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.
Before winning his first Olympic gold, Seth Wescott lived in Thun, Switzerland, for three years, having decided to roost in a region with a high density of ski areas and an enormous amount of terrain. Even before that, the Alps had played an important part in his life. Wescott grew up watching 'Greg Stump's World of Extremes' on television, which introduced him to "places like Verbier, Wengen, and Chamonix," he says.
When he finally got to snowboard on mountains he had long fantasized about, Wescott says the reality more than lived up to his childhood daydreams. "The whole area from Thun to Interlaken, what's known as the Bernese Oberland, is amazing – the best powder I've ever had in Europe."
He goes back every year and says that once he's done with World Cup racing, he'll go back even more often. For the adult Wescott, a lot of the appeal of the Bernese Oberland comes from the infrastructure. "This is the birthplace of alpinism, of downhill skiing, with a rich history in the sport," he says. "Everything is set up for access, from pedestrian ski villages to trains that drop you off directly at the resort. You don't even need a car."
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