Seaton 2nd at final World Cup of season
AVON – After a decade competing in the halfpipe, local skier Taylor Seaton enjoyed his best-ever result Tuesday, finishing second at the World Cup in Tignes, France.
Seaton landed a never-been-done sequence of four different forward 900s in a row to ski away with the podium spot, finishing runner up to champion Alex Ferreira, of Aspen.
“I have been working on getting all four variations of the forward 9 into my run this season, but doing them all in a row is really tricky,” he said going into the competition. “After landing a run earlier this season with all four forward 9s not together, I’ve made it a goal to put them right next to one another.”
Seaton is an Avon resident and Battle Mountain High School graduate. He has been competing professionally for nearly 10 years, going from a top-15 skier, to a top-10 skier, to breaking out this season with two podium finishes on the World Cup circuit. His previous podium finish – a third-place result at the Mammoth Mountain Grand Prix in February – also contained the four forward 900s, perforated with a different trick to reset his momentum. He said in putting them all together, dizziness was actually one of the main issues he was having.
“Spinning that much does make you lose your balance a bit,” he said. “That was one of the things I had to work through to get them all together.”
Competing on his home snow, Frenchman Kevin Rolland rounded out the podium in third.
TAKES A VILLAGE
Going into Tuesday’s competition, Seaton was not a member of the U.S. Ski Team or any other organized ski team. He worked odd jobs to pay his way into events, and he practices by himself at Vail and Copper Mountain.
When it comes to competition, Seaton calls himself “a gambler on the grind,” driving his Jeep to events and staying with friends once he gets there. He earns his invites based on rankings alone and sets a simple goal of finishing in a spot that’s high enough to pay his expenses on the trip.
“The sport has always been about having fun for me, and I always feel like grinding and throwing my last few chips in the pot is actually a big part of the fun in competition skiing,” he said.
Seaton says he relies on help from his friends, family and sponsors to keep competing at the top level. Local ski technician Dano Bruno, a boot fitter at Gorsuch in Vail, helps Seaton with the necessary upkeep on his skis and boots. Vail residents Kevin and Karl Hochtl, who run the American division of HWK wax, keep Seaton’s skis running fast. The Westin in Avon lets Seaton use their gym, as does Woodward at Copper. Vail Mountain provides him with a ski pass. The Vail Valley Foundation has helped him with financial support. Atomic gives him his skis and boots, Tyrolia provides the bindings, Uvex provides the helmet and goggles, and Boulder-based Virtika outfits him with a jacket and pants. This season, Seaton even picked up a sponsorship from the beer brand Montucky Cold Snacks, who wrapped his snowmobile with their logo.
“When you’re trying to do it on your own, you rely on your relationships,” Seaton says. “I’m just blessed to have formed positive bonds with enough people in the ski game to keep doing it every year.”
At the top of the pipe on Tuesday, Seaton said his skis were not running very fast in the snowy conditions France was seeing. Stressed, he phoned Bruno for some last-minute advice.
“Dano could tell that I was giving up,” Seaton said. “He was a voice of calm for me, it really helped to talk to him and have him reassure me that my skis would be there for me.”
Seaton loaned a rotobrush from the U.S. Ski Team technician and gave his skis a once over.
“It turned into a wax contest out there,” Seaton said. “I was so frustrated by not having a tech, but then Aaron Blunck (fellow American competitor) just had some nice words for me, he reminded me I’m there to have fun, and that felt good to hear. I guess the rotobrush helped too because I found the amplitude I needed for the second run.”
‘MOM, THIS IS PRACTICING’
Seaton says one of the keys to halfpipe skiing is, simply, skiing.
“A lot of pipe skiers only practice in the pipe,” he said. “But when the conditions in the pipe aren’t ideal, like when there’s snow falling or it’s a little icy, the real skiing is what prepares you for those conditions. This season I was lucky to get an Epic Pass from Vail Mountain and just skied it hard as much as I could in those great conditions we were having early season. I would be getting ready to go ride powder in the morning and my mom would say ‘shouldn’t you be practicing’ and I’d say ‘Mom, this is practicing!'”
Seaton’s parents have watched him progress over the years and have tried to be as supportive as they could. But as a working family with another kid in college, there was only so much they could do.
“He said he wanted to pursue a skiing career and we said OK, but you’re going to have to cover your own expenses,” Brad Seaton, Taylor’s father, said on Tuesday. “We helped him out where we could but everything he has – his car, his snowmobile – everything he has he has paid for himself.”
Brad Seaton said as a final wish for his son, he’s hoping Taylor picks up some college classes and earns a degree. After his impressive performance in the halfpipe on Tuesday, Seaton said he was officially named to the U.S. Team.
“And I think they may help pay for college,” the 26 year old said on Tuesday. “So maybe I’ll finally get that degree after all.”
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.