Jake Pates, of Eagle, wins Dew Tour halfpipe competition
BRECKENRIDGE — On the precipice of the biggest moment of his young snowboarding career, 19-year-old Jake Pates, of Eagle, only needed to tell his father Chris Pates two words for dad to know the big moment they’d been working toward was one trip back up the halfpipe away.
“It’s on,” Jake Pates told his father at the bottom of the Dew Tour superpipe after his second run. “I got it.”
What Jake Pates was referring to was confidence in himself to land a trick he’d only landed three times before and never in competition: a back double 12 with a tail grab.
By executing it on his third and final run at the Friday, Dec. 15, Dew Tour men’s snowboard superpipe final, Jake Pates took the Dew Tour championship with a score of 97.33.
“It’s crazy,” Jake Pates said of what the day meant to him and his family. “I’ve, like, spent my whole life snowboarding and been so lucky to be able to have this life. My parents and my family have been able to facilitate that forever. It’s super crazy for me. Yeah, it just blows my mind, honestly.”
In the lead up to this week’s Dew Tour, Jake Pates said he had the trick in his bag, waiting to pull it out at the Dew Tour and U.S. Olympic qualifier at Breckenridge Ski Resort. The doublecork 1260 was popularized by Shaun White, whose “Double McTwist” 1260 has helped him win numerous competitions over the years including the 2010 Olympics. White grabs “indy,” between the bindings, which is the standard way of performing the trick. Pates’ tailgrab was something not many had ever seen before Friday, with some in attendance calling it as a “NBD” or never-been-done (in competition) trick.
FAMILY IN ATTENDANCE
After Chris Pates saw his son score an 80 on his first run without the new trick, he knew if and when he landed it, an appearance on the podium was a strong possibility.
Back at the top of the superpipe, Jake Pates was the second to last snowboarder to drop in. When he did, he trailed third-place Ben Ferguson, of the U.S., (89.00 on his second run), second-place Ayumu Hirano, of Japan, (91.00) and first-place Scotty James, of Australia, (95.00).
On the heels of other exciting runs, such as the soaring amplitude of Hirano, at the bottom of the halfpipe, Jake Pates’ sister Charlie Sue, a senior at Eagle Valley High School, had a feeling her brother was vibing the right way to score big and take his first big step toward his goal of the Olympics.
“He’s a huge mentor to me, just because he is so positive,” Charlie Sue said. “His mental attitude, how he is with everyone else. He gets extremely pumped up when his friends land their runs. So I think Ayumu Hirano landing his awesome run, I think it really encouraged Jake.”
When he dropped in, Jake Pates actually went through an audio blunder of sorts. Unable to get his earbuds to change a song, he’d have to listen to Kodak Black while he traversed the pipe, whether he wanted to or not.
“But it switched to a good one,” Jake Pates said, “so I was pretty stoked.”
As his son descended the halfpipe, Chris Pates was able to see Jake Pates take off and seamlessly run through his first four hits. Once Jake Pates landed a front 9 smooth and high on the halfpipe wall, Chris Pates immediately turned his head to the Dew Tour screen to witness what he knew was coming: the back double 12 tailgrab.
“I couldn’t see, because I’m short,” dad said with a laugh. “But when he landed that, it was crazy.”
“I love you,” Jake Pates said to his father after he landed the run.
“I love you, too, buddy,” Dad responded, “I’m proud of you.”
When Jake Pates was awarded a 97.33, it finally hit Charlie Sue what that run meant for her brother.
“I knew he was going to be up there, but I didn’t even know what to say when he got that score,” she said. “He earned every bit of it. He’s amazing.”
Dad also passed his phone over to Jake Pates so he could talk to his brother back in Boulder, who was streaming Jake Pates’ final run in between studying for finals.
“He literally called me afterwards and he was bawling his eyes out,” Jake Pates said.
Chris and Charlie Sue Pates attributed Jake Pates’ phenomenal run to win the Dew Tour title on Friday to his mental strength and focus on having fun while out on the halfpipe. For father and son entering the day, the goal wasn’t a podium. Rather, it was to land runs. And whatever that meant in terms of scores, so be it.
A lifelong snowboarder after his mother Amy Pates taught him to shred — that is, back during a time when Chris Pates was sidelined with a broken neck — Jake Pates preaches a “feel good” approach to his craft. As long as he’s keeping positive heading into competitions, he figures everything will turn out all right.
“I just thought it’d be cool if I landed that trick last hit,” Jake Pates said. “I think it definitely comes down to wanting to have a level of fun out there. And I knew that if I landed that trick then, like, it would have just felt really awesome.”
As for the Olympics, Jake Pates is a monumental step closer with the first place finish. For Team USA halfpipe snowboarders, three spots on the Olympic team will be given to the athletes who meet the objective criteria, which is two podium finishes at a qualifying event, such as last week’s U.S. Grand Prix World Cup at Copper Mountain and this week’s Dew Tour. Other qualifying events are Jan. 10-12 in Snowmass and Jan. 17-19 in Mammoth, California. A fourth Olympic team spot will likely be given to a competitor of the coaches’ choosing.
If more than three athletes have podium finishes, then the team will defer to the World Cup scoring system, which will give the American athlete with the best result 1,000 points, the American with the second best result 800 points, the third best 600 points and so on. Those with the most points make the team.
Jake Pates’ first place Friday was massive for him, as he not only got on the podium but he took the top spot. Fellow American Ferguson, of Bend, Oregon, also podiumed, putting together a run of 92.00 immediately after Pates’ final run to finish behind the 96.00 of James, of Australia. Combined with his second place finish at the Olympic qualifier at Copper Mountain Resort last week, Ferguson is in ideal position to qualify.
“It’s always been in the back of my mind,” Jake Pates said of the Olympics, “but I never really thought that like — I don’t know — it’s definitely been a goal, but I don’t know if it’s been that realistic to me. But I was just trying to better myself, kind of. And I think the more I better myself, I kind of just surprise myself.”
In an interesting side note, while Jake Pates is now a strong possibility for the Olympics, he has never been invited to compete in the X Games in Aspen. As of Friday, Jake Pates’ invite for this year still had not been secured.
“But I think we’re looking good for it this year,” his friend and teammate Ryan Wachendorfer, of Edwards, said on Thursday, Dec. 14.
For Pates, an X Games invitation is now likely. Wachendorfer, sadly, is another story.
Wachendorfer was the first to compete on the day, and started things off with what looked to be an incredible run before falling on the last trick of six-hit run. The trick Wachendorfer was attempting, a double cork 1440, is a new one for him. He appeared to land properly but his edge slipped out from him and in putting out his hand to support himself his shattered his arm in several places.
Wachendorfer was back in Vail having surgery at The Steadman Clinic later that night.
“Jake was out there riding for his buddy Ryan and thinking about him quite a bit,” Chris Pates said. “We were all heartbroken to see it happen”
Vail Daily staff writer John LaConte contributed to this report.