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Coal Ridge wrestling hosts duals

Coal Ridge High School boys wrestling hosted Glenwood Springs and North Fork for a round of dual matches on Thursday, Feb. 2. North Fork defeated Glenwood Springs, 63-12. Scores from the Glenwood-Coal Ridge and Coal Ridge-North Fork matches were not posted.

Glenwood Springs match winners versus North Fork included Leobardo Meraz (138 pounds) in a 4-1 decision over North Fork’s Charlie Miller; Cameron Small (190) over Josiah Peters by fall in 3:27; and Kodiak Kellogg (215) over Malachi Deck by sudden victory.

On Friday, Rifle and Basalt (which includes wrestlers from Roaring Fork High in Carbondale) squared off in a dual, with Rifle taking the team win, 46-30.

Wrestled match results

106: Ayden Piatt (Rifle) over Ovet Babonoyaba (Basalt), fall 1:23

113: Towler Scott (Basalt) over Lee Higgins (Rifle), fall 3:36

120: Roaney Requeno (Basalt) over Tucker Collier (Rifle), fall 2:43

126: Gavin Nash (Rifle) over Ivan Babonoyaba (Basalt), major decision 14-2

132: Jordan Irwin (Rifle) over Bronze Urfrig (Basalt), fall 4:53

138: Trey Trouskie (Rifle) over Brandon Alfaro (Basalt), fall 5:09

144: Parker Miller (Rifle) over Luca Shafer (Basalt), fall 3:56

150: Jagen Hazelbush (Rifle) over Randy Del Cid Sosa (Basalt), fall 1:35

157: Arath Lopez (Rifle) over Herberth Requeno (Basalt), fall 0:53

165: Isaac Valencia (Rifle) over Drake Cornett (Basalt), fall 0:52

175: Dayton Schenk (Basalt) over Alex Murchinson (Rifle), fall 5:41

215: Brody Samuelson (Basalt) over Yadier Loya (Rifle), fall 2:22

Coal Ridge boys win, girls fall in Saturday home stand against Moffat County

The Coal Ridge girls and boys managed a split in Saturday afternoon’s basketball contests against the visiting Moffat County Bulldogs.

The girls led off the matinee action at Peach Valley by coming up on the short end of a 51-47 score. The boys saved the day for the Titans by holding off a hard-charging Moffat County quintet in the second half to earn an important 58-51 4A Western Slope League victory.

The boys’ game started off looking like an afternoon walk in the park for Coach Paul Harvey and his Titans, but it turned into what basketball announcer Dick Vitale likes to call white-knuckle time in the game’s final half of play.

The Titans cruised to early leads of 18-6 after one period and 32-20 at the half to give the appearance that this game would look nothing like their thrilling 60-59 overtime win the night before at Summit.

Moffat County had other ideas, though.

“They changed defenses on us there to start the second half, and we were a little slow to adjust to things,” Harvey said. “We have the ability to go on scoring spurts, and that one at the end of the third quarter gave us some confidence and much needed momentum back.”

After watching his team go stone-cold for almost the entire third period, scoring just two points with 1:15 to go, and Moffat County taking a 35-34 lead, he looked on as junior guard Clay Cornejo hit a 3-pointer, which was followed by a triple from fellow junior Lochlan Wade to give the home team a pulse. A drive to the basket and a score by senior James Webber put Coal Ridge back in control of the game at 42-37 entering the fourth period.

Moffat County refused to go quietly, keeping things close throughout the final period, but Wade scored again inside and began to assert himself on the boards. Plenty of help came in the form of another long ball from Cornejo, and baskets from Webber, sophomore Ben Simons, and a steal and layup from senior Andres Mendoza to put the game on ice.

Balanced scoring for the Titans came by the way of 14 points each from Webber and Wade. Cornejo had 12 points, all on 3-pointers. Mendoza chipped in with 10 points.

The Titans now sport a record of 10-7 overall and 6-3 in league play.

For the Titan girls, things looked good in the second half of play after trailing by margins of 11-10 and 22-18 in the game’s first 16 minutes. Coal Ridge came out of the locker room and put together a solid third period by outscoring Moffat County 20-11 to take a 38-33 lead into the final quarter of play.

In the third period, junior guard Brook Richards opened the scoring with a corner 3-pointer, and senior guard Jackie Camunez scored on a drive to the basket to give the Titans a lead of 23-22. Camunez then got a steal and a layup to put the game’s momentum solidly on the side of Coal Ridge. Reserve junior post Averie Cribari hit a short bank shot and junior Emerson Harvey notched a 3-pointer to close out the big third period for the Titans.

Moffat County had an answer for the dominant period from the Titans, and it came in the form of senior forward Cayden King. Time and again during the course of the contest, it was her who came up with big buckets for the Bulldogs. Staying true to form in the fourth period, she scored twice in the lane, and then senior Jadence Vasquez hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 39-all.

Senior Aceleigh Porter and Camunez each netted a 3-pointer to keep Coal Ridge running stride for stride with Moffat County, but it was King who sealed the win for the Bulldogs with a late basket and clinching free throws to give her team the conference win.

The Titans, coming off a narrow 37-35 loss the previous night at Summit, were without the services of starting guard Riley Cheney who suffered a knee injury in the Friday loss.

“Last night may have taken a little bit out of the kids,” said Coal Ridge coach Clyde Morgan. “But we just needed to be a little more aggressive on the defensive end today.”

Camunez topped the scoring ledger for the Titans with 17 points, tying Moffat’s King for game scoring honors. Richards and Porter each had six points for Coal Ridge with Cribari and Mikayla Cheney helping out with five and four points, respectively.

The Coal Ridge girls now stand at 12-6 overall and 4-4 in 4A WSL play.

Next up for both the Coal Ridge boys and girls will be a Tuesday trip for a nonleague affair at Grand Junction High School to face the Tigers.

Glenwood teams split in OT at Durango

The Glenwood Springs boys and girls basketball teams were on the road at Durango on Saturday afternoon, where the boys came away with a 54-49 overtime win and girls lost 40-35, also in overtime, in a battle of two top-10 teams in Colorado’s 5A ranks.

The girls showdown between the fourth-ranked Durango Demons and the ninth-ranked Glenwood Demons saw the Glenwood team grab a slim 17-15 advantage at halftime, followed by a one-point advantage in the third for Glenwood before Durango erased the three-point lead in the fourth.

The extra 5 minutes went in favor of the home team, 10-5, as the Glenwood girls fall to 12-6 overall and remain undefeated so far in the 5A Western Slope League at 2-0.

In the boys game, Durango led 28-25 at halftime, before the visiting Glenwood Demons chipped away in the third, taking a 29-28 lead that was quickly relinquished to the home team. Durango held a 38-33 advantage at the end of the third, but a pair of buckets from Glenwood’s Edwin Olave and Erick Cordero and some made free throws pulled Glenwood to within two, 39-37.

By the 4-minute mark, Glenwood had the score knotted at 41 apiece, leading to a flurry of late-game lead changes and another tie, 45-45, at the end of regulation.

Glenwood senior Aiden Peters nailed a 3-pointer to give Glenwood the advantage with under 2 minutes to play in the extra. Glenwood held the lead despite Durango hitting a 3-pointer of its own to cut the lead to one inside a minute. Glenwood was true from the stripe in the closing seconds to claim the five-point win.

Next up, the Glenwood teams are at home Tuesday against league foe Palisade; girls at 5:30 p.m. and the boys at 7.

Other weekend scores

Friday: Boys – Cedaredge 68, Roaring Fork 52; Basalt 57, Rifle 21. Girls – Grand Valley 75, Aspen 11; Cedaredge 43, Roaring Fork 31.

Saturday: Boys – Grand Valley 60, Gunnison 54; Roaring Fork 74, Meeker 44. Girls – Grand Valley 46, Gunnison 22; Roaring Fork 57, Meeker 48.

Post Independent reporter John Stroud contributed to this report.

Preps update: Demons hockey scores a key league win to stay unbeaten; rematch at Steamboat Friday

The Glenwood Springs High School boys hockey team rebounded from just its second loss of the season last weekend to score a key 4A Mountain League win at home over Steamboat Springs, 3-2, on Wednesday.

The game had been rescheduled twice after last weekend’s snowstorms, setting up back-to-back games between the Demons and the Sailors, with the rematch at 7 p.m. Friday at Steamboat.

“It was a close, hard-fought conference contest in our barn, for sure,” Glenwood Springs coach Tim Cota said of the Wednesday win. “We knew it was going to be close.”

The first period was a bit riddled with penalties from both teams, before junior Ian Cole and sophomore Jacob Stockdill teamed up to assist on the first goal by sophomore Brayden Dacuma at the 13:40 mark.

“B-dawg’s legs were his asset on a net drive with a nifty deceptive backhand shot across his body that has been his calling card in the past to put us up 1-0,” Cota said.

The Demons managed to keep things in check through the rest of the first period, despite being short numbers due to penalties. But the home team took zero penalties in the second, and it showed with puck possession.  

Senior Kale Tibbetts tallied the Demons’ second goal of the game with 14:24 ticks showing, with helpers from sophomore Jacob Roggie and junior Jett Weatherred.  

“Rogue had a nice night for us; just made some hockey IQ plays out there,” Cota said. “Having a couple power plays that period and staying 5 on 5 with no penalties certainly helped with momentum rolling into the third.”

The frame did see the Sailors score their first goal to make it 2-1 with 6:33 to play, but the score held until late in the third when senior Carson Miller scored with 3:33 to play off the sticks of junior Jacob Barlow and senior Ryder Rondeau. Steamboat answered at the 1:49 mark for the final score. 

Junior goalie Marek Senn had 20 saves on the night.

“All of our lines were firing early and often, we knew we had to come out with jump after a let down against Kent Denver,” team captain Avner Mangeot said of the OT loss on Saturday. “We were hoping to neutralize their top line with continued team D and tilt the puck possession time to our favor.”  

Cole added, “We knew that Steamboat would bring a lot of fire power into our shed, we had to answer with our hard-nosed team D. I think the boys did well.”  

The Demons move to 12-2 overall and stay unbeaten at 6-0 in the league. Following the Steamboat game on the road Friday, Glenwood is back home to host Summit at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday.

Demon hoops teams win

Glenwood Springs senior Tori Taylor looks to score in action earlier this season against Summit.
John Stroud/Post Independent

The Glenwood Springs High School boys and girls basketball teams both picked up wins at home court Tuesday night against 5A Western Slope League foe the Battle Mountain Huskies.

The girls won 59-32 in the evening’s opener, and the boys followed suit, earning a 57-32 victory.

The Lady Demons improve to 12-5 overall and move to 2-0 in league play, and the Glenwood boys are 11-7 overall and also 2-0 in league.

Both teams are on the road Friday to face Durango, with the girls’ matchup pitting two of the top 5A teams in the state.

The Demons are back home to play Palisade on Tuesday; girls at 6 p.m., boys at 7:30.

Other scores this week

Girls: Coal Ridge 60, Steamboat Springs 16; Delta 70, Rifle 36; 

Boys: Aspen 81, Grand Valley 48; Delta 78, Rifle 27

Upcoming basketball schedule

Friday

Coal Ridge @ Summit (girls 5:30 p.m., boys 7 p.m.)

Grand Valley vs. Aspen (girls only 7 p.m.)

Roaring Fork @ Cedaredge (girls 6 p.m., boys 7:30 p.m.)

Saturday

Coal Ridge vs. Moffat County (girls 2:30 p.m., boys 4 p.m.)

Roaring Fork vs. Meeker (girls 5:30 p.m., boys 7 p.m.)

Grand Valley vs. Gunnison (girls 2:30 p.m., boys 4 p.m.)

Glenwood Springs @ Durango (girls 12:30 p.m., boys 2 p.m.)

Tuesday

Glenwood Springs vs. Palisade (girls 6 p.m., boys 7:30 p.m.)

Coal Ridge @ Grand Junction (girls 6 p.m., boys 7:30 p.m.)

Grand Valley @ Olathe (girls 5:30 p.m., boys 7 p.m.)

Rifle High School football’s Kade Street inks with Colorado Mesa University

Kade Street is six feet, six inches tall. He’s north of 210 pounds. Colorado Mesa University’s football program should be so lucky.

On Wednesday, Rifle High School’s formidable offensive and defensive lineman signed to play collegiately for the Mavericks.

“It’s great,” Street, surrounded by friends, family, coaches and, essentially, the entire football team, said. “I’m really excited for the opportunity.” 

Like so many local student athletes nowadays, Street’s high school football career endured some of the most unique circumstances ever known to Rifle High School.

In standard football fashion, Street’s freshman year — in 2019 — he didn’t see too much playing time. The COVID-19 pandemic then hit in March 2020 and delayed Street’s sophomore year of football until spring 2021. 

Rifle High School football coaches and senior Kade Street put up their horns Wednesday after Street signed on to play football at Colorado Mesa University.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

Meanwhile, former longtime Rifle football coach Damon Wells resigned and Rifle quickly hired Todd Casebier. And despite this managerial scramble amid a global pandemic, Street joined the Bears in winning a 3A state championship that spring.

Casebier has since moved on to Durango, with current Rifle football coach Ryan Whittington taking over the program in fall 2021. 

Street ended his senior year leading the team in sacks (3) while picking up a respectable 76 tackles.

“My freshman and junior year, I struggled a bit,” Street said. “I kind of lost my motivation for football, but winning the state championship sophomore year — and then this year — I had a lot of fun.”

Whittington said he told Mesa coaches about what they’re getting: a consistent hard worker who comes up big in big moments.

With Street’s massive build and eye for the ball, he helped the Bears make an unsuspecting push into the 2A quarterfinals last fall.

“He’s had a great run here,” Whittington said of Street. “With the success he had as a freshman and his sophomore year winning the state championship and basically getting us back on track and getting us into the second round of playoffs this last year, I think it was a huge accomplishment.”

Whittington said anytime a student athlete like Street leaves a high school program, it’s a huge loss.

Rifle High School senior Kade Street with his family after sigining to play football for Colorado Mesa University on Wednesday morning.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

“But I think the legacy that (Street) left, and the work ethic he installed on the younger guys, will help us be even better in the future because there’s kids that want to follow in his footsteps,” he said.

Street’s mother, Jennifer, was by her son’s side when he signed to play for CMU on Wednesday. She said she wants Kade, through his continued journey toward college, to be “accepted, successful and happy.”

“He’s worked hard to get to this point,” she said.

Street, who intends to study construction and business management at CMU, still has a few more months of high school left. He intends to spend it right.

“I’m going to play baseball,” he said. “And have fun with friends.”

Area high school wrestlers compete at Grand Valley 8 Duals

Three Garfield County high school boys wrestling teams, including the host Grand Valley Cardinals, Glenwood Springs and Coal Ridge, competed in last Saturday’s Grand Valley Great 8 Duals in Parachute.

Team scores in the scramble-format tournament were: Glenwood Springs 30, Coal Ridge 24; Florence 66, Glenwood 7; Coal Ridge 30, Glenwood 20; Moffat County 54, Glenwood 16; Rangely 36, Glenwood 30; Florence 69, Coal Ridge 3; Grand Valley 42, Coal Ridge 27; Moffat County 58, Coal Ridge 18; Grand Valley 48, Rangely 24; Meeker 63, Grand Valley 18; Hayden 40, Grand Valley 24; and Grand Valley 50, Rangely 18.

Notable individual records by weight class (wins/losses):

113 pounds — Jessie Richel, Coal Ridge, 3-2

120 pounds — Teagan Jacobs, Grand Valley, 4-1; Jairo Echavarria, Glenwood Springs, 4-1

126 pounds — Jaysen Skeen, Grand Valley, 5-0; Ian Pierce, Coal Ridge, 4-1

132 pounds — Isaac Lepe, Glenwood Springs, 3-0; Cooper Thurmon, Coal Ridge, 3-2; Clancy Swindell, Grand Valley, 2-3

138 pounds — Leobardo Meraz, Glenwood Springs, 3-1; Pierce Ruechel, Coal Ridge, 2-2; Norah Carbajal, Grand Valley, 2-3.

144 pounds — Clayton Rossi, Coal Ridge, 3-2; Phillip Hoyt, Grand Valley, 1-4

150 pounds — Austin Price, Coal Ridge, 2-0; Mason Schoepner, Grand Valley, 4-1

157 pounds — Brandon Short, Coal Ridge, 4-1; Dominic Mendoza, Grand Valley, 3-2

165 pounds — Jordan Cedeno, Grand Valley, 4-1; Nicholas McMaster, Glenwood Springs, 3-2

175 pounds — Aiden Strauss, Grand Valley, 3-2

190 pounds — Sione Clegg, Grand Valley, 3-2

215 pounds — Kodiak Kellogg, 5-0

285 pounds — Richard Terrazas, Grand Valley, 1-4

Rifle wrestles at Duff Seaney Invite

Rifle High School wrestlers were at the Duff Seaney Invitational in Canon City on Saturday.

Wresting for first place in the 165-pound class, Rifle’s Isaac Valencia fell to Falcon’s Joseph Lavato Blake in 5:34. Valencia won his quarterfinal match by fall in 4:25 over Anthony Caldera of Liberty, and his semifinal match by fall in 5:31 over Conner McCardell of Canon City.

Vidakovich column: Maravich memories

A few weeks back, in the sports briefs section of the Denver Post, I read that a young man from Detroit Mercy University had moved into second place on the NCAA college basketball all-time scoring list. His name is Antoine Davis and he had just scored 42 points in a game the previous day to pass Freeman Williams, who played at Portland State in the mid-1970s.

Davis, a fifth-year graduate player, has amassed 3,274 points in his collegiate career, which puts him behind only Pistol Pete Maravich who starred at Louisiana State University in the late 1960s. Maravich, who was coached by his father, Press Maravich, scored 3,667, a total which is well within the reach of Davis.

Growing up in Glenwood Springs in the 1960s, this hotshot from LSU who they called “The Pistol” was my boyhood basketball idol. Back then there was no cable TV, so college basketball games on television were usually relegated to the single game on Saturday afternoon’s CBS broadcast. Since these games almost always featured the powerhouses of that time such as UCLA, Indiana and North Carolina, I never got to see Pete play in college.

My first time seeing Maravich play, other than on the late night sports highlights, was when he was a rookie with the Atlanta Hawks. It was in New York’s famed Madison Square Garden, on national TV against the Knicks. Pistol Pete made a behind-the-back pass on a fast break that not only faked out Knick’s guard Walt Frazier, but had my dad jumping out of his seat and asking me, “Did you see that, Mikey?!” Of course I did, pops. This is my hero dressed in shorts, a tank top and floppy gray work socks which were his trademark.

At that time, I was convinced that Pete Maravich was born in a manger, walked on water, and could feed the multitudes.

If you have taken the time to read this far, you may just be convinced that what I have to say from this point on is a bit biased, but in actuality, I’m just giving you a few facts to ponder in case this Davis guy actually does break Pete’s scoring record.

First of all, as I mentioned above, Davis is a fifth-year senior, that means he had four full season to accumulate the point total he is at now, and that is with a 3-point line and more games being played each season than back in Pete’s time.

When Maravich played, freshmen were not eligible to compete at the varsity level, so he scored all of those points in just three years. Legend has it that when the freshmen played at LSU, the stands were packed to watch this young phenom from the steel city of Aliquippa, Pennsylvania play. The stands would pretty much empty for the varsity game at LSU.

Maravich played far fewer games in his three seasons than what is allowable today and there was no 3-point line back then. Pete averaged 44.2 points per game (that is not a misprint) for his career. When Dale Brown took the coaching job at LSU in the 1990s, he watched all of the games on tape that Maravich played in his career, charting the long bombs that would have counted as 3 instead of just 2 points. Brown came up with the calculation that had there been a 3-point line when Maravich was playing, he would have averaged an astounding 52 points per game.

Just some things to think about folks, if you see down the road near the end of the season that Davis did indeed eclipse Pete’s record. I’m not sure that I will recognize it, and I do hope when it happens that it will be pointed out by the national scribes and broadcasters some of the facts I have mentioned.

Pistol Pete Maravich passed away at the young age of 40 years while playing a pickup basketball game in a church gym in Pasadena, California. It was January 5, 1988 and I will never forget that evening when I walked into my parent’s home and my father told me the news.

It turns out Pete had major problems with his heart, and doctors were amazed that he had lived as long as he did, based on the strenuous physical activities he had engaged in for so many years.

I always joke with my sixth grade friend Hayden Picore that Pete was much better than her idol, Steph Curry. She just gives me a look like, “C’mon old dude,” and she rolls her eyes. You know what? I would have done the same thing at that age to someone who tried to tell me that Pete wasn’t the top dog.

Pistol Pete will always be the greatest basketball player who ever walked the earth in my eyes, and that’s all that matters.

Glenwood Springs native Mike Vidakovich is a freelance sports writer, teacher and youth sports coach. His column appears on occasion in the Post Independent and at PostIndependent.com.

PHOTOS: Rifle hosted its first-ever girls wrestling dual last week

Rifle High School made history on Thursday, Jan. 26, hosting its first ever girls wrestling dual. Bears wrestlers who saw inaugural action on the mat were Breauna Sigmon, Mikhayla Washington, Madison Farris and Lorena Velasco Medina.

Farris was the lone Bear to win her match, picking up an 11-8 decision over Olathe’s Aby England in the 155-pound class.

Rifle girls wrestling lines up for introductions during a home dual against Olathe on Thursday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent
Rifle freshman Mikhayla Washington, right, puts on her headgear before wrestling Olathe’s Allie Stambaugh at home Thursday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent
Rifle’s Madison Farris wrestles Olathe’s Aby England at home Thursday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent
Rifle’s Breauna Sigmon wrestles Olathe’s Laeliana Delgado at home Thursday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent
Rifle’s Lorena Velasco Medina wrestle’s Olathe’s Belinda Alejandro at home Thursday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent
Rifle wrestling coach John Wisniewski coaches during the first-ever girls wrestling dual at Rifle High School on Thursday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent
Rifle’s Lorena Velasco Medina during a home wrestling dual against Olathe on Thursday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

Sallinen lands on X Games halfpipe podium in debut, Ferreira crashes out

A local kid got on the X Games Aspen podium on Sunday night, but it wasn’t the one most people expected. Even Jon Sallinen didn’t think he’d be taking home a medal.

“It was a little loose — the whole comp was a little loose — with a lot of crashes and a lot of people not landing their runs. But I got two pretty OK runs down, and I stayed in third place somehow,” he said. “I thought (Aaron) Blunck was going to take it for that last run but somehow managed to get it, and I’m super, super stoked.”

In his X Games debut, Sallinen finished third in the men’s halfpipe skiing contest that closed out the festivities at Buttermilk, behind silver medalist Birk Irving of Winter Park and Nevada’s David Wise, who won Aspen gold for the fifth time.

Aspen’s own Alex Ferreira — who won X Games gold in both 2019 and 2020 — crashed hard in both of his first two runs and ultimately withdrew from the competition, finishing in last place.

“Both looked super painful and gnarly, so I hope he’s doing fine, and I wish the best for him,” Sallinen said of Ferreira. Sallinen himself was battling through pain in his ribs from a crash he suffered recently at the World Cup competitions in Calgary. “Right now, I feel fine. Got this medal, so I’m super stoked.”

Sallinen grew up ski racing in his native Finland before moving to the Roaring Fork Valley as an exchange student. He closed out his high-school education at Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale, graduating in 2020. Through his brief time working with the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, which really got him going on the path toward becoming a professional halfpipe skier, he connected with local freeskiing icon Peter Olenick, who has become his primary coach.

Sallinen has made a rapid rise up the sport’s ladder, even competing in the 2022 Beijing Olympics for Finland, finishing 23rd. He had a breakthrough win on Jan. 19 at the Calgary World Cup — Ferreira won the second event two days later — but an X Games podium is the sort of thing that can truly change a career.

“I don’t know what’s going to go on from here, but this is the biggest achievement I’ve got so far, and I’m super happy to see what’s coming up,” Sallinen said.

Crested Butte’s Blunck, a former X Games champion, did his best to knock Sallinen off the podium with a strong final run, only to have the judges slot him into the fourth spot. Canada’s Brendan Mackay was fifth, Canada’s Simon D’Artois was sixth, and Canada’s Noah Bowman was seventh, with Ferreira in eighth.

Notably absent was New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic and X Games champion, who did not compete this year.

Old Man Wise takes charge

Wise, the 32-year-old from Reno, is ancient by today’s standards, when anyone over 25 is considered a savvy veteran. But it seems the old man can still shred.

“Every X Games gold that I’ve won has been a surprise. And I kind of want to live my life that way. I don’t want to go in with this entitlement or this expectation that I’m going to win,” he said. “I’m an entertainer at the end of the day. If my entertainment for folks earns me a gold medal, great. So I’m just as surprised this time as I was the very first time I won it. It’s such an honor to still be here in the game.”

Wise, a three-time Olympic medalist (including gold in both 2014 and 2018), first competed at X Games in 2011. The first of his now five gold medals came in 2012, with others coming in 2013, 2014, and 2018.

While it may be hard to accept, he has also embraced his role as mentor and wise sage for the younger generation — as long as they know he can still keep up with them.

“I wasn’t feeling old today while skiing because I was feeling great. But I did start to feel old when they told me,” he said about being told his first medal came 11 years ago. “A lot of my younger teammates have grown up watching me ski, which makes me feel really old. But it’s also exciting. It’s like a living legend thing. Not only was I there then, but I’m still here now, and I have a lot to give those guys.”

Don’t expect Wise to slow down anytime soon. Sunday’s X Games win only fuels his fire to compete, and he already has eyes on a fourth trip to the Olympics, with the 2026 Games in Italy next up. He would be 35 if he were to go, much like Shaun White was this past winter when he competed in his final Olympics in Beijing.

“I love being able to still be out here competing but also take on this mentorship role and enjoy the ride with my peers,” Wise said. “I wouldn’t be here sending it as hard as I am if I didn’t think I was going to make a run for ’26. I love this job. I just do.”

acolbert@aspentimes.com

CRMS grad Jon Sallinen has high hopes for men’s halfpipe skiing final

Heading into Sunday’s men’s ski superpipe final, Jon Sallinen is feeling a confidence boost as he looks to his first X Games Aspen.

He is a 2020 graduate of Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale. The 22-year-old is coming off a World Cup halfpipe win in Calgary on Jan. 19.

He is coached for this event by X Games gold medalist and local athlete turned coach Peter Olenick. They have been working together since Sallinen was a teen.

“He has been a good help to me. We have been skiing together for three years now,” Sallinen said.

Sallinen, a native of Helsinki, Finland, has been anticipating his X Games Aspen debut for years.

“I have been dreaming about this moment for so long already. I have been planning my run for about 10 years now. I’m pretty set with my tricks,” he said Saturday afternoon before practice. 

To set his dream in motion, coach Olenick helped with that process. 

“(Sunday) night’s preparation started two and a half years ago with coming up with a plan for a winning run and then Jon putting in countless hours through injury and COVID to learn all the tricks to get that winning run dialed,” he said. 

He said that Sallinen is “currently working on a switch right side double, so he can be the only one in the field with four-way doubles.” 

Olenick explained how Sallinen has come a long way in the last year. 

“My favorite moments of coaching him have been watching him tough out his second run in the Olympics after breaking his collarbone in his first run then holding his head high after disappointment. Then, I was so proud of him for winning his first World Cup last week and seeing all the hard work come to what we wanted,” he said. 

Music helps Sallinen find his flow in the pipe. 

“This season for my competitions I have been listening to this one song by a Finnish rapper because I am from Finland, so it’s usually one song that gets me going good,” he said. 

Olenick said he is excited for Sallinen’s first X Games experience. Olenick won X Games gold in 2010 in high air. He soared with a 24-foot, 3-inch alley oop flat spin 540. On his last run that night, he boosted that to 24 feet, 11 inches. He also has two bronze and one silver in his collection.

“I still have my memories from my first X Games and the excitement of it all,” he said. “This is home for Jon, as well, so watching him get to experience the same things I did is really cool. It’s such a special event for the athletes. I’m glad I’m still along for the ride.”

Sallinen will compete against seven other athletes, including Aspen’s Alex Ferreira, a two-time champion in this event, two-time Olympic gold medalist David Wise, and Crested Butte’s Aaron Blunck, last year’s silver medalist, under the lights on Sunday at 6:30 p.m.

PI Editorial: Stay safe as you enjoy Colorado’s winter recreation opportunities in the backcountry

Avalanche risk has decreased throughout Colorado recently, but don’t mistake that for meaning navigating the backcountry is a walk in the park.

The best thing you can do to stay safe is take a backcountry safety course and pay close attention to reports from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center at avalanche.state.co.us/. Recently, CAIC Deputy Director Brian Lazar visited with our editorial board to talk about current snow conditions in Colorado’s high country. 

First, the great news: Our snowpack is well above average for this time of year. It’s still possible that we finish the season below average if we end up having a dry, warmer winter from here on out but it’s a good start to ever-so-slightly easing our ongoing drought conditions.

The bad news is that our November storms followed by dry weather created an unstable layer of snow for all of our recent snow to pile up on. That weak layer isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The good news is that an unstable snowpack has become a bit safer due to the sheer volume of powder this season, Lazar said. An early weak layer of snow has been buried so deep — in many places but not all — that it is getting more and more difficult for humans to trigger avalanches.

But the risk remains elevated in areas where snowpack remains less than 5 feet deep, Lazar added.

And things can change quickly. After this past weekend’s snowstorm, the CAIC issued a Special Avalanche Advisory for the Flat Top Mountains north of Glenwood Springs through Monday. “You can easily trigger a large avalanche in the storm snow. Safe travel in backcountry avalanche terrain requires cautious route finding. Avoid travel on or below slopes steeper than about 30 degrees,” the advisory states. The same storm brought “High” avalanche danger to the mountains around Steamboat Springs.

Depending on how the spring goes, the deep snow today could mean a risk of larger than normal avalanches later in the season. Time will only tell, Lazar said, which is why it’s important that skiers, snowmobilers, winter hikers and anyone else looking to go into the mountains during winter check avalanche reports as often as possible.

Awareness and knowledge are the baseline tools for anyone who wants to venture out into the backcountry. In Colorado, we are lucky to have a dedicated group of people (and volunteers submitting observation reports) analyzing weather and data to provide as accurate an avalanche forecast as possible through the CAIC.

Before going out, be sure to familiarize yourself with CAIC’s most recent reports — and make sure you understand what it says. Bolster that knowledge by attending an avalanche safety course through one of the providers listed on CAIC’s Resources web page. That will give you a good foundation for safe practices and an opportunity to practice with the necessary equipment such as a beacon, probe, shovel and snow saw.

Then, when you have a good base for avalanche safety, partner up with other safety-minded individuals; don’t go out into the backcountry alone. When coming up with a plan for what you want to do and where you want to go, consider the overall risk of your goals and consider crafting a Plan B in case it’s too risky to proceed with your original trip. Having a good backup plan can ease some of the mental pressures you might feel to proceed with your first, more risky option. The bottom line is it’s hard to call off a backcountry trip when the options are to do it or go home, so give your group a viable alternative so you still have a fun day.

The Post Independent editorial board members are Publisher Peter Baumann, Managing Editor/Senior Reporter John Stroud and community representatives Mark Fishbein and Danielle Becker.