He’s ready to huck at his home park
VAIL, Colo. Andrew Steward’s perfect day? Blue skies and laps in the terrain parks with a few friends.That’s not a surprising answer for a guy who can throw a frontside 720 – two full spins – like it’s no big deal or effortlessly front-flip off a rail. It’s just be lap after lap.”Pipe, jumps, rails,” he said. “Pipes, jumps, rails.”Stress-free days in the terrain park are one thing. Stomping a 1080 -three full spins with a perfect landing – in competition is something else entirely. So Steward is hoping for some really perfect days this weekend, when the 20-year-old from Avon will compete in front of his hometown crowd in The Session snowboarding contest.When he gets to practice, he’ll decide what tricks he’ll string together on the four massive jumps that are on Golden Peak. Numbers dictate how quickly he’ll spin: 900s, 1080s, 1260s.His Holy Grail is the 1440. That’s four full spins. He’s never done it before, even in practice.”I’ve spun it around but never landed it,” he said.If he does try the 1440, it would be at the last, biggest jump. He would need lots of speed, a good pop off of his toes and adrenaline from the crowd.”When I get the crowd behind me, it gives me the motivation to go big,” he said.
Steward would consider the top-10 a great finish. Top five would be fantastic. He’s happy to compete against full-fledged pros like Travis Rice and Andreas Wiig, but he’s not nervous. “Anxious, not nervous,” he said. “Because I have competed with those guys before.”Steward calls himself a pro-amateur. He made about $6,000 last year in prize winnings, he said.”It’s not much, but it helps,” he said.In the summer, he works as an apprentice plumber.
During the winter, Steward is constantly training, spending six hours a day on the snow. He also trains a lot in the gym. After training and spending time with his girlfriend and his family, there’s not time for much else in his life, he said.On Tuesday, Steward – dressed all in white, wearing a hoop earring and silver-lensed goggles – chatted with snowboarders and skiers who gather on a small knoll where riders start their drops to the big kickers at Golden Peak.Some were Team Vail members and others amateurs that Steward rides with all the time. They talked about what trick they just did, and talked about what trick they were about to do. Some congratulated Steward on getting an invitation to The Session. They caught up on gossip: Who’s gotten injured recently? Why won’t Olympic gold medalist Shaun White be here?Steward dropped. He did a three – 360 degree rotation – and then a 7 -720 degrees. He hit a couple of rails, spinning along.Why does he love to snowboard? It’s the sensation, he said. It’s hard for him to describe. It’s just being able to do what he loves every day, he said.”I want to be about to wake up and snowboard the rest of my life,” he said. “And not worry about being late to work.”
He’ll talk about injuries that are standard for any pro snowboarder. “I’m not going to lie,” he said. “I fall a lot. You just have to commit.”Two years ago, he broke his femur when he got snagged in a log rail. At the same time, doctors almost amputated his arm because of a staph infection that developed in his arm after another fall. Just as he’d gotten his first photo in Transworld Snowboarding, his career was in jeopardy.His injuries only intensified his determination. His doctors said he would be out for six months, but after intense rehabilitation, he was back in six weeks.He was back on the mountain for Malay Day – a celebration of the life of local pro snowboarder Josh Malay, who died in an accident in the Pyrenees in 2004.Steward said Malay was his best friend and mentor. Malay gave Steward his nickname, Droid.Malay will be in Steward’s mind during this weekend’s competition.”Every time I strap in, Josh is there,” he said.
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