Buttermilk boasts new slopestyle course | AspenTimes.com

Buttermilk boasts new slopestyle course

Jon MaletzThe Aspen Times
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

After hitting the final jump on the Winter X Games Ten’s revamped slopestyle course Thursday, a female snowboarder came to a gradual stop, then turned to a small group of fellow competitors.”This course would be great if you could skip the top and go right to the last jump,” she said with more than a hint of sarcasm.After taking their first runs on the new course, most riders yearned for the speed of old.”I was having a problem keeping up speed,” said Travis Rice, one of the biggest names in pro snowboarding. “I wish there were deeper and bigger kickers. Given the fact that this is the X Games, they need to make a course that is worthy.”

For the first time in three years, course designers switched the location of the slopestyle and boardercross courses, said Chris Gunnarson, head of Snow Park Technologies. Slopestyle moved from the Bear and Columbine trails on the skier’s left of the superpipe to Spruce, where the pitch is not as constant.Gunnarson said the move was “a big-picture deal, rather than one for the sake of change.” He said he feels the current setup will benefit both disciplines this weekend. The slopestyle course’s true potential and pace has yet to be realized, because of adverse weather.”It is overcast and it snowed last night, and the snow is like a sponge,” Gunnarson said. “The uphill wind also doesn’t help. I saw two guys jump and clear everything, but another guy was blown by the wind and came up 5 feet short. You know how conditions change in Aspen.” The crew weighed multiple variables during the course design phase, taking into account natural topography, flow from one feature to another, as well as routes on the hill for spectators and how things will look on television. Throughout the entire process, Gunnarson enlisted the help and knowledge of athletes. The initial returns have been positive.Three-time X Games slopestyle gold medalist Tara Dakides, 30, said this is the X Games’ most well-rounded course yet.

“It’s taking my breath away,” Dakides said between short breaths, shortly after completing the final run of some 20 on the day. “We’ve all been struggling with the speed during the middle section, but I think they got creative. I’m glad they kept this course simple. It will really allow people to showcase their talent. There are more rails and more options.”Last year’s course featured multiple jumps at the top, which didn’t allow riders to test different lines, Dakides said. Course designers were listening. The first two features of this year’s course are a series of rails. Riders have the option to ride a rail or get air on the third, fourth and sixth features before hitting the final kicker. The course provides different routes for riders, who will be judged on amplitude, execution, difficulty of line as well as landings during official competition. Women will qualify from 10 a.m. to noon today, and men will follow from 1-3 p.m.”The shape of the jumps are some of the best I’ve ever seen,” said first-year pro Randy Marino of Salt Lake City. “And I just got a wax, so I’m good [with the speed].” Gunnarson and his crew first mapped out the course during a trip to Buttermilk last summer and began construction on Jan. 9. While Mother Nature will need to cooperate and some features need tweaking – notably the second jump, which is too big – Gunnarson said this year’s course is light years ahead of the one for previous Winter X Games competitions.

Snowmass’ Teddy Karlinski is not a competitor this year, but he did have the opportunity to take a few runs while shooting pictures for EXPN. When asked about the course, the 17-year-old’s response was short but revealing.”I’ve never ridden a course like this,” he said.Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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