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.
Seth Wescott became enamored with Japan's second largest island while competing on the World Cup circuit. The northernmost of the country's 47 prefectures, Hokkaido is blessed with 400 inches of annual snowfall and nearly a dozen ski resorts.
"The snow quality is amazing there," says Wescott. "The cold air comes off the Asian continent, hits the ocean, picks up the moisture, and just dumps it on Hokkaido."
As for which of the resorts to visit, Westcoot says it's hard to go wrong. The entire island is much less populous than other parts of Japan and, though locals frequent the ski resorts, they tend to steer clear of the trees. "There's all these inbound hardwood forests with a ton of powder in there," Wescott says. He also recommends hiking into the empty backcountry and trying out the myriad local sushi joints. Seafood might not be how Western skiers typically warm up, but it makes perfect sense in mild Hokkaido.
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