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If there's any such thing as a home-field advantage in snowboarding, Fisher's got it coming out of the gate, and he's stoked to be starting the Grand Prix season off in his own back yard. (It will end on White's turf, at Park City Mountain.) He'll get to sleep in his own bed for another week after that, too: Breck is hosting the first stop of the Winter Dew Tour, December 17 through December 20.
Although an Olympics spot is the big prize, Fisher is grounded enough in snowboarding to know it's not everything. He's planning to ride at all three stops on the Dew Tour again, even though the first two competitions in the series (after Breck, it moves to Snowbasin in Ogden, Utah, January 14 through January 17) are shoehorned between now and the final Grand Prix event. He's also planning to compete at the X Games again, one week after the Olympic team announcements are made. That makes seven high-profile events in less than two months, and the busiest seven weeks of Fisher's life.
"As much as I'd love to go to Vancouver, I have the perspective to know that in snowboarding our careers are not 100 percent based on the Olympics," Fisher says. "Snowboarding has a long history prior to, and separate from, the Olympics, and it's just as important to me to represent on the Dew Tour and at X Games. Making the Olympic team, not making it, that's not something that's going to define me, so I'm not prioritizing the Olympics over the other events at this point. The Dew Tour is a really exciting new series and new standard for competition, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it. This year the schedule happens to be pretty crowded because of the Olympics, but I'm going to try to ride as much as I can."
Snowboarding is an individual sport and tends to attract some highly individualistic personalities. Fisher admits he's "on a slightly different program from a lot of the guys," a relatively normal guy in a sport full of eccentrics like White. He recently got engaged to his girlfriend of five years, and he's a happy homeowner twice over. Snowboarding is his life and his lifestyle, and it's also his career. He's 27 now, and trying to figure out how to make the good life last as long as he can.
"He's a true professional," says Scotty Lago, one of Fisher's U.S. Snowboarding teammates who's competing for that Olympic spot. "He's definitely a contender, probably top five on anybody's list right now, and you can never count Fisher out. His riding's just so solid, and he's one of the guys who can turn it on when he needs to."
After a morning session in the pipe at Copper with Lago and the rest of the team, Fisher rushes back to Breck to film a video spot with the Sims Snowboards team, happy to have an afternoon distraction from all of the Olympics hubbub. The finished video clip will play up the company's long history in snowboarding, illustrating the evolution from company founder Tom Sims and the sport's pre-history to Fisher and other current team riders helping to lead snowboarding into the future.
Sims, a skate and snowboard legend, made his first snowboard in 1963 and founded Sims Snowboards in 1976, six years before Fisher was born. Fisher has childhood memories of watching Sims stand in for Roger Moore as James Bond in the snowboarding scenes from A View to a Kill, and when he talks about a career in snowboarding, he's thinking way beyond the 2010 Olympics to a lifelong arc, Tom Sims style.
"He is certainly one of the brightest and most intelligent team riders that has ever ridden for Sims, including Craig Kelly," says Sims, referring to the four-time world champion and big-mountain snowboarding pioneer who died in an avalanche in 2003. "I see Steve right in there with the Craig Kelly personality and level of intelligence, someone who's more than just a really great snowboarder. He's easygoing and fun to be around, whether we're helicopter snowboarding in the backcountry or having dinner, and I believe he has a real future in the snowboard industry. I've partied with him, I've ridden with him, and he's just a great guy to be around. He's proven himself several times at the very highest level of halfpipe competition, and I see him as being totally capable of performing under the intense pressure of the Olympics."
Sims organized the very first halfpipe competitions back in 1983, while Fisher was still in diapers, and says he can barely believe how far it's all come. Watching one of his team riders make a run at the Olympics is the fulfillment of a vision he had nearly three decades ago.
"February 1981 was the first time I tried metal edges on a snowboard," says Sims, launching into the back-in-the-day origin story that made his career and launched modern snowboarding. "I bought an old pair of snow skis at a thrift shop, took a screwdriver and removed the edges, and then routed the edge of my snowboard and epoxied and screwed down the edges. Up until that point I was still traveling with both my snowboard and my skis everywhere I went, because on hard pack I had more fun skiing. On powder there was no comparison: Snowboarding blew skiing away. But the day that I tried metal edges on hard pack up at Squaw Valley, I turned to my friends Terry Kidwell and Alan Armbruster, the two guys who were with me, and the marketing guy at Squaw Valley who let us on the mountain with our snowboards, and said, 'By the year 2000, snowboarding is going to be more than half the business on the mountain.' I said, 'This is going to be an Olympic sport.' I hadn't envisioned the halfpipe, exactly, but I'd envisioned something like a giant toboggan run, something akin to the snake runs we were seeing at concrete skateparks at the time. A few years later I saw guys dropping into a giant ditch in Truckee and doing airs off the walls, and I staged the first halfpipe competition in March of 1983 up in Tahoe."