Steamboat Springs You might think a snowboarder with a name like Vic Wild would be charged with emotion when it comes time to go head-to-head in a NorAm race on his home training turf in Steamboat Springs. But Wild, a 21-year-old U.S. Snowboarding Team and Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club rider, has taken a surprisingly even-keeled approach to the season after recovering from a broken heel this summer.
In his first year on the national team, Wild is taking the experience one race at a time, hoping to improve his skill set and mental approach to events before making the leap to solid World Cup finishes - a jump that SSWSC head Alpine snowboard coach Thedo Remmelink believes is a definite possibility by the end of the season.
The logical stepping stone for Wild and the rest of North America's next crop of high-speed, world-class gate carvers is to secure top finishes at Race to the Cup Series events, which return to Howelsen Hill tonight and Saturday night.
"I want to do well here - just want to make good turns and hopefully things go my way," Wild said. "World Cups are nice, but it's not really worth it if you're not in the top 10. You want to feel like you can go out and win on any day, so I just have to work on having a stronger mind, being the fastest guy here and trying to progress."
Today's race events culminate in 6 p.m. parallel giant slalom finals for the men and women. Saturday's races finish with 6 p.m. parallel slalom finals (4 p.m. is the planned time for inclement race weather).
At stake for the international pool of riders, which also will include Winter Sports Club athletes Ben Fairchild, Kristin d'Eon and Darren Ratcliffe, are starts at certain World Cup events. For the U.S. riders in particular, that includes starts at their home World Cup event, the Visa U.S. Snowboarding Cup, March 1 to 3 in Lake Placid, N.Y.
The junior riders - such as Steamboat's Mike Trapp, Mimi Wiencke and Kevan Beall - will be looking toward locking up return berths to the late March FIS Junior World Championships in Khanty-Mansisk, Russia.
"For me it's important for people to come see our sport and see how powerful and graceful it looks and for our riders, I hope they ride up to their potential, with power and lots of feel, because we trained hard before the holidays," Remmelink said.
While a host of national World Cup team riders, including most of the U.S. team, will not be present at the races due to their close overlap with a rescheduled World Cup event in Austria, Steamboat Springs residents and U.S. team members Justin Reiter and Erica Mueller will be competing in tonight's event before departing Saturday for Europe.
Winter Sports Club snowboard program director Jon Casson said the race events will be supplemented by a rail jam-style contest, complete with prizes, at the Howelsen Hill base.