After surgery that left him with a metal plate and nine screws, Kenworthy, 18, was off his skis for seven weeks before returning to compete in the fourth and final event of the Dew Tour in Mount Snow, Vt., Feb. 4-7. Still, he struggled on his first day back, failing to qualify for finals in either superpipe or slopestyle, his specialties.
Day three of the Mount Snow stop featured the Toyota Tricktopsy Big Air event, a 30-minute, jam format competition featuring a group of pre-selected skiers making snow mobile laps on the final hit of the slopestyle course. Kenworthy wasn’t initially on the list, but in another sudden twist of fortune, one athlete decided not to compete. Kenworthy got his spot and went on to win the event and its $5,000 first-place prize.
“I came back more motivated,” said Kenworthy of his turnaround. “When you’re hurt, you’re just kind of sitting around visualizing what you want to do. Skiing all the time you don’t have time to relax. I wasn’t meditating or anything, but [being injured] gave me time to think about everything and I came back hungrier and wanted it more than ever.”
Less than a week after Mount Snow, Kenworthy entered the Feb. 11-14 Aspen/Snowmass Open. That event featured contests in both superpipe and slopestyle, on the same courses used for the X Games. Each contest started with a pool of about 150 competitors, which was gradually whittled down to ten skiers, who competed in the finals.
Superpipe was first, the weaker of Kenworthy’s disciplines, or as he puts it, “I’m definitely more of a slopestyle skier who does pipe too. I definitely don’t focus on pipe as much.”
It didn’t show. After the first two days, Kenworthy qualified first out of his heat and was in third after semifinals. In the finals, Kenworthy beat out Byron Wells and Walter Wood to win the event, and another $5,000 check to go with it.
And he wasn’t done there. Coming into the Open, Kenworthy had set a goal of finishing top-five in pipe and top-three in slopestyle. But after his victory in the pipe, his standards changed.
“That was my first big result for a halfpipe event,” Kenworthy said. “So I was really stoked and I definitely wanted to get the back-to-back.”
He got just that, taking the slopestyle event with a score of 89.00 (to Aidan Sheahan’s second-place score of 83.00), completing the Aspen/Snowmass Open sweep. Another $5,000 check came with the deal, too.
And there’s more to the story. Kenworthy shares an apartment in Breckenridge with fellow Tellurider Kolby Ward, and fellow pro freeskier Bobby Brown, who won gold for both slopestyle and big air at this year’s X Games in Aspen.
“Bobby [Brown] is just amazing, seriously one of the best skiers I’ve ever met or seen,” Kenworthy said. “He’s always learning new stuff and pushing me to learn new stuff. So it was cool to go back to the same venue and take two wins.”
Kenworthy will compete in four more events this winter. Next he’ll be in Laax Switzerland for the European Freeski Open, March 3-6. With the European X Games (which Kenworthy will not be competing in) taking place in Tignes, France the week after, the competition at the Euro Open should be stiff.
“I feel pretty good,” Kenworthy said. “The Aspen Open was definitely a confidence booster. The Euro Open is a pretty big event. I think it would be too much to expect to be able to get the back-to-back wins again, and I’m not expecting that. I’m just hoping to finish top-five in both.”
After the Euro Open, Kenworthy will compete at the Dumont Cup in Bethel, Maine at Sunday River on March 28-29, followed by the Jon Olsson Invitational in Are, Sweden on April 9. Finally, Kenworthy will close out the season at the AFP World Championships – World Ski Invitational, in Whistler, April 16-25.
This is Kenworthy’s second season as a full-time professional skier. After spending most of last season filming segments in two major Rage Films productions, Such is Life (2008) and Pretty Good (2009), this season he has focused more on competing.
Kenworthy’s main sponsors are CoreUPT Skis, Smith Optics and Helmets, Empire Gloves, and Skullcandy headphones. This month’s edition of Powder Magazine named him the eighth-best under-18 skier in the world.
“It’s a really big honor – kind of hard to believe,” Kenworthy said of the Powder shout out. “Some of the other skiers are so talented; I was stoked to be recognized in the top eight. I’m feeling great right now, still not at the top tier or anything, but I definitely feel like I’m working my way up the ranks.”
Check out these highlights from the Aspen/Snowmass Open slopestyle finals. Look for Tellurider, and overall winner, Gus Kenworthy in the green jacket and black snowpants:
Also, listen to Gus go through his run after winning the slopestyle event and competing the Aspen/Snowmass Open sweep.