Zyre Austin feels ready to take the next step | PostIndependent.com

Zyre Austin feels ready to take the next step

Jon Mitchell
Zyre Austin
Jon Mitchell / jmitchell@postindependent.com |

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — One of the best ways to train for halfpipe skiing competition during the warm, summer months is ice skating.

Ice skating?

“Yup! Ice skating,” said Glenwood Springs product Zyre Austin, who is coming off one of her best seasons as an amateur freestyle skier last winter. “I started going by myself and working on some of the things I was taught about spinning. As an athlete, I know my weak points, and I’m not that great at spinning left and not good at spinning a lot, but I can go big in the pipe.

“I also know that the girls who don’t necessarily go as big but spin like a top are ice skaters,” she continued. “I figured it can’t be that different from skiing and spinning, except that you have little shoes on.”

Whichever way the story is spun, this past winter was big for the Yampah Mountain High School graduate. The 20-year-old won silver in the FIS World Championships in Valmalenco, Italy, this past March, beating out some of the best amateur freestyle skiers on the planet.

That performance earned her some notoriety, for sure. Not only did she earn spot in the Dew Tour Mountain Games in Breckenridge, but she was named as an alternate on the U.S. Olympic team by the United States Ski and Snowboard Association earlier this year.

That’s spurred some intense training by Austin at the halfpipe at Copper Mountain, and the excitement she’s felt of coming that much closer to her dream of becoming an Olympic athlete — among other things — has intensified along with the training.

“It’s one of those competitions that’s … the step before the X Games,” Austin said. “And it’s also an Olympic qualifier, so if I did good there it would put me in a really good position. But it’s still really early in the season.”

Austin has been training like crazy since athletes began training at Copper Mountain in the middle of November, and she even got her own pad in Frisco so she could be just a short drive from where she trains at as opposed to commuting from her hometown of Glenwood. That extra incentive to train more, however, has been spurred partially from a desire to catch up to the levels of the world’s elite athletes.

Unlike many longtime Dew Tour and X Games competitors who competed in New Zealand this past summer thanks to sponsorship money, Austin didn’t have the funding to make that trip.

Instead, she spent the summer in Aspen working mornings as a barista at Main Street Bakery, using the tip money she earned to pay off the loans she took out to compete in New Zealand in 2012.

It ended up having an ironic twist, as Austin’s trip south of the Equator that year helped set her up for her successful run in Italy earlier this year, yet it provided financial shortfalls that kept her from doing any on-snow training this summer.

“It was depressing knowing that other people had the chance to compete and I didn’t,” Austin said.

That didn’t keep her from training on her own, though. She said she did some CrossFit sessions and made time to run two miles a day three times a week. Then there’s the ice skating sessions.

“I think that really helped me,” Austin said. “There’s obviously things that aren’t skiing that can relate to that and the same muscles you use when you’re skiing.

“I learned to spin, like, 10 times when I was skating,” she said, smiling. “I’m hoping that will help me go from a seven to a nine on the pipe, just because I know how that feels now.”

She’ll get a little more insight for the upcoming season, too. She landed a personal coach in Geoff Stump, who has coached with the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club and has known Austin for the past decade. Austin also landed an affiliate to ski under, as she’ll train through Axis Freeride out of Park City, Utah.

There’s other things she’s hoping for, too. A top finish on the Dew Tour would earn her an automatic spot in the X Games. It could also bode well for her in earning a proverbial last-minute spot on the U.S. Olympic team, which heads to Sochi, Russia, in February.

She also knows the level of competition she has to face, too, with hopes she can rise up to the level she reached in Italy earlier this year.

“Everyone there is really, really good,” Austin said. “I just want to put myself in a place where I can compete, and I believe I can.”

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