COPPER MOUNTAIN, Colo. — Two-time Grand Prix champion Louie Vito, from Sandy, Utah, was one of 17 riders named to the 2011 U.S. Snowboarding Halfpipe Pro and Rookie Teams Tuesday.
"I'm really stoked to be on the team," Vito said. "We have a good squad of people on the team and it's not just about the Olympic year, it's every year."
Vito should know.
The Ohio native already owns a pair of season-long Grand Prix crowns and helped lead the charge among riders pioneering the double-corks during the Olympic season. In addition, his charismatic personality pervades the sport and it was showcased a year ago when he was a standout on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" with Chelsie Hightower.
Vito joins fellow Olympians Kelly Clark (Mount Snow, Vt.), a two-time Olympic medalist and Gretchen Bleiler (Aspen, Colo.), an Olympic silver medalist, on the Pro Team.
Also, Lizzy Beerman and Paul Brichta, who are attending Westminster College in Salt Lake City as a part of the U.S. Snowboarding Partnership Program, were named to the Rookie Team.
The Pro Team was recently in Copper Mountain tuning up for the season-opening Visa Halfpipe Grand Prix on Dec. 10.
"With five Olympians returning to the Pro Team and the amazing talent on the Rookie Team, the 2011 U.S. Snowboarding Halfpipe program is better than ever," U.S. Snowboarding Director Jeremy Forster said. "We're looking forward to carrying the momentum from the 2010 Olympics into this season."
Along with Vito, Clark and Bleiler, World Cup winner Greg Bretz (Mammoth Lakes, Calif.), 2010 Mammoth Mountain Grand Prix runner-up Elena Hight (South Lake Tahoe, Calif.) and Kaitlyn Farrington (Sun Valley, Idaho), who came on strong at the end of the 2010 season in earning Pro Team status, were named to the Pro Team.
While Clark and Bleiler were in the spotlight once again last year, the rookie Farrington made her own waves with a post-Olympic gold in the Euro-X Games, a Dew Tour title and second-place finish in the U.S. Open.
Nine riders from the ages 16-20 are hoping to join former Rookie Team riders, Vito and Farrington, on the Pro Team in the near future. Like the Pro Team, the Rookie Team consists of many returning riders including Matt Ladley (Steamboat Springs, Colo.), Zack Black (Breckenridge, Colo.) and newcomer Paul Brichta (Burnsville, Minn).
The Rookie Team, which debuted in the 2008 season, has been an amazing proving ground for young talent.
Although 2011 isn't an Olympic year, the stakes are still high for these riders as they begin to progress the next wave of tricks that will be launched three years from now in Sochi, Russia.
The teams will ride a diverse slate of events, foremost is the U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix with halfpipe stops in Copper Mountain and Mammoth Mountain. Other major events on tap include the Dew Tour, X Games and U.S. Open.
The Rookie Team will also mix in some World Cup events and Revolution Tour stops.
2011 U.S. Snowboard Halfpipe Roster
Clair Bidez, Minturn, Colo.
Gretchen Bleiler, Aspen, Colo.
Greg Bretz, Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
Kelly Clark , Mount Snow, Vt.
Kaitlyn Farrington, Sun Valley, Idaho
Elena Hight, South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
Ellery Hollingsworth, Stratton, Vt.
Louie Vito, Sandy, Utah.
Lizzy Beerman, Weston, Vt.
Dylan Bidez, Minturn, Colo.
Zack Black , Breckenridge, Colo.
Paul Brichta, Burnsville, Minn.
Matt Ladley, Steamboat Springs, Colo.
Kelly Marren, Hillsborough, Calif.
Madeline Schaffrick, Steamboat Springs, Colo.
Broc Waring, Edwards, Colo.
Ben Watts, Bend, Ore.
Elizabeth Karam is a native of Waverly, Pa., and has worked with the USSA since June 2009. Upon graduating Saint Lawrence University in May 2009, Karam interned for the USSA for the 2009-10 winter season and now lives in Park City, Utah.