New this season to the Sugar Bowl's team of exceptional athletes is Travis Wolfe. Travis is 23 years old and comes from Telluride,Colorado where he has skied for the past 21 years. He is a recently moved to Reno, Nevada and is attending Truckee Meadows Community College. For the past 2 years he has competed in the MSI World Tour Freeskiing competitions as well as other competitions, has consistently placed in respectable positions and has been recognized as a world class athlete.
-Wagner Custom Skis
-Telluride Ski and Golf
-Tecnica Ski Boots
-Base Camp Packs
"Taking the hard line
Durango freeskier Travis Wolfe leaps into tour spotlight"
Wherever life's path leads him, Travis Wolfe won't forget the winter of 2007-08.
"This is the greatest winter ever," said Wolfe, a Durango resident who just turned 22 and is turning heads in the world of big mountain freeskiing.
"I'm surprising myself every time I ski."
Wolfe's biggest surprise came in Telluride earlier this month at the Subaru Freeskiing Open. Battling equipment problems - his skis were borrowed because he broke his own just before the competition and his boots, a little loose, were bound tight with duct tape - Wolfe turned in a run that took him from the shadows of 28th place to the spotlight of the top-five.
And he hasn't stopped smiling since.
"It's goofy," he said of his change of fortunes on the tour. "When I first got to Telluride I wasn't even sure I was going to compete. But I just went for it. Now people are coming up and saying, 'Hey, you're Travis. I saw you at Telluride.'"
Wolfe pocketed $500 for his fourth-place finish in his hometown, but more importantly, the experience convinced him to compete as often as he can for the rest of the season.
As a bonus, he also landed a pair of crucial sponsors that should keep him free from equipment worries for a while.
"The new ones are Boot Doctor and Wagner Custom Skis, from Placerville," said Wolfe, who grew up skiing and racing in Telluride, and discovered his love of extreme skiing as a member of the town's Bump Club.
Wolfe moved to Durango with his mother for his junior year of high school, but traveled regularly back to Telluride to ski with the club before his graduation from DHS in 2004.
"Sponsorship has more of an impact than the money in terms of the whole season," he said.
That's important, since Wolfe now has plans to hit several more stops on the tour. Currently ranked 12th in the world standings, he has plans to compete in Taos on March 6-8, and then head to Jackson Hole, before the month is out.
"It's just week after week after week, and the only way I can do it is to keep doing well," he said. "Another top-five finish would really help."
That might not be an unlikely scenario, since Wolfe has learned what it takes to catch the judges' eyes.
Big mountain freeskiing allows competitors to use all the natural terrain features between the start and finish areas.
Higher points are awarded for more difficult lines, and skiers are also judged on technique, control, fluidity and aggressiveness. With those criteria in mind, competitors routinely ski over rocks and off cliffs at high speed in search of points.
"The whole scene is based on the line, on the difficulty of the line," Wolfe said.
"I finally figured out the whole idea in Telluride. The harder the line I ski, the higher the score. I used to think that I could just ski and huck some big jumps and win it all, but it's not that way at all."
And that's not all he's figured out this winter. Wolfe is quick to credit much of his recent success to his decision to stop drinking last fall.
"I didn't drink all the time, but when I did, I drank a lot," he said.
"I quit before this winter, and I know it's made a difference. In just a short time, I've seen how much of a difference quitting has made in my life."
Wolfe is well aware that his sport depends on big sponsors to stage tour events and come up with prize money, and he's not out to cork the flow of cash.
But he's not pleased that the tour, and the public aura of the sport, embraces alcohol so freely.
"Corona is a major sponsor at the comps. There's beer everywhere and they give everyone on the podium a 40. At the bottom of the Crested Butte comp, everybody was wasted," he said.
"I kind of grew up with the image of the classic ski bum drinking a PBR before every run, and that had an effect on me. Now I'm thinking about the next generation. They're already racing as juniors, and they shouldn't have to see that."
Armed with new gear and a mature attitude, Wolfe is ready to see how far he can push himself in March.
"I've never had the greatest equipment to begin with, so this is going to be fun," he said.
"Jagged Edge gave me a pair of skis three or four years ago, and I skied on them until they fell apart at Telluride. With the new skis at Crested Butte, I didn't get hardly any core shots, and I can't even tell you how many rocks I skied over. At the base there were guys with big strips of P-tex just curling off their skis. But my Wagners really held up.
"I can't wait. This is the nicest stuff I've ever had and I'm ready to go out and surprise myself some more."