Snowboarder Chris Corning is far better prepared for second go at X Games
Chris Corning’s X Games debut last winter was enjoyable, but it wasn’t exactly what dreams are made of. An illness put the Summit County rider in the hospital ahead of the contest, and it left him far from 100 percent for the annual event in Aspen.
“I didn’t get to ride well and didn’t get to do a whole lot of what I wanted to do and what I came to do,” Corning said Tuesday from Buttermilk Ski Area. “I’m hoping this year I’m able to really show what I actually have. But I had a fun time last year and I’m excited for this year, too.”
Corning, 19, has emerged as a bona fide snowboarding superstar over the past year. Competing in both slopestyle and big air, the Never Summer team rider competed in the 2018 Olympics, where he finished fourth in big air but finished well off the podium in slopestyle.
That experience has him feeling more prepared for his return to X Games Aspen.
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“I learned a lot from the Olympics about controlling what I can control,” Corning said. “It was a tough learning experience, to say the least. It was nothing like I’ve ever experienced before. I’ve never had a lesson in my life that took every bit of advice and learning I’ve ever had in my years of living to just make it through one day.”
Last year at X Games, Corning finished fifth in big air and sixth in slopestyle (after qualifying third). His results so far this winter are as good as they could be, and include a World Cup slopestyle win in Laax, Switzerland, just this past weekend. He finished second in another World Cup slopestyle event only a few days earlier in Austria, and even won the first big air event of the World Cup season in New Zealand. He also was second in slopestyle at Dew Tour in Breckenridge.
Corning is the reigning World Cup champion in both slopestyle and big air, and has two World Championship medals to his name (one silver, one bronze), won in 2017.
With a long wait between now and the 2022 Olympics, Corning’s focus is honed in on X Games.
“That and the Olympics, those are the two things I really have left that I really want to do well at. I’ve got a World Championships medal, so this is kind of the next stop,” Corning said. “I’m definitely a lot more calm than last year. Last year I was nervous every day and this year it’s a lot easier to just hang out and have a little more fun and just kind of enjoy the experience.”
Corning also enjoys being considered one of the locals, to a degree. He lived in Aspen for a couple of spells while training with the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, where he was coached by Nichole Mason, now the rookie team coach for U.S. Ski and Snowboard. While his roots are in Denver and Summit County — he’s close with Summit County neighbors and fellow Olympians Kyle Mack and Red Gerard — Aspen still has a special place in his heart.
“It was a home for two years, basically,” Corning said. “It’s nice to be back. It’s nice to be able to show some people around the mountain and show them around town.”
Corning got in training sessions in both his disciplines on Tuesday at Buttermilk. The men’s big air snowboard elimination is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Thursday, with the finals on Friday night. The men’s snowboard slopestyle elimination is at noon Friday, with the finals at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Corning’s competition will include the usual contingent of superstars, such as Gerard, the current Olympic gold medalist in slopestyle, Sebastien Toutant, the current Olympic gold medalist in big air, and seven-time X Games gold medalist Mark McMorris.
“I put a bunch of work in over the summer to get a lot stronger and to be able to come here and snowboard and be feeling really good and confident in my riding,” Corning said. “In both of them, if I put a run down, I’ll have a pretty good chance of getting on the podium.”
Notably missing is five-time X Games gold medalist Max Parrot, who has won four of the past five big air events in Aspen. Parrot, 24, recently announced he had been diagnosed with cancer and will miss the remainder of the season.
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Many of the trails in the Roaring Fork Valley, especially from the midvalley up, are far from ready and it’s important that people stay off of them despite having cabin fever.