The first sign that this was not like 2010—when the Dew Tour made its first winter stop here at Snowbasin—was the parking lot at the base of Trapper’s Loop. The last time this pasture had been filled with cars was in 2002, when it was used as an overflow lot for Snowbasin’s Olympic events, the downhill and combined.
Now, like then, a constant round of yellow school buses shuttled fans eight miles up to the resort. Snowbasin’s own vast parking lot was already full every morning by 10 a.m., something that never, or hardly ever happens, according to Snowbasin marketing manager Jason Dyer.
“It was huge. This was the biggest snow event in Dew history. We had to hire an extra security force to help out. It was definitely the biggest event here at the resort since the Olympics,” Dyer said. There were more than 200 volunteers helping out, all from GOAL, the organization that formed after 2002 because they didn’t want to let their pro-quality Olympic experience come to an end. GOAL is now considered one of the top volunteer teams in America.
Cars started lining both sides of the road more than a mile from the main entrance. The traditional Dew Tour Village—where spectators could get freebies such as lip block, Mountain Dew drinks, Maverik “meat sticks,” candy and even sunglasses—were out of stock and had to rush in emergency supplies by Friday, the third day of the five-day tour.
The entire festival-like event showed the draw of halfpipe and slopestyle, and underlined the reason the IOC is rushing to include them in its Olympic lineup. Elliot Cone, project manager for the building of the pipe and slopestyle course, said, “It was pretty intense. The jumps we made were over 65 feet.” That’s a long time for an athlete to be in the air.
Elliot and his partner, Aaron Dettling, took two weeks to build the slopestyle course, but the biggest deal was the 22-foot-high pipe, which took more than a month to build. “This is actually the biggest pipe that’s ever been built that we know of. We saw airs of over 20 feet out of the pipe,” he says.
After each event, the winning athletes sat at a table set up at the end of the village, signing autographs for an hour or more in the bright sunlight. But behind the scenes, for many of the competitors, it was just another day at the office. Top-placing athletes would line up in the old day lodge serving as the media center and ad hoc office for Alli Sports, which owns the Dew Tour. Athletes would sign their W-9s, hand them to the “money man,” and be handed a check. There was more than $1.5 million in prize money being handed out over the three-stop tour, not counting various bonuses for the winners. Norway’s Torgeir Bergrem, who was fifth in men’s slopestyle, got paid $2,800. “Not bad for a weekend’s work,” he said, grinning.
The Snowbasin stop had a bit more tension among the athletes than other venues over the season because the Dew Cup was on the line for a number of challengers. Another Norwegian, top-ranked Torstein Horgmo, had to come in at least third to win the cup, based on his previous results. He blew his first run, riding by the final jump into the finish with a scowl on his face, but pulled it off on his final effort, making the third place he needed.
The biggest winner was Park City skier Alex Schlopy, who took the victory in men’s slopestyle. He’s on fire, having won the X Games gold medal in Big Air at the end of January, then taking the first slopestyle title in the Freestyle World Championships in early February, and winning again at Dew Tour. “Maybe I’ll get a chance to rest up for a while now,” he muttered to his bud, Joss Christensen, who took second. The two had grown up skiing together. As 9-year-olds, they used to hand-pack big jumps on an empty lot near Schlopy’s house and practice for hours.
Altogether, Snowbasin put on an Olympic-caliber show for what has grown into an Olympic-caliber event.