The superpipe marks the spot for a number of New England-rooted freeskiers and snowboarders during the four-day Winter X Games, which begin Thursday in Aspen, Colo.
Simon Dumont’s first X Games was as a teenager, but this one’s the first the Bethel, Maine, native plans skiing without poles since shattering his left wrist and breaking his right pinkie last month practicing for the Dew Tour in Breckenridge, Colo. That left him with 11 screws and a plate as he was planning a comeback from a torn anterior cruciate ligament and surgery last April.
“The torn ACL was frustrating,” said Dumont, 26. “But it’s part of the game. I’ve been to the X Games since I was 14. I was getting burned out with competition and all. This was a blessing in disguise. Now, shattering my wrist really bad, I’m not going to let it get to me. I keep on.”
He competed without poles this month at the US Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colo., finishing seventh.
Poles provide balance, Dumont says, and allow him to gain more speed in the pipe as he unleashes flips, spins, and double corks. But he can’t hold the poles, and if he jabs the ground with them, it hurts.
“I’m just going without poles,” he said about venturing into the 567-foot-long superpipe with 22-foot walls. “This isn’t the end of the world but it will be different. I don’t have much expectations. I want to stay competitive and keep that competitive edge.”
Dumont says he’s won X Games and Dew Tours but the one jewel missing is the Olympics, with halfpipe skiing making its debut in 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Dumont is hungry for that.
“I don’t want to miss the Olympics,” he said. “I want to stay injury-free, learn a bunch of new stuff, and be ready.”
Asked why he doesn’t take more time off, he just says no, no, no.
“It’s just a wrist. Not a big deal,” he said. “I already skied at the Grand Prix and did all right. I’m not doing this to come in dead last. I have ideas. Do a good run.”
Last week marked Tucker Perkins’s first time in a halfpipe in about 10 months. Recovering from a late-season left ACL injury, and September surgery to remove scar tissue, the North Hampton, N.H., freeskier now based in Park City, Utah, says he’s relatively healthy for his fifth X Games. His best finish is fifth.
A racer in his youth, Perkins later built stealth jumps outside an Attitash condo to spin and flip. He took silver at the 2011 AFP World Championships, made the Dew Tour podium in 2012 at Killington, Vt., and is a teammate of Dumont on the US Freeskiing Team.
With a short training schedule for the X Games, Perkins says it’s taking the pressure off that he usually puts on himself. Last year, he spent a couple of months learning new tricks for the X Games. Not this time.
“I’m going in having as much fun as possible, put down runs, land them, and make the finals,” he said. “Doing that with just over a week on skis after 10 months is a huge accomplishment. If I can land it, anything can happen.”
After Aspen, Perkins plans two World Cup competitions, including Sochi, and a European X Games stop in Tignes, France.
“This year, I’m looking at the big picture, which is February 2014 in Sochi, Russia,” he said. “The key is to stay on your feet, stay healthy, get results, and not go too crazy.”
Perkins got his first X Games invitation at age 17.
“I’m competing against guys I watched on TV growing up,” he said. “Some are friends now. I never thought I’d be at this level but there is still a lot I need to accomplish.”
Benji Farrow’s stock is rising as the 20-year-old Vermonter competes in his first domestic X Games. Raised in Ludlow on the slopes of Okemo, within sight of childhood idols and now fellow US Snowboard Team members Kelly Clark and Hannah Teter, the skier-turned-snowboarder got noticed in 2009 with a second-place halfpipe finish on the Revolution Tour.
He’s been excelling since, stepping up this season to the pro side of the US team from a rookie season that included a Burton US Open third behind Shaun White and Louie Vito as his family and friends watched in Vermont, and a sixth at the European X Games.
Though he missed making the Dew Tour finals (a competition he calls his “little nemesis,” three years and no finals), he notched a seventh at the US Grand Prix, which he called disappointing but “better than nothing.”
He considers just being in Aspen an accomplishment, but athletes are hardwired to win.
“I would love to stand on the podium,” Farrow said from Breckenridge, where he was training and lives during the winter. “We are working toward getting that run that will get you there.”
Helping was having daily two-hour private access with his teammates to a halfpipe, with snowmobiles providing quicker transportation than the seven-minute chairlift ride, allowing for faster repetitions and a chance to “dial in our runs.”
“There’s an advantage to really focus on what we are doing,” he said.
Farrow used to compete in slopestyle and big air but decided to focus on halfpipe with a goal of competing at the 2014 Olympics.
Farrow is quick to heap praise on snowboarders who’ve helped him along the way, such as Luis Reyes, Eddie Johnson, Jerry Tucker, Ross Powers, and New Hampshire native Chas Guldemond.
“Chas has given me some of the best advice inside the professional world of snowboarding,” Farrow said.
Now, Farrow is focused on his runs.
“I want to ride well, finish strong, and come away not hurt, but also know I didn’t hold anything back,” he said.