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Winter pumped up

Last modified: 12/24/2011 12:00:00 AM
Snow Nation got a recent adrenalin injection as a trio of new national action sports teams began the inaugural season of competition.

Come 2014, slopestyle skiing and snowboarding, plus halfpipe skiing, will be Olympic sports.

As any X Game follower might say, it's about time. Skiers and snowboarders have been busting big tricks in front of the television cameras for years. The move is huge and will take the sports to new levels and allow young skiers and riders golden opportunities.

And the number of athletes from northern New England shows depth, dedication and an incredibly high skill set.

Let's face it. New England isn't exactly blessed with a plethora of killer halfpipes. The exceptions are at resorts like Stratton, Mount Snow and Killington, all home to major events. Mount Snow hosts the Revolution Tour, the 30th U.S. Open is at Stratton, while the Winter Dew Tour touches down at the Beast.

Skiers and riders can get their starts here and even flourish, but a high number eventually migrate west to the Rockies and California where the season is longer, snow is deeper and halfpipes are available sooner and later.

Despite the region's challenges, some of the world's best halfpipe snowboarders have sprouted from Vermont. Olympic gold medalists Ross Powers, Hannah Teter and Kelly Clark are all Green Mountain State products, while Olympic bronze medalist Scotty Lago hails from New Hampshire.

Now comes ski halfpipe and a chance for an even bigger audience. Though Simon Dumont - a fast-talking Bethel, Maine, freeskier with eight X Games medals and a penchant for daring feats - is known among Echo Boomers, here's a chance to dazzle the Baby Boomers and beyond. Even for the mega-star, a shot at Olympic gold fuels his internal fire.

North Hampton's Tucker Perkins is on the rise in the pipe. He won the U.S. championships in 2010, has made the podium on the Dew Tour, and just missed it during his first X Games.

West Dover, Vermont's Devin Logan, 18 and the reigning national halfpipe champion, personifies the possibility now open to freeskiers: diversity. Just as U.S. Ski Team Alpine skiers can race the downhill, slalom and other disciplines, and Nordic skiers have their menu of distance options, now a versatile action sports athlete can do the same at the Olympics. Logan is on both the ski halfpipe and slopestyle squads. Plus, ski halfpipe and slopestyle (that's like skiing through a terrain park with a series of rails, jumps, boxes and other features) has long been testosterone dominated. A bigger stage might mean more young eyeballs are watching and perhaps will entice other chicks who rock.

But Logan isn't the only athlete looking to diversify.

So is Scotty Lago. He's on the slopestyle snowboarding squad. His Olympic medal was for halfpipe riding.

The national snowboard slopestyle team is small with only five athletes. However, three are from northern New England and the coach, Bill Enos, lives in Campton. He has a long association with Waterville Valley Academy. A former U.S. Snowboarding team member, he competed at the World Cup level.

Joining Lago is Chas Guldemond, the New Hampshire native now living in Reno, Nev., and Stowe, Vermont's Tyler Walker, the only female on the team and just 14. Walker's won the European Open Junior Jam three years in a row.

Guldemond is a U.S. Grand Prix and Euro X Games winner who was coached by Enos at Waterville. They're reuniting. Enos also has coached snowboarding standouts like Olympian Michelle Gorgone, pro rider Pat Moore, Dew Tour competitor Sam Hulbert and X Gamer Brandon Reis.

Enos is honored to be the coach. He doesn't refer to the team as such. He calls them a family. He'll be leading them in competition at contests like the Winter Dew Tour, U.S. Grand Prix, X Games and the World Championships. Slopestyle is his thing. He knows snow lovers in these parts spend more time in a terrain park than a halfpipe and that's where the action (and talent) is for most.

Though Enos espouses a keep-it-fun philosophy on snow, he is also keenly aware that it is his job to keep his athletes progressing with the ultimate goal of an Olympic gold medal. Who knows? Maybe even another U.S. snowboarding sweep like the men did in the 2002 halfpipe.

For now, the goal is always the next contest.

It's going to be a really fun ride for Snow Nation.

(Marty Basch can be reached through onetankaway.com.)


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