In fact, so many people chose to be there that it was a clear vote on what's really goin' down. Example: the freestyle World Cup, an annual tradition at Deer Valley, was happening in Park City at the same time as the Dew, giving everyone a chance to see Olympic athletes in actiona month before the 2010 Vancouver Games. Even allowing for some sizable exaggeration, the official figures for spectators watching freestyle skiers jam down the mogul course and hit the air for aerials at the Park City resort was between 5,000 and 6,000. But without any exaggeration, the number of spectators who crowded the sides and bottom of the giant superpipe and the huge slopestyle course for the Dew Tour totalled more than 15,000. And no wonder. While the older folks went to Deer Valley, the young and young at heart went to Snowbasin, where the atmosphere was young, happy and party down. Dew Tour officials announced there were more people in attendance than at any other winter Dew Tour stop in history.
At the 'Basin, you could watch the comps or check out the "Village," a signature of every Dew stop, summer and winter. As usual, the Village was full of freebies; the two best booths were the Matador Snack Sticks, where you could get a free tasty foot-and-a-half long spicy sausage and ride the mechanical bull (hopefully not after eating the Snack Stick); and the Paul Mitchell booth, where you could grab handfuls of Paul Mitchell shampoo and conditioner samples. Nike had a tent where you could meet top athletes they sponsor, Fuel TV had an "underground" tent where they were filming a TV show on the stop, hosted by the gravity-defying Keir Dillion, who is injured and can't compete on the tour. People brought their dogs; there was even a couple of huge great danes and some newfoundlands wandering at the edges of the crowd at the bottom of the giant halfpipe. The owners holding their pooch's leashes, basked in the attention they got for having the SUV version of dogs at the Dew.
The superpipe was incredible; and a first for the 'Basin. The slopestyle course was so challenging, it caused a heart thump just to look at it. The resort's volunteer course crew, as with everything they do, was perfect. After every slopestyle athlete made a landing, course crew would be out there raking it smooth. The foggy weather made it hard for the athletes, since the sky was the same color as the snow. One volunteer was out there with the sprayer, painting green lines on the snow to give the skiers and boarders some guidance.
Slopestyle, not yet an Olympic sport, probably will be by the next Games. The IOC realizes the fans are always its future, and obviously pipe and slopestyle have the eyes that sponsors desire. Plus, when skiers and snowboarders are hitting jumps AND rails all the way down, it offers just a bit more than pipe.
In judging, the most important part of the run is, of course, style. It's slopeSTYLE, after all, so the way you do it counts for the most points, followed by difficulty and then such things as creativity and leverage: Is the athlete balanced, does she or he land without scuffing or skidding?
In addition, the rails count as much as the jumps, so there's no slacking.
After each snowboarder completed a practice run, they took off their board and jumped on the footboard of a waiting snowmobile for a ride upto the top, though sometimes the snowmobiles just thrummed, waiting, while the riders took some time to laugh and talk with fans. Then, with a wave, they jumped on their motorized lift and took off for the top.
The big problem for all the comps were the snow-colored clouds. During Saturday's preliminaries, so many guys fell on the second slopestyle jump that everyone wondered if 12 guys would even make it into the finals with a clean run. Even Simon Dumont biffed it. The funniest athlete didn't even compete. Top freeskier Nick Martini, who tore up his knee at the Dew's Breckinridge stop, was a color guy for Fuel TV, wandering around and picking up the inside view with a small video camera. He got what later became the word of the day, if not the new phrase for the sport. Style master Sean Jordan biffed it, skied up to Martini's leering camera and said, "Shit happens when you party naked.” The line started being repeated by everyone.
The saddest part of the entire weekend was when Park City's Alex Schlopy fell and injured his shoulder. He's out for the season, the second season in a row that the incredibly talented 17-year-oldqualified for the Dew and was injured before he could show his stuff. His whole extended family had come to watch. Mom Holly Flanders (red jacket, below) was the first U. S. woman to win a World Cup, behind her in black is Marny Schlopy, mother of recently retired U. S. ski team racer Erik Schlopy.
It's hard to settle on one thing for the coolest part of an event that will surely be back to the 'Basin next year. But it might have been the snowboard halfpipe under the stars (though the clouds covered the stars), the huge halfpipe glowing in the bright lights. At the bottom of the pipe, thousands of fans cheered and partied, and the athletes in their black and white bibs mingled, moving through the crowd, signing autographs on boards and jackets, and generally being friendly. Advice: no matter what event is going on, if this tour is in town, do the Dew.