X marks the spot for local skier | SteamboatToday.com

X marks the spot for local skier

Somewhere near the top of Gina Gmeiner’s to-do list, among the items not already crossed out with a red line, you will find the Winter X Games.

“The X Games and the Olympics are the two things I want the most,” Gmeiner said.

She will have to wait for organizers of the Olympic Games to make freeskiing an official sport before she can chase that dream, but the hometown girl should be able to move the Winter X Games to the done list next week in Aspen.

“I’m so excited,” Gmeiner said. “I still can’t believe that I’m going.”

The Steamboat Springs skier, who is coming off a fifth-place finish at the U.S. Freeskiing Open in Vail during the weekend and was second in a NorAm halfpipe event in Park City, Utah, in December, got her invitation a few weeks ago and has been smiling since.

Getting to the X Games to compete in the superpipe is something she has been dreaming about since the first time she dropped into a halfpipe more than four years ago.

Gmeiner expects to see many of the top finishers from last week’s U.S. Open at the X Games, including winner Sarah Burke, second-place finisher Jen Hudak and third-place finisher Jess Cumming.

“The level of this competition was really high,” Gmeiner said. “I didn’t have my best runs, but I’m happy with where I finished.”

A year ago, Gmeiner placed fourth at the Open, marking one of her best finishes since she switched from freestyle to freeskiing four seasons ago.

“I’m just having so much fun right now, Gmeiner said. “This is a tight-knit community, and there is a great camaraderie between all the different skiers.”

Thanks to such superstars as Tanner Hall, Simon Dumont and T.J. Schiller, the sport of freeskiing has been getting a lot of attention.

Today, there is an increased interest and excitement surrounding the disciplines of slopestyle, big air and superpipe on the men’s and women’s sides.

Gmeiner specializes in the pipe where athletes get two runs to impress a panel of six judges who are looking for big air and style as athletes perform a wide variety of tricks including 360s, 720s and 900s. After both runs, the skiers’ highest scores are used to determine the winners.

Although the men get most of the attention, not to mention top prize money and prime-time TV, a dedicated group of women also have promoted the sport the past several years.

Gmeiner said that group is growing every year, and the quality of skiing continues to get better.

“The tricks the girls are throwing today are crazy,” Gmeiner said. “The girls who are competing are the best in the world, and I can’t wait to ski with them at the X Games.”

–To reach John F. Russell, call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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