Seth Wescott became a legend in 2006, when he won the gold medal in snowboard cross at the Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. It was both his and the sport's Olympic debut, and Wescott jumped out to several leads so long he was pulling tricks while his competition tried to catch up. In case anyone doubted his dominance, Wescott repeated his golden performance four years later in Vancouver. Now, the 37-year-old Mainer is Sochi-bound and determined to three-peat.
Wescott's sport – a high-octane race that came into its own as an X Games staple – isn't for the timid. Snowboard cross pits four racers wearing full-face helmets against each other on a steep, narrow course though berms, rollers, and jumps. High-speed collisions are the norm.
Wescott, at six-foot-one, 195-pounds, is known for his brains as well as his brawn. In the 2010 Winter Olympics finals, Wescott found himself with the worst possible start position due to a mediocre qualifying time. Instead of chasing the field, he let his competitors get out in front then methodically reeled them in, one by one. He overtook Canadian Mike Robertson on the final two turns for the gold.
When he isn't competing, Westcott prefers to avoid tight quarters and heads toward wide-open spaces. He travels the world in search of pristine backcountry where he can carve fresh lines. When he gave us the lowdown on his favorite places to ride, the conversation spanned four continents and was punctuated by enthusiastic exclamations. The man likes what he does.
Cerro El Plomo Foothills, Chile
For the past decade, Seth Wescott has made sure to get down to South America to snowboard for a few weeks every off-season. Chile was the first place he ever did a heli trip – back when heli-boarding operations were first starting in the mountains east of Santiago. "In that section of the Andes, you can get really close to Aconcagua after just a half-hour flight," he says. "There's huge terrain down there. It was an eye-opening experience for me."
On most of Wescott's trips, he's with the team. They fly into Santiago and then drive an hour and a half out of the city and up into the 10,000-foot Cerro El Plomo foothills – home of Valle Nevado, EL Colorado, and La Parva ski resorts. "They're all kind of interconnected, and there's really good backcountry access from all of them," he says.
Wescott's favorite way to spend the day is with a group doing laps out of either Valle Nevado or El Colorado (they're in the same basin). One person stays with the car, and the others take the lift up and traverse out into the backcountry, where several thousand-foot drops full of cliffs and chutes lead back toward the road. "It's all above tree line, this incredible high-alpine environment that's wide open," Wescott says.
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