The ski and snowboard stories that turned heads in 2015

Just one year past a historic Olympic year, the snow sports world showed no signs of slowing down in 2015. The year may have been an emotional roller coaster, marred by tragedy and a precariously low snow year across much of North America, but there are a few headlines that we’ll never forget.

Here are 10 ski and snowboard stories that turned heads this year on GrindTV.

Ski champ Gus Kenworthy comes out

gus kenworthy, skier
Gus Kenworthy gracing the pages of ESPN The Magazine. Photo: Powder
While the action sports world has always harbored a certain implicit homophobia, one of its biggest stars decided to turn the model on its head in 2015.

Gus Kenworthy, Olympic silver medalist and two-time AFP overall champion, announced that he was gay via the cover of ESPN The Magazine in October, earning recognition across all streams of media as the most successful male athlete thus far to publicly come out of the closet.

His announcement was met with both praise and criticism from snow circles, but the 24-year-old has simply picked up where he left off last season, already winning the first slopestyle skiing stop on the Dew Tour in Breckenridge to start off the 2015-2016 season.

Snowboarder Chloe Kim becomes youngest X Games gold medalist

PHOTO: Brian Wilhelm/ESPN
Chloe Kim raises the bar and becomes youngest competitor to win X Games gold. Photo: Brian Wilhelm/ESPN

Chloe Kim made history in 2015, becoming the youngest competitor, male or female, to win an X Games gold medal, capturing the snowboarding halfpipe gold in Aspen at just 14 years of age.

After being denied a shot at the 2014 Sochi Games because of her age, the Mammoth Mountain product landed two 900s on her final run, vaulting past halfpipe legend Kelly Clark, and moving to the top of the podium.

Ian McIntosh’s 1,600-foot ski fall breaks the Internet

Big mountain skier Ian McIntosh has made a career out of skiing the scariest big mountain lines known to man, but the biggest moment of his career may have just been his biggest mistake.

The Whistler native slid out on a steep face in Alaska’s Neacola Range, tumbling 1,600 terrifying feet before emerging unharmed. Production company Teton Gravity Research caught it all on film, and the resulting footage blew up the Internet for a full week this fall.

After appearing on Today, 60 minutes and a slew of other media outlets, McIntosh is just glad his 15 minutes of fame didn’t come with a hefty hospital bill.

Chris Davenport summits and skis the highest 100 peaks in Colorado

PHOTO: Red Bull Content Pool
After three years, Chris Davenport has skied 100 of the world’s tallest mountain peaks. Photo: Red Bull Content Pool
Ski mountaineering legend Chris Davenport completed his three-year quest to summit and ski the 100 tallest peaks in Colorado after ascending and descending Jagged Peak this past May.

Davenport completed the mission with ski mountaineers Ted and Christy Mahon, putting a feather in the cap of a career that has led him to the highest peaks in the world, as well as to the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame.

Travel: Go extreme in Haines, Alaska

PHOTO: Kade Krichko
There’s always something to do in Haines. Photo: Kade Krichko
Buried deep in southeast Alaska, Haines has emerged as an action sports haven in some of the most extreme terrain in North America.

Home to several heli skiing operations and prime backcountry ski access, this small fishing town is being reinvented as a winter destination.

Here are a few reasons to add the seaward edge of the Last Frontier to your wintertime bucket list.

Candide Thovex rips down a mountain without snow

Do you need snow to shred the mountains like a pro? According to pro and overall legend Candide Thovex, the answer is a resounding ‘no’.

After a couple of bonkers POV edits, the wily Frenchman filmed a completely snowless edit for a new Audi commercial that is easily one of 2015’s coolest (and quirkiest) ski videos.

Park City becomes North America’s largest resort

PHOTO: Sgao11/Twenty20
Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons Resort merged into one. Photo: Sgao11/Twenty20
The merger of Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons Resort under the Vail Resorts Inc. flag was a heavily contended one, though officially came to fruition late this fall when Park City Mountain opened as the largest resort in North America.

With 7,300 acres of terrain, the megaresort connects 17 peaks and features $50 million in improvements, including a new gondola that connects the two former resorts.

The future is now, and it’s big.

Ski off the top of a condo

PHOTO: Shokhan Mataibekov
It’s every snow enthusiasts’ dream. Photo: Shokhan Mataibekov
Think your slopeside lodging has an easy ski commute? Well, how about a ski area literally wrapping around your high-rise condominium?

Such could soon be a reality for a lucky few thousand in Astana, Kazakhstan, as plans are in place to build a condo complex that features a ski hill sliding down its perimeter. The building, known as the Slalom House will feature 21 floors, 421 apartments and a 1000-foot ski slope with a chairlift.

The slope will be made out of an artificial material known as Snowflex, a slick, carpet material that mimics snow, allowing skiing and snowboarding year round.

JT Holmes’ near-death ’60 Minutes’ ski BASE jump

Just a few weeks after famous ski BASE jumper Erik Roner died in a skydiving accident, popular news program 60 Minutes, aired a story about ski BASE jumper JT Holmes and another harrowing jumping episode.

In the clip, Holmes kites, skis and eventually BASE jumps off of the iconic Eiger peak in Switzerland. But when his skis failed to disconnect, he nearly plummetted to his death.

Luckily, the story has a happy ending (Holmes manages to kick his ski off and release his parachute at the last second), but the close call hits close to home in a world that loses its heroes on an inordinately regular basis.

Olympic champion Kaitlyn Farrington retires

PHOTO: The North Face
Snowboarder retires at 25. Photo: The North Face
Just 25-years-old and a year out of winning a gold medal in the women’s snowboarding halfpipe at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, American Kaitlyn Farrington announced her early retirement from competitive snowboarding.

Making the news that much more shocking was her announcement that she suffered from a rare congenital spinal disorder called congenital cervical stenosis which increases her risk of a permanent spinal injury.

While Farrington made headlines later in the year for summiting and snowboarding 24 Pacific Northwest volcanoes last season, it was the young rider’s abrupt retirement that became one of the biggest snowboarding stories of 2015.

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