Valley natives make top-level events
VOTE FOR PAT TODAY:
Lifetime Vail resident Pat Baskins really wants to compete at the B&E Invitational in France in March. He is close, but he needs more votes on his video entry to make it. Anyone may vote from a PC or desktop computer (there’s no smartphone or tablet voting) by visiting www.freeski.downdays.eu/be-world-2, checking Pat’s name on the right side and clicking submit. Today is the last day to vote.
VAIL — Eagle County native freeskiers Taylor Seaton and Pat Baskins made a pact: This season, they will be competing at the top.
On Jan. 23, the lifelong friends will have officially met their goal.
Seaton has been invited to compete at the X Games, the top event in the sport of halfpipe skiing, while Baskins leaves this week for the Freeride World Tour, the top event in big mountain skiing. The first stop on the Freeride World Tour is in Chamonix, France, and happens to be the same day as the ski halfpipe qualifiers at the X Games — next Friday.
With one goal accomplished, the duo quickly set another.
“I’ve never made finals at X Games, so that’s my goal,” said Seaton.
“I just want some more top-five results on the FWT,” said Baskins.
And both those goals are in reach, as well.
In a sport that seems highly individualistic, halfpipe skiing actually has taken on a bit of a coach-and-team dynamic in recent years. Now an Olympic sport, athletes often have coaches waiting for them at the tops and bottoms of their runs to discuss strategy and calm the nerves.
But that has never really been Seaton’s style.
“A lot of kids these days don’t think that they can make it without being on a team and having everything that a team comes with,” said Seaton. “But I’ve been out here since 2008 with no coaches, just coming out, doing it with my friends.”
This year, however, Seaton came up with a plan which would stay true to what has worked for him — enjoying the company of friends at the top of the pipe — while still taking on a coach. Enter Pat Baskins.
“This year I’ve had Pat as my coach, and it’s been a big help having him there with me at the top of the pipe in the Grand Prix and the Dew Tour,” Seaton said.
Those two events, the Grand Prix and the Dew Tour, are the two biggest halfpipe skiing events to take place so far this season. With Baskins as his coach, Seaton made finals in both.
Complicating things in Seaton’s next goal — making the finals at the X Games — is a nagging wrist injury, which he had surgery on a few weeks ago performed by Dr. Randy Viola, of The Steadman Clinic. Seaton thinks he will be 100 percent by the X Games; and seeing Ted Ligety’s quick recovery after injuring himself here in Vail, getting surgery from Viola and then winning the Birds of Prey World Cup giant slalom in Beaver Creek a few weeks later is a comforting thought, as well.
“And he uses his poles way more than I do,” Seaton said with a laugh.
Even with the injury, Seaton’s finals-worthy performances at Dew Tour and the Grand Prix are giving him confidence.
“After making finals in those two events, I think finals in X Games is a real possibility for me,” he said. “But I’ll miss having my coach there with me.”
Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, Seaton’s coach will be staring down a scary big-mountain line in one of the most notorious extreme-skiing locations in the world, also wishing he had his buddy there for moral support.
“We’ll be talking on that day, that’s for sure,” said Baskins.
Baskins’ goals are also within reach. Last year, he notched a fifth-place finish at a Freeride World Tour event in Courmayeur Mont Blanc, Italy.
“And I’ve been feeling like I’ve improved since then, skiing with Taylor and shredding all this great snow Vail has had this season,” Baskins said.
Baskins received his invite on Saturday to compete in this year’s Freeride World Tour and immediately started packing his Fat-ypus skis and Virtika outerwear.
“I’m lucky to have sponsors who are helping me with my airfare; it helps so much,” he said. “It’s a lot more travel than I’m used to in the U.S. It’s all planes and trains and buses getting from venue to venue.”
PATHS MAY CROSS
While Seaton and Baskins’ seasons will take them on different journeys starting this week, there is a chance they will cross paths at an event in March.
Between Dec. 24 and Dec. 31 in the back bowls of Vail, Baskins and Seaton were hard at work putting together a video to earn Baskins a spot at the B&E Invitational, an event in France hosted by pro freeskiers Henrik Harlaut and Phil Casabon, which will use a specially made terrain park to showcase unique skiing not seen at other events.
Seaton is already likely to earn an invite based on his halfpipe stature. But for Baskins, an invite will have to come the hard way. A video contest will allow for a couple of spots into the event, and the video Seaton and Baskins made in December made the finals. The last day of public voting is today at www.freeski.downdays.eu/ be-world-2.
“The Vail community has always been so supportive of its athletes. We really hope anyone who sees the link will support our native boy Pat and vote for him,” Seaton said. “It’s a close contest so every vote helps.”
By Christmas Eve Day 2017, when chairs 7, 10, 11, 14 and 26 still had not yet opened for the season on Vail Mountain, the resort knew something had to be done. Less than two years later Vail Mountain would be completing one of the most ambitious projects in the resort’s history.