McLain ready to share gift of gab at X Games |

McLain ready to share gift of gab at X Games

Among other descriptions, such as commentator or coach, Travis McLain is what you might call a character.He’s a former World Cup snowboarder, too, and an ESPN Winter X Games gold medalist in 2000, but his promising slopeside career derailed at the U.S. Open in Vermont the next year.”My knee busted up like a high school kegger,” he said.Which is why McLain, a connoisseur of magnetic metaphors, is now a commentator and coach, and, of course, a character.McLain, 24, is a rookie freestyle coach for the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, and a first-year host for local Channel 16. And, also for the first year, he will be the public address announcer for all the X Games’ snowboarding events. The X Games kick off today at 9:30 a.m. at Buttermilk, with practice runs beginning at 8 a.m.”I think people are gonna be going off like a prom dress,” McLain said.”Like smoother than Bill Clinton at a Jenny Craig meeting with a box of cigars.”I just read that one in the paper the other day, actually,” he added, laughing.McLain, who now lives in Aspen, grew up in Snowmass Village, riding with AVSC before the club even had that name. He went to high school at Stratton Mountain School in Vermont, where he was a classmate and friend of Ross Powers, the 2002 Olympic gold medalist in halfpipe and one of 24 men in the elite X Games contest.After graduation, McLain followed the World Cup circuit from 1994 to 2001, racing giant slalom and slalom as well as competing in halfpipe.He made his X Games debut in 2000 at Mount Snow, Vt., and the following year won gold in ultracross partnered with skier Peter Lind of Sweden, who returns as the 2002 skiercross runner-up.Then in 2001 at the U.S. Open in Stratton, Vt., McLain suffered the right-knee injury. “The first, only and last injury,” he said.McLain’s talents on air (as opposed to in air), however, have never been dormant. He called the Kick Aspen Big Air contest a few years ago, and during the 2001 24 Hours of Aspen, he found the microphone in his hands again.McLain used the impromptu opportunity to introduce the improv character, “Hans,” a thick-brogued Austrian.”Ja, my name iz Hanz and I only ski zie slalom …””I’ve always just done it at the events I’d go to anyway,” McLain explained. “But seriously, I enjoy it.”I’m lucky because I don’t really have to prepare. I know most of the competitors, and I’ve kept up with the contests and the industry, so I’ll talk about their backgrounds, what they’ve been up to, filming and stuff.””I have my favorites” ? like Powers on the men’s side, Gretchen Bleiler of Snowmass Village for the women ? “but I’ve got to give everybody their time,” he added.McLain will work alongside a separate crew of commentators that will call events for the TV broadcasts, a job that Chris Davenport of Old Snowmass is handling for several skiing events.As for the lingo, McLain said he mines it from regular places.”I watch a lot of sports, so yeah, I’m always looking for things to pick up on; from music lyrics, or what other commentators will say, or what I pick up in the papers,” he said.It’s clear that with McLain on the mike, fans are assured to be informed, if not entertained.”You’re gonna be in there like swimwear,” he said.[Editor’s note: Faces of the Roaring Fork is a feature of The Aspen Times that appears each Thursday. The goal of these stories is to put the spotlight on people in the Roaring Fork Valley who don’t usually make the pages of our daily newspapers.Stories focus on “regular folks” who have interesting stories to tell. We hope they will run the gamut: people with unique hobbies, people who have overcome some obstacle in life to pursue a dream, people who quietly help others in need, etc.Though we have plenty of stories in mind, we are sure there are many, many people out there worth writing about who will never cross our radar screen. So we are asking our readers to tell us about folks they know who deserve a little recognition, who have interesting tales to tell.Anyone with ideas should call Editor Mike Hagan at 925-3414, or send e-mails to Thanks, in advance, for your help.]

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