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Excitement high as Dew Tour hits Killington

By Marty Basch
Globe Correspondent / January 20, 2011

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They’ll be going to new heights at Killington.

The Winter Dew Tour, a winter sports action tour featuring top snowboarders and skiers in halfpipe and slopestyle events, lands this weekend at the Vermont ski area featuring an Olympic-sized 500-foot superpipe with 22-foot-high walls.

Found at events such as the Olympics and Winter X Games, it’s the size favored by elite skiers and snowboarders.

“The athletes feel strongly that what they do in a 22-foot pipe is elevating their game and progressing their sports both on the ski and the snowboard side,’’ said the tour’s general manager, Chris Prybylo.

The switch from an 18-foot pipe comes as halfpipe skiing or freeski superpipe is being considered by the International Olympic Committee for inclusion at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Slopestyle skiing and snowboarding, where athletes navigate a terrain park-type course, are also being considered.

“You go to any ski resort in the country and terrain parks are becoming more popular,’’ said Prybylo. “The use of terrain parks are at a high level right now. Slopestyle terrain is more accessible.’’

In its third year, the tour features international pro and amateur athletes such as Vermont’s Kelly Clark, a two-time Olympic medalist. On the men’s side there are Olympic riders Louie Vito and Mason Aguirre as well as freeskier and multiple X Games medalist Simon Dumont from Bethel, Maine. New Hampshire’s Scotty Lago, who won an Olympic bronze medal last year in Vancouver, is sitting the stop out, recovering from a broken jaw sustained last week in a snowboarding mishap while shooting a movie in the Jackson, Wyo., backcountry.

The three-stop tour began last month in Breckenridge, Colo., and concludes at Snowbasin, Utah, Feb. 10-13. The Killington contests center around Bear Mountain. Preliminaries are tomorrow, superpipe finals Saturday, and slopestyle finals Sunday.

Dumont, 24, is coming off a third-place finish in December’s Visa US Halfpipe Grand Prix, and won the Dew Tour’s first freeski superpipe contest at Breckenridge with a run that included a double cork 1260 and double flip. His Grand Prix podium landed him a spot on the 2011 World Championship team for ski halfpipe.

Known for towering above the pipe, Dumont is a 2004 Telstar High School graduate who has won six Winter X Games superpipe medals.

“My last result doesn’t matter,’’ he said. “I go one at a time. It’s always nice to win, a good stepping-stone. I want to do the same thing. I don’t care about the last win. It’s about the next one.’’

Skiing in a 22-foot halfpipe is old school to the new schooler. Dumont believes a 22-foot halfpipe is safer than an 18-foot.

“I think there is more margin for error in a 22-foot,’’ he said. “In an 18-foot you pop out at a certain degree and you can land super flat. In a 22-foot you have more wiggle room for bigger tricks. The walls create a bigger transition and you can create more amplitude.’’

Though Dumont has been excelling in the pipe, his slopestyle finishes haven’t been as grand (22d at Breckenridge). He’s keying in on the pipe with a specific goal in mind.

“I think the days of doing every aspect of skiing and making the podium are over,’’ Dumont said. “I’ve had success in slopestyle and in filming good segments. But I’m really focusing on halfpipe skiing and hopefully win an Olympic medal.’’

For Vito, it’s a homecoming of sorts. A Stratton Mountain School graduate and US Open regular, the 22-year-old Ohio-raised snowboarder competed in the 2010 Olympics and was the 2009 US Grand Prix champion. This season he’s 2 for 2, with victories at Copper’s Grand Prix and Breck’s Dew Tour with a run that included a front double 10, cab double 10, and crippler. He’s the rider who was on “Dancing with the Stars.’’

“There are so many good riders . . . everything depends on who is on that day,’’ said Vito. “For me, I try to keep consistent and work on my amplitude. Staying consistent is important; I stick with that and pick up a couple of new tricks along the way.’’

Clark, 27, is back in Vermont after dominating competitions in Switzerland, winning the women’s halfpipe at the Burton European Open and the O’Neill Evolution contest. Earlier in the season, she finished second at the Grand Prix and placed sixth at the Dew Tour’s first stop.

“I love competing and thrive in that environment,’’ she said. “That’s the best for me. I like the place I’m in right now.’’

A three-time Olympian, Clark says she’s having fun riding and appreciates not having the stress and tension that comes every four years.

“I have finally realized that they are not always the most enjoyable times,’’ she said. “I’ve come to realize that the Olympics are not a destination. They are a wonderful addition to a great snowboarding career.’’

Following the Dew Tour, she’s off to the X Games.

“I’m still doing this for the right reason, because I want to, not because I have to,’’ said Clark, who grew up in West Dover, Vt.