Snowboarding’s elite drop into Breckenridge
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
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.
“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.”
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After falling through a trapdoor in his Telluride home a couple of weeks ago, Chris Busbee wasn’t sure if he’d be able to keep his streak going. He had run in every New York City Marathon since 1998 and was going to run it virtually this year in Aspen before his spill put all that in jeopardy.