Snowboarding’s elite drop into Breckenridge | AspenTimes.com

Snowboarding’s elite drop into Breckenridge

Adam Boffey
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Kaleb McCleod of Calgary, Alberta, soars above the halfpipe Thursday during a training run for the Grand Prix of Snowboarding at Breckenridge. The Grand Prix kicks off Friday with elimination rounds. (Mark Fox/Summit Daily News)

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. ” The world’s best snowboarders are back together again.

The U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix in Breckenridge is the first major competition of the season, which made for a reunion-type atmosphere at Thursday’s practice session.

“It’s kind of cool,” said local vet­eran rider Chad Otterstrom, a member of the Breckenridge Freeride Team. ” You throw out a lot of high fives ” every run you see someone you haven’t seen in a while.”

Thursday’s informal practice was a veritable who’s who in the world of halfpipe snowboarding.

“You can just see at the start gate that everybody’s here,” said U.S. Snowboarding’s Hannah Teter. “Being out all summer and coming back, it’s cool to see how everybody progressed.”

Teter, the gold medalist at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy, bowed out of last year’s competi­tion in favor of other pursuits, but the 20-year-old has returned with an outlook as positive as ever.

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“It’s nothing for me,” Teter said when asked how important Thurs­day’s practice time was. “I’m just having fun … I’m just doing the contest for fun too.”

Teter is one of nearly 60 women who will compete on Saturday.

Team Summit alumna Clair Bidez is another.

The 20-year-old from Minturn has been competing in Grand Prix for five years and has never fin­ished better than fourth.

“I have to make it onto the podi­um,” said Bidez, who added that she didn’t feel any greater pressure to perform because the event’s in her back yard. “I don’t know if I feel like I need to represent more than any other contest ” I want to rep­resent wherever I am.”

Bidez, who’s likely to have her hands full with the likes of Aspen’s Gretchen Bleiler, Elena Hight, Tri­cia Byrnes, Teter and defending series champion Kelly Clark in the field, spoke to the importance of Thursday’s practice runs, which took place under bluebird condi­tions.

“Today is definitely when everything is getting dialed in,” she said. “The girls aren’t compet­ing until Saturday, but we only have like an hour to practice tomorrow and that’s after the guys go, so the pipe’s probably going to be really beat up.”

Bidez’ younger brother and U.S. teammate, Dylan, planned on competing this weekend, but will have to sit out because of an ankle injury.

Local men to look for in today’s qualifier include Winter X Games champion Steve Fisher, Otter­strom, J. J. Thomas and Jake Black.

Danny Davis has returned in hopes of winning a second consec­utive Breck Grand Prix event and Tommy Czeschin (third last year at Breck) will attempt to defend his series title.

Olympic Gold medalist Shaun White won’t compete in Breck for the second consecutive year, but he still made an appearance on Thursday for a couple of practice runs.

Action begins Friday at 8:30 a.m. with the men’s qualifying round. Thirty-two riders will advance to Saturday’s finals. Women’s qualify­ing will be held Saturday morning with 16 advancing to the after­noon’s money round.

Anticipation of the Grand Prix, now in its 13th year, ran high on Thursday.

“This is always one of best con­tests of the year, really,” U.S. Snow­boarding coach Mike Jankowski said. “I think everybody just clicks into their game and pushes each other. By the time finals come around, it’s on.”