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The 19,000-square-foot complex opened this spring as an extension of the popular Woodward action sports camps in Pennsylvania and California. It features spring-loaded gymnastics floors, Olympic-grade Flybed trampolines and indoor Snowflex jumps that launch riders into foam pits. Over the last decade, the Woodward camps have helped push progression in skateboarding and BMX — skateboarder Tony Hawk mastered the rotation for his famous 900 into the foam pit at Woodward before he took it to the X Games — and the Copper facility is already making its mark on snowboarding and freeskiing.
Erich Dummer grew up competing with Fisher back home in Minnesota. They're now teammates on the Sims Snowboards team, and Dummer's new job as a Woodward coach has become an asset in Fisher's Olympic quest. "It's been a long friendship-slash-rivalry, but he's definitely taken it to the next level," says Dummer. "I have faith that Steve's going to pull it together in the next two months. He's always been a solid rider, and he can adapt really quick. Now that the pressure's on, this is when Steve shines. I learned that the hard way, riding against him."
When it comes to aerial awareness, Fisher is one of the sport's great natural talents, and he's been a pioneer of other stylish, difficult tricks — switch backside 540s, 720s and 900s — that most of his competitors don't have. Still, the double cork is an unnatural gymnastic movement for Fisher, and Dummer's determined to help him figure it out.
"Sometimes you can visualize a trick in your head, but actually putting it on snow can be a little scary and a little bit dangerous," says Dummer. "With the double cork, there's a lot going on with two flips, a lot of spinning and a different axis of rotation, so it's a good motion to learn on the trampoline and into the foam pit. I fully believe Steve can get it, and that he can get it in time for some of these Olympic qualifiers. It's all a matter of balance and awareness, getting the feel of the rotation and how to speed it up or slow it down in the air, how to open it up and spot the landing. What we have going on here at Woodward makes it a little bit safer. You can fall on a trick five or ten times to get it right, where hucking it on snow might end your season early."
From what Dummer's seen over the trampoline and foam pit, Fisher is ready to throw a double cork on snow. But then, the double cork might be old news by the time the Olympics roll around in February. "Snowboarding moves pretty fast," Dummer points out. "That's kind of the beauty of it: We don't really know what we're going to see. Every single day in here I see kids doing new tricks that I never really thought possible or comprehended in my own head, and it's cool to see how creative people can get. Even without the double cork, I know the Fish has some new tricks up his sleeve."
The Fish" doesn't have quite the same ring as "The Flying Tomato," but the Olympic storytellers at NBC will have plenty of backstory to work with if Fisher makes the team.
Like White, Fisher began snowboarding and competing as a kid. He got his first board when he was seven, riding at Buck Hill and Hyland Ski & Snowboard Area in Minnesota, and qualified for his first United States of America Snowboarding Association Amateur Nationals when he was eight. All that super-cute archival footage of White riding as a kid that was shown over and over during the Olympics coverage in 2006? The Fisher family has plenty of that in storage, too.
"I got a taste for it really early," says Fisher. "I'm competitive, but from the start, it's always been a competition to push myself. I don't really have any rivalries, to be honest. That's not really what snowboarding is about. Even somebody like Shaun White, who everyone knows is a fierce competitor, he's his own worst enemy."
In 2002, the year after he graduated from high school in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, Fisher won the Junior Snowboarding World Championship in Finland. After a year of college at Portland State University, he committed to a pro career and moved to Breckenridge to chase the dream. He now splits his time between a Washington Park duplex on South Vine Street and the Breckenridge home he bought a few years ago with the help of his X Games prize money.
The Breckenridge team has two other riders — JJ Thomas and Zack Black — eligible for the Olympics. In addition to providing its riders with season passes and other perks, Breckenridge has recently added media training workshops, says team manager Amy Sabreen. "Now that snowboarding is on NBC and ESPN and we're seeing Shaun White on the cover of Rolling Stone and all over the place, I'm learning how much the media loves a story and loves a hero," says Fisher. "They really got one with Shaun, and I give him a lot of credit. Just by being who he is, he's done so much to raise the profile of our sport that it's ridiculous."