A small private ski area in northern Michigan played host to some of the biggest names in snowboarding and skiing this past weekend. U.S. Snowboard Team members Louie Vito, Greg Bretz, Kelly Marren, Kaitlyn Farrington, Matt Ladley, JJ Thomas, Ben Watts, Steve Fisher and freeskier Simon Dumont visited The Ostego Club in Gaylord, Mich., Friday through Tuesday to train in the ski area's 22-foot superpipe and quarter pipe with an air bag.
The athletes were training for the upcoming competition season, including the second stop of the Winter Dew Tour, happening this weekend in Killington, Vermont, and Winter X Games 15, taking place next week in Aspen, Colo.
The Ostego Club has the only competition-size, 22-foot pipe in the midwest, and one of only a handful in the U.S. (other resorts with 22-foot pipes include Mammoth, Breckenridge, Park City and Copper). Ostego's park, called The O Park, was built by Planet Snow Design, a company that has designed many of the parks and pipes for major competitions around the country.
Last year, Olympic teams from 12 different countries -- including Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Finland, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, France, Korea, Poland and Canada -- practiced at Ostego, including riders like Torah Bright and Japanese snowboarder Kazuhiro Kokubo. This was the first time members of the U.S. Snowboard Team had practiced at Ostego.
"The athletes came to the park and pipe to experience what the other Olympic teams experienced last season," Kris Klay, The Ostego Club's general manager, told ESPN Wednesday. "We have built a 22-foot pipe and also partnered with Acrobag to provide the athletes with an air bag to practice new maneuvers into. The entire relationship has been an ongoing project to establish the resort as a world-class halfpipe training center."
Simon Dumont was reportedly practicing switch dub cork 10s, landing into the Acrobag, a trick he may try to bring out at Winter X 15.
"You're able to practice all the big tricks that you're not quite comfortable to throw right to snow," Matt Ladley, who's competing in Winter X snowboard Superpipe this year for the first time, told Upnorthlive.com.
"[It's] cutting edge up here, and it's a thing that we wish places like Breckenridge and Park City would do more of," said two-time Winter X gold medalist Steve Fisher.
The Ostego Club, founded in 1939 and one of the oldest private ski clubs in America, is open to the public during midweek operations, which currently is just Thursday and Friday, and then weekends are limited to club members and their guests.
"The reaction from our locals has been fantastic," Klay said. "They think it's great to have these amazing athletes come and visit our area. And the athletes have been great and very receptive to the attention they are receiving."