The 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia are only 14 months away. For halfpipe and slopestyle snowboarders and freeskiers competing at this weekend’s iON Mountain Dew Tour Championships in Breckenridge, Colorado, the race is on to determine who will be the ones to watch.
Last year’s overall Dew Tour winner, Louie Vito, is among top American halfpipe snowboarders jockeying for dominance. Others include 2010 Winter Olympic veterans Shaun White, Greg Bretz, and Scotty Lago.
“I want to make sure I’m riding the best I can and my body is feeling good,” said Vito, who has been on an intensive fitness regimen. “That’s my main focus (heading into Dew Tour).”
Three-time Olympic snowboarder and 2002 Salt Lake gold medalist Kelly Clark returns to Breckenridge for her 5th consecutive year leading the women’s halfpipe movement.
“When it comes to the Olympics, (the Dew Tour) is a stepping stone on the way there.” Clark told USA Today Sports. “Every event is an opportunity to progress and gain experience. “
On the ski side, slopestyle and halfpipe debut as Olympic disciplines in Sochi, yet the Dew Tour has included each since 2008-2009.
That same season 7-time X Games Gold halfpipe skier Tanner Hall won his first Dew Cup. Hall returns to Dew Tour after last two years recovering from knee injuries and is expected to be a podium contender.
“I’m stoked! It’s going to be good to get back at the start gate and have some fun,” Hall told USA Today Sports.
Snowboard slopestyle, which also has its Olympic debut in Sochi, sees 2011-2012 Dew Cup Champion Sebastian Toutant of Canada as a clear favorite.
“Breck is start of season so all the riders are excited. Last year it was three stops so you had to be consistent all season but this year it’s just one event so all the riders are going to go all in.” Toutant said.
Now a larger, single event format, the Winter Dew Tour has expanded its footprint off-snow in the town of Breckenridge via a film screening event called RECOGNIZE, featuring top ski and snowboarding films that showcase a broader segment of athletic talent beyond those competing in contests.
“I love to do it all. I love riding backcountry, jumps, halfpipe, filming and competing. It’s a tricky balance, “ says Vancouver Olympic Bronze Medalist Scotty Lago.
Breckenridge local and ski slopestyle contender, Bobby Brown, agrees.
“I’m definitely more a of a contest guy doing Dew Tour or X Games, but the last few years I’ve filmed with (ski filmmakers) Matchstick Productions and Poor Boyz Entertainment and I think that’s really important to show different aspects of skiing than just strictly contests.”
Dew Tour airs live on NBC Saturday, December 15 at 2:00pm ET, and on Sunday, December 16 at 1:00pm ET with live webcasts throughout weekend on DewTour.com.