in Level 1’s Superunknown video contest.
It’s a combination you don’t see often, like a five-tool baseball player: a skier who films and competes on the same level. But it’s all he’s ever known, really.
“It’s hard to say when I truly fell in love with skiing, but it’s probably when I started to watch ski movies,” Swadburg said. His first fuzzy memory of skiing is “learning how to pizza my way down Breckenridge while finally being released from the leash,” but, by 13 years old, he was hooked. That’s when he found videos like “Happy Dayz,” “Every Day is a Saturday,” and “Refresh” from Poorboyz and Level 1 Productions. He still watches those three every once in a while, and his take on skiing is right in line with the crew videos from Poorboyz.
“The thing about skiing is that it never feels like a burden to go on the mountain,” Swadburg said. “There is nowhere else in the world where I feel as comfortable and as happy as I am on the mountain. You get to be outside with your best friends all day.”
Now, 16 years after losing the leash, he’s racked up a few medals, learned double corks, thrown a few crowd-pleasing backflips and berated his knee. That’s his only injury right now, but it’s been a nagging one.
“It’s hard to deal with injuries in the middle of the season when you have pressure to go to contests and film,” he said. “So I’ll spend a week on the couch, then go straight to a contest or go film, and then rest whenever I get the chance.”
And that’s the story for the rest of the season: a few more contests and film sessions, with rest in between. Then comes travel.
“My main goal in skiing is for it to take me to places around the world that I would never go without skiing,” he said. “I love traveling.”
Ethan thanks: Thank you to my family (Keith, Julie and Kayla), my friends and my coaches through the years (Clay Bryant, Tyler Conway, Chris Hawks, Dan Allen, Ian Meader). Those are the real people who inspire me. They keep skiing fun for me. Also thank you to my sponsors! Pup’s Glide Shop, Slopestyle, RMU, Bloom Outerwear, Phunkshun Wear, Scott and Full Tilt Boots. Also thank you to anybody that has helped me on my way and has kept skiing awesome for me!
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