Olympian Hannah Teter appeared to be of a one track mind at Wednesday’s pre-Olympic training session at the Buttermilk superpipe in Aspen.
The defending Olympic gold medalist — who took bronze there at last weekend’s Winter X Games — would ride down the pipe, throwing straight airs off each wall under flat light and cloudy skies. But right before her last hit, you could see the wind up. She would then unleash and throw the 900. Again and again.
The 23-year-old from Lake Tahoe, like most of the rest of the U.S. Men’s and Women’s Halfpipe Olympic Team, is doing her final practice before the Vancouver Games at the pipe here where X Games just wrapped up.
The team decided to stick around Aspen after the X Games because of the pristine condition of the pipe at Buttermilk and the willingness of the Aspen Skiing Co. to work with the team, halfpipe head coach Mike Jankowski.
“We’ve had such great experiences here in the past” in both training and competition, he said.
The eight riders who will represent the United States in the halfpipe have had their Olympic game plans in place since the summer, according to team spokeswoman Lindsey Sine. At this point, the athletes are just polishing up their tricks, which is clearly what Teter was doing on Wednesday.
Jankowski described this week’s work as “short focus training,” with each rider hammering one particular area of their game each day. For Teter, it was the 900. For Louie Vito, it’s the straight air and perfecting his line through the pipe. For Scotty Lago, it’s the cab 1080.
“Everyone has a plan for the day,” Jankowski said. “(The coaches) hold them accountable.”
With the women sweeping the podium at the X Games and Shaun White taking gold for the third year in a row, the team feels it has some momentum to carry into Vancouver.
“I’m really impressed by the spirit of the team,” Jankowski said. Even in the poor lighting Wednesday, they showed up to put their work in.
There were some fun and games as well. Vito took one of the large squares of padding used on lift poles up the wall of the halfpipe and dropped in, falling off soon after as the pad sped to the bottom of the pipe. Just after the incident was over, one of the U.S. Team coaches came down, telling Vito he had hoped to stop the stunt before it occurred.
“I hope you got that out of your system,” the coach said to Vito.
The pipe at Buttermilk also looks to be in better shape than what will await the riders at Cypress Mountain, a hill just outside Vancouver where the halfpipe, ski cross, snowboard cross, alpine snowboard racing, aerials and moguls events will take place. After a record warm January in Vancouver with no snow but lots of rain, crews are trucking in snow from a mountain pass 100 miles away to build up the pipe and other competition features.
Jankowski said the team isn’t letting that affect its psyche. Snowboarding being an outdoor sport, they are used to this sort of thing, he said.
“It’s nothing new for there to be the potential for the pipe to be challenging,” he said.
Photo: U.S. Olympic halfpipe rider Hannah Teter practiced her tricks at the Buttermilk superpipe this week.