Scotty Lago’s 2011 silver-winning run in the SuperPipe is now legend. The run itself showcased the New Hampshire resident at his tricked-out best — fluid and technical and going huge. Oh, and he pulled it off with his broken jaw wired shut. He’d busted it in the backcountry, filming “The Art of Flight,” the standard-setting snowboarding film. Now 25, Lago rides at the forefront of pros in the pipe, in slopestyle, and freeriding. He’s part of the “Frends Crew” of boarders. Along with his exploits on snow, he’s known to many as the guy who got kicked out of the Olympic Village in 2010 after “inappropriate” photos of him and his bronze medal appeared online.
TIME OUT: What tricks are you working on for this year’s SuperPipe competition?
SCOTTY LAGO: I like to keep what I’m working on a mystery, but expect some new tricks
TO: What did you think of the judges giving Shaun White a perfect 100 last year? Is there such thing as a perfect run in the pipe?
SL: I thought it was kinda whack. I’ve never heard of a perfect run in the pipe. It doesn’t bother me though.
TO: What’s it going to take to win this year? What do you think is coming next in the progression of the sport?
SL: I think it’s going to be a mix of being really technical and going big.
TO: Are you already training for the 2014 Olympics? How’s that going?
SL: Yes, I am training and it’s going really well.
TO: Where do you keep your Olympic medal from 2010?
SL: For a long time my dad didn’t trust me with it so he kept it safe for me. Now I keep it in my gun safe.
TO: Your 2011 run here with your jaw wired shut is legendary. What do you think of it when you’re looking back on it? How could you top it?
SL: Now I have a lot better run in store, so hopefully I’ll land it and I will top it.
TO: You’re a big hunting enthusiast. What’s your favorite hunting story from this season?
SL: I had the opportunity to film with “Banded Nation” from the Outdoor Network. We did a duck hunting trip in Kansas. It was a dream come true.
TO: We’ve been hearing a lot about “The Crash Reel,” the new documentary about Frends member Kevin Pearce’s 2009 traumatic brain injury and recovery, in which you’re featured. What did you make of it? What has your relationship with Kevin been like since the accident?
SL: “The Crash Reel” was an awesome documentary. We have always been tight. But, if anything, his injury has brought the Frends crew and I closer together.
TO: Where’s the best after party in Aspen this year?
SL: Sunday night at Belly Up is always a great time.
Five-time Slopestyle medalist Sammy Carlson returns to the course this year, attempting to reclaim his top spot on the podium from 2011. He has a gift for innovative tricks that make it look fun (remember his inverted handplant on the Joystick in his gold-winning Slopestyle run?). He sustained a knee injury last year in the Big Air competition, which took him out for the rest of the weekend and turned out to be a torn MCL. A proud Portland, Ore. native, the 24-year-old last year hosted the first annual Sammy Carlson Invitational, which brought the best of the ski world to Oregon’s Mount Bachelor for a laid-back competition. He may be best known for being the first skier to land a switch triple rodeo 1260. He says he’s in top form and aiming for Slopestyle gold.
TIME OUT: What’s it going to take to win Slopestyle this year?
SAMMY CARLSON: Slopestyle is going to be really heated this year. Expect to see riders throwing double corks all 4 ways and possibly a triple if you plan on making it on the podium
TO: What do you think the next big trick we’re going to see is? What are you working on?
SC: I think very soon riders will start throwing triple corks in slopestyle runs.
TO: How has your recovery come along since your injury in last year’s Big Air final?
SC: My recovery was great. I was really lucky to not need surgery. I spent a lot of time rehabbing on the Nike campus back in Oregon. It was really cool to have access to their physical therapist and trainers.
TO: Has the knee injury changed the way you ski at all?
SC: At first I noticed that I had lost my sense of speed, causing me to be a bit timid for a while, not as confident with my speed. Over all it was a smooth recovery and I gained a whole new appreciation for everything I get to do.
TO: What made you want to start the Sammy Carlson Invitational (SCI)? What are your plans for it this year?
SC: I always wanted to bring something back to my home mountain for all the skiers in Oregon to enjoy. It’s really cool getting a good crew of riders together and just having a fun session. Contests can be stressful sometimes so at the SCI we try and make it as relaxed as possible and build nice fun features for a good session and good show for all the people that come out and watch. This season the SCI will be during the last weekend in May at Mount Bachelor, Ore. The Mount Bachelor crew does a great job with everything and I can promise you some really special features this year. If you can make it out to Oregon, I recommend it!
TO: Thanks! This will be your seventh X Games. What kind of advice do you offer to athletes just starting out here?
SC: The X Games always has been and will continue being the best action sports event in the world so just have fun and enjoy yourself. Forget about all the cameras and the hype and just do your thing!
TO: Everybody’s talking about slopestyle being added to the 2014 Olympics. How do you think it will change the sport? How do you think it will affect X Games competition next year?
SC: Yea, a lot of riders are really pumped on the Olympics. I have noticed a lot of people seem to be more focused and taking the sport more serious overall. I think everyone will show up at X Games next season and ride just as hard. You might see a few people taking it easy or holding back for the Olympics, but I personally still think X Games is where it’s at!
A four-time SuperPipe gold medalist, Gretchen Bleiler is a crowd favorite here in her hometown of Aspen and a snowboarding icon. Now 31, Bleiler has been competing in the X Games since 2000 and is a two-time Olympian — taking the silver medal in 2006. Her signature trick in the pipe — the Crippler — was a groundbreaking move in women’s snowboarding. In June, she suffered the most serious injury of her career, fracturing her eye socket while practicing a double backflip on a trampoline in Utah. Bleiler is still recovering, and only recently shook the double vision brought on by the injury. She’s worked hard to get herself back into the pipe for Winter X Games 17.
TIME OUT: How is your recovery on the eye injury coming along?
GRETCHEN BLEILER: Really really really good! It was the worst injury I’ve ever experienced and the recovery has been a process but now I’m at a point where I don’t have double vision in the halfpipe anymore which is a huge victory.
TO: Do you feel like the injury has changed the way you ride at all?
GB: The accident was traumatic and it also took me away from my snowboard for about seven months. The biggest feat (of getting my vision back) has been accomplished and now the next step in the recovery process is my confidence and general flow on my snowboard. A pro snowboarder rides every day to get into that place, so now I’m just working my way back into that. It’s all still in there, but I just need to let it come back naturally.
TO: Does competing on your home turf here gives you an advantage?
GB: The way I’ve lived it, I’ve seen it working one of two ways. One way is that the self-inflicted pressure of wanting to perform at your highest potential in front of your friends, family and community can consume you and it’s a harder process than just competing anywhere without those pressures. That was the case for me the first couple of years the X Games were in Aspen. But it was that exact scenario played out a couple too many times that helped me reach a point where I was ready to just surrender to that end outcome and just enjoy my hometown crowd and give everyone a good show. I have Aspen and X Games to thank for helping me have that experience because that was when I truly learned how to compete and rise to my potential.
TO: Your crippler was a game changer in the pipe, and now we’ve seen 1080s and seemingly limitless progression in the sport. What do you do to keep up?
GB: The direction I’ve seen women’s snowboarding, in general, going to is a place of style and flow. Where just doing a 900 once was good enough in women’s halfpipe, that doesn’t fly anymore because it has to be done with style (meaning consciously grabbed all the way around). Now even the axis of the way you spin is taken into consideration. All of these “little” details add up to the overall look and feel of a person’s run. So now it’s not just about what trick does she have, but it’s also about how does she throw it (flat, flipped, corked) and how does she grab it (what grab, how long). So even though Kelly [Clark} led the charge with the 1080, there are a lot of other subtle things being worked into the overall look of women’s snowboarding. A lot of the ladies are putting in their time to get it right from the foundation of style first and with that will come those more technical tricks, but it will look good when it comes. That’s what I’ve been spending my past couple years working towards with my snowboarding.
TO: Is there anything you want to accomplish in snowboarding that you haven’t gotten to yet?
GB: I would love to have that experience at the Olympics where all of my preparation on my snowboard and off come together with a peaceful, clear and present mind and I’m able to just let go, have so much fun and ride from my highest potential and it not only feels so effortless and awesome to me but that it also inspires others in their lives.
TO: What are your favorite parts of X Games, outside of the competitions?
GB: Just the overall vibe that X Games brings is unparalleled. You’ve got the best athletes from around the world competing together on the best features in front of an insane audience. It’s that energy that makes X Games special, inspiring, and why year after year new heights are attained.
TO: If you have a free day in Aspen in the winter, what do you do with it?
GB: I spend it with my family at my mom’s in Snowmass. Family time is essential! We always take the dogs for a nice long hike outside and just enjoy our time together and this beautiful place we live.
TO: You’ve been active with the Protect Our Winters campaign, and on climate change issues, even lobbying members of Congress in Washington. What do you tell fans they can do to make a difference for the environment?
GB: I highly encourage everyone to check out Protect Our Winters’s simple and easy pledge. It’s called the POW7: http://protectourwinters.org/get-involved