Superpumped in the Superpipe
Aspen Times Staff Writer
You know how the old saying goes: If at first you don’t succeed, try that “corked 900” again.
After Peter Olenick fell in last year’s X Games qualifier ” his second attempt to qualify ” he spent the next 12 months wondering, yet again, what could have been if he’d just stuck the landing on that trick.
The Aspen-born, Carbondale-raised, new-school wonder has been starring in ski movies for a couple of years, but has yet to showcase his talents in the prime-time event held in his own back yard.
That’s about to change.
In this year’s X Games qualifier held earlier this month, Olenick didn’t fall. Instead, he placed second in Slopestyle and third in SuperPipe, thereby landing a spot in both events of the upcoming X Games.
“It felt so good, finally!” he said this week, adding that consistency was the key to his success. “You have to land all the time.”
Olenick, 19, first attached skis to his feet when he was 20 months old. His dad, Robert Olenick, who now owns the Red Rock Diner in Carbondale, used to own the base restaurant at Buttermilk (now known as Bumps). On weekends and school breaks, Peter, his 17-year-old brother Michael, and 15-year-old sister Megan spent every waking moment on skis.
“We’d wake up at 6 in the morning, hang out in the restaurant [until the lifts opened], then ski until 4 o’clock,” Olenick said. “They were long days, but we loved it.”
It was in these formative years that Olenick developed his competitive nature.
Steele Spence, an Aspen High grad and two-time X Games veteran who placed fourth in last year’s Slopestyle, is a year older than Olenick. The two never spoke when they were growing up, but were constantly butting heads on the mountain.
“We were big-time rivals when we were younger. We hated each other,” Olenick said. “We were always competing against each other ” when we saw each other skiing around the mountain ” we both had to be better than the other.”
Spence said it was more fun than anything else.
“We were all competing in moguls, and [the Olenicks] would be cruising around with Vince Lahey ” it wasn’t like a rivalry. We pretty much just made fun of them,” Spence laughed.
Their relationship changed a few years ago, when the two were on a film shoot together on the East Coast.
“The first time we ever talked to each other, we became friends,” Olenick said. “He’s a nice kid.”
Said Spence: “That was the first time I ever got to hang out with him, all that other stuff was just kind of childish and funny stuff.”
When Olenick isn’t at school ” Montana State University in Bozeman ” competing, coaching, or on film shoots, he’s on the hill with his brother and sister. In November, he talked about the impact his old rival has had on his family’s skiing.
“Watching [Spence] compete all year, and knowing him, we’ve learned a lot from him,” Olenick said. “He’s always got a smile on his face ” he taught us to have fun with it no matter what happens, and you never know what’s going to happen.”
Spence and Peter Olenick will compete against each other in the Slopestyle event in this year’s X Games.
“I think [Olenick’s] going to do really good,” Spence said. “He’s got some good stuff. He’ll have a solid run for sure.”
A Colorado Rocky Mountain School graduate, Olenick was bitten by the new-school skiing bug four years ago after watching “13.” Released in 2000 by Poor Boyz Productions, “13” is widely considered the breakthrough new-school film, and watching guys like J.P. Auclair and Shane Szocs inspired Olenick.
“I got a cheap pair of twin tips, and off we went,” Olenick said.
Olenick developed rapidly and soon caught the attention of ski filmmakers around the country. He’s since been featured in numerous ski films, including “Ready, Fire, Aim,” “Forward,” “Highlife,” “Strike Three,” and Warren Miller’s “Storm” and “Journey.”
Now in his second year at Montana State, where he’s majoring in business marketing, Olenick skips every spring semester to focus on skiing. Competitions and film shoots dominate the winter and spring, and his summers are spent in Whistler, British Columbia, where he works as a coach at the High North Ski Camp.
At only 19, Olenick has already achieved many of his goals, and he attributes much of his success to CRMS, where he transferred from Roaring Fork High School following his sophomore year.
“I went to CRMS my junior and senior years, and those were probably the best two years of my life,” he said. “That school’s awesome. I wouldn’t be where I am without them.
“They have a really good program that helped me get better,” he said in November. “They let us go skiing two days a week and they were very supportive of what we were doing. That definitely helped me and my brother get to where we are.”
His brother Michael is now a CRMS senior. He did not qualify for the X Games this year. Megan is still at Roaring Fork High School, but she hopes to transfer to CRMS next year.
“She’s a skier and she’s getting real good,” Olenick said. “Really, really good on rails.”
Before CRMS, and before the new-school craze, Olenick got a little head start from the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club (AVSC) and the late Chuck Severy, who was Olenick’s instructor for 10 years in AVSC’s recreational program.
Later, when Severy was diagnosed with cancer, Vince Lahey, the owner of Genre Bistro and a Channel 16 Aspen Today host, took over as the Olenicks’ instructor. The beginning, Lahey said, was a little rocky.
“They didn’t like to ski with anybody else. They said, ‘We like to ski with Chuck,'” Lahey said. “So the first day we met, I did a backflip in my ski [instructor] uniform. They were my friends after that.”
Said Olenick in November: “He taught me and my brother backflips, and got us pretty much hooked on the whole new-school thing. My brother and I were so hooked on it that we started really working hard. Every time we go out skiing, even still, we’re always working on some skill or new trick.”
Living a dream
Now, heading into the X Games, Olenick is happy the event is on his hometown hill.
“I’m not nervous yet, but I will be, for sure,” he said. “It helps being at home.”
Growing up in the Roaring Fork Valley, Olenick said he didn’t realize how lucky he was, but that has changed.
“I took a lot of it for granted,” he said. “But now when I leave, I miss it. I’ll probably find myself here in the future.
“I’m stoked to be here.”
Said Lahey: “He’s been dreaming about this a long time. He’s directed every bit of his goals to X Games and now he’s there. That’s the kind of kid he is ” he achieves everything he sets out for.”
Steve Benson’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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