Basalt skier Torin Yater-Wallace talks about his season-ending Dew Tour injury

Basalt halfpipe skier Torin Yater-Wallace talks during a press conference ahead of X Games Aspen 2018.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

Torin Yater-Wallace said his career is far from over. It just may be awhile before he’s able to get on snow again.

“It’s definitely going to be quite some time. I really did myself in with this injury,” Yater-Wallace told The Aspen Times on Wednesday from his home in Basalt. “By no means am I done with anything in the ski world. I’m extremely motivated to get back out there and be stronger than ever.”

The 23-year-old professional halfpipe skier is recovering from an injury sustained Dec. 16 in the men’s modified superpipe final at Dew Tour in Breckenridge. The simplest answer to what happened is that he missed his landing, dropping nearly four stories straight onto the flat bottom of the halfpipe.

The accident came toward the end of the first of what was to be three finals runs in his season-opening event of the winter, a competition won by close friend Alex Ferreira of Aspen. Instead of getting those second and third runs, Yater-Wallace’s season ended right there in Breckenridge.

“I ended up veering really far left, way over the landing of the hip, straight to flat from like 40 feet in the air,” Yater-Wallace recalled. “It was rock hard early in the morning and I landed on the hard ice. Both of my heels shattered, I slammed my knee and nose, and broke my nose. It was straight to the hospital from there.”

Yater-Wallace had surgery in Frisco that same night to reset the bones in his dislocated feet. He would then spend the holidays at the Steadman Clinic in Vail where the doctors attempted to piece his lower body back together.

More than a month after the accident, Yater-Wallace is back home, but currently confined to a wheelchair. He still has a cast on each of his feet, but hopes to transition into more of an air boot and possibly begin walking a bit as soon as next month.

“I have a long road to recovery, so I can’t get too ahead of myself,” Yater-Wallace said. “Your body is a delicate thing and the longevity of my life is much more worthy than just getting back on skis as soon as possible. I’m definitely motivated to get healthy as quick and as proficient as possible, but by all means I’m not skipping any steps and taking the time I need.”

Yater-Wallace is no stranger to hospitals — his story of getting a 2015 liver infection that led to him being in a temporary coma is well documented. But what he did last month at Dew Tour is something altogether different.

Yater-Wallace won silver in his X Games debut in 2011, which made him at the time the youngest Winter X Games medalist in history (a title he no longer holds). He’s been an X Games Aspen fixture since then, only missing the 2014 finals (he made it through qualifying but was forced to withdraw because of injury) and the 2015 event after he suffered a concussion in practice.

While he owns two silver medals in Aspen, he’s never won gold here. Both his X Games gold medals came in Europe (Tignes 2013, Oslo 2016).

A two-time Olympian and the reigning X Games bronze medalist in ski halfpipe, Yater-Wallace said he’d love to watch this year’s men’s ski superpipe contest — which takes place at 7:45 p.m. Thursday at Buttermilk — in person, should he figure out the logistics of getting a wheelchair to the Buttermilk venue.

“Being in a wheelchair, it’s not exactly the easiest thing to get around in,” said Yater-Wallace, who appeared to be in good spirits despite the situation. “I’ll probably watch some events here from the couch.”

Entering the season, the Red Bull-sponsored athlete had big plans for X Games Aspen. Notably, he said it could have been his final halfpipe competition as he attempts to transition into becoming more of a slopestyle skier.

Now, he’s left contemplating his future even more as he recovers from injury. Yater-Wallace said he doesn’t have any sort of timeline for when he’ll be back on skis, but is optimistic he’ll be ready to go at some point next winter.

Whether that includes halfpipe or slopestyle competitions remains to be seen.

“As of right now I’m pretty excited to get healthy and get in those slope events and start filming a bunch next year in the backcountry,” Yater-Wallace said. “I’m just looking out for myself and making sure when I do that I’m as strong and able as possible. Really motivated to get back on snow next year.”