Ear to the ground

“I remember back when five inches used to excite me.”

– A local woman discussing last week’s mega-storm and the more than three feet of fresh in downtown

Bruised ‘Tomato’

The San Juans could be putting a little sidespin on the Winter Olympics. Shaun White, the Flying Tomato, hopes to taste Olympic gold again at the games in Vancouver, which kick off Feb. 12, thanks in part to his top-secret training in Silverton.

On Sunday, theNew York Times profiled the snowboard phenom as well as the emerging tensions between him and other competitors. White emerged as snowboarding’s elder statesman in recent years but has apparently hurt a few feelings on his way to the top.

“Many of his competitors have an ambivalent unease with his success – whether out of jealousy or because of concern about what it means for the direction of a sport that tries to act unaffected by its popularity,” the newspaper’s correspondent wrote. “They like him. They are not sure about what he represents.”

White reportedly earned $9 million in 2008 and has his own clothing line at Target, according to the report.The Timeswent on to note that White frustrated fellow riders last year when Red Bull built him his own halfpipe, the so-called Project X, near Silverton Mountain ski area. The giant pipe reportedly cost Red Bull a half million dollars to construct, included a metal and wood superstructure and came complete with a foam landing pit at the end. The training tool was supposed to be secret, but was outed in print everywhere from this little rag to Popular Mechanics and the Los Angeles Times. Soon after, copy-pipes started popping up elsewhere. Kevin Pearce, one of the few riders to beat White head-to-head, got his own personal pipe in California courtesy of Nike.

For his part, White remarked that Project X was worth the expense and any hurt feelings. “The benefits were huge,” he said. “Normally if you go to somewhere like Park City in the half-pipe there, the sun hits one wall in the morning and the other wall in the evening, and if I want to learn a trick on one wall when it’s not all icy and gnarly, I have to wait until a particular time of day,” he expalined. “But by then, every member of the public has been through there. And it’s snow ... it melts and changes, and it becomes sloppy and you can’t even ride the thing.”