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.
Mount Baker, Washington
Mount Baker, home mountain of the "Godfather of Freeriding," Craig Kelly, and an epicenter for early snowboarding, has a special place in many competitive riders' hearts. Seth Wescott is no different. "A lot of us growing up snowboarding in the eighties looked to it as this amazing place," he says. Now that he's actually made his pilgrimage to the mountain, Wescott holds the Washington resort in even higher esteem.
"It's a very unique resort experience,' he says. "It's still family owned. There's absolutely nothing corporate about it." He proves his point by describing the Coke machine. Instead of a Coke logo, it bears a picture of neighboring Mount Shuksan.
The backcountry reminds Wescott of Alaska – super steep, stable Pacific snowpack – and it feeds back into the ski area. He says the arm from Mount Baker to Mount Shuksan has some of the best backcountry snowboarding in the world and requires only a 15-minute hike that's mostly a traverse. And, thanks to Baker's geography – the peak is located in a funnel of mountains that catch storms coming off the Pacific – it gets pounded with snow.
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