SALT LAKE CITY — Louie Vito has made some significant changes to his life, but one thing remains the same — his passion for jaw-dropping tricks in the superpipe.
The Sandy resident has a new fitness regimen, a new focus and a new sponsor that he says will help him take his snowboarding to an even more competitive level even though he's already consistently one of the world's best snowboarders.
Vito returns to his home turf this weekend hoping to repeat as Dew Cup winner at the Toyota Championships at Snowbasin. He is just two points away from the leader, after finishing second twice, and hopes to take home more hardware the same way he's earned a spot at the top of the sport — by landing high-flying tricks.
"I learned another double," said Vito, who is the only rider to land four double corks in a competition run. "So I have four doubles I could do in a run. I did it at X Games, but I couldn't put down a whole clean run."
Vito finished sixth at the X Games last month, in the same competition where two-time gold medalist and Vito's 2010 Olympic teammate Shaun White earned the sport's first perfect score. And while coming up a bit short might discourage some, it only serves to motivate Vito.
He finished fifth in the 2010 Games and said since that experience, he uses that disappointment to push himself.
"It kind of lit a fire under my butt, a little more than normal, to step it up," he said smiling. "Everything happens for a reason. But it motivates me; it keeps me focused. I want it pretty bad. I want it to happen. Because I did come up short (at the Olympics), it gave me that taste of how much it's not fun to end up that close and not make it."
And while making the 2014 Olympic team is on Vito's to-do list, he has a lot of other goals he's looking to accomplish in the meantime.
"I obviously want to do the next Olympics," he said. "It's one of those visions down the road. There is so much I want to do in snowboarding before the Olympics. But if I accomplish those goals, it will keep me on track for the next Olympics."
First of all, he has a new trainer.
"His name is John Schaeffer, and I met him through Apolo Ohno, the speedskater," said Vito, who will sign autographs at this weekend's competition in the Toyota tent. "He is next level. Apolo is such a workout fanatic, and he could go to any trainer he wanted. And he picked this guy, swears by him."
So Vito went to Schaeffer's home base in Reading, Pa., and spent five weeks enduring workouts unlike anything he'd experienced.
"I'm feeling good," said Vito, who'd been working with a trainer here in Utah before that. "I pretty much got my rear handed to me every single day, multiple times a day."
In addition to the workouts, Vito quit drinking and changed his diet.
"I don't do milk, soy, bread, rice," he said. "I eat a lot of fish and eggs. I don't even take protein powder anymore, none of that stuff. I run a lot of stairs, intervals on the treadmill, and I feel really good. I know this summer is going to be even better."
He said he is lighter and stronger than he's ever been, and attributes his consistency to better fitness and better focus.
"I actually stopped drinking," said the 23-year-old. "It was weird to go out at first, but I still go out; I still have a good time. But I feel good when I wake up in the morning. I want to do what I want in snowboarding and focus on that. Right now I want to snowboard, stay healthy and push myself as much as possible."
Vito also signed with Red Bull, which will give him access to custom-designed superpipes and offseason training facilities that will help him safely take his technique to an even higher level. In addition, he is filming webisodes with the energy drink company, which air on the Red Bull Channel (www.youtube.com/redbull).
Vito isn't the only local competing this weekend as Park City's Sage Kotsenburg, who won bronze at the Dew Tour Championships last year, will compete in snowboard slopestyle, and X Games gold medalist and Salt Lake resident Tom Wallisch will try to continue his domination of the ski slopestyle this season.
Trying to cap a perfect season in one's home state might seem the perfect pressure cooker. But for the 24-year-old University of Utah student, it's just one more chance to do what he loves.
"To me the pressure is off entirely," said Wallisch. "It's nice to do well, but I already have a successful season, and I have a lot more things planned."
The Dew Tour Championships begin at Snowbasin with a festival Thursday and continue through finals on Saturday and Sunday.
For a complete schedule go to www.allisports.com/winter-dew-tour.
Winter Dew Tour
Location: At Snowbasin Resort, near Huntsville
Events: Snowboard slopestyle; freeski superpipe, freeski slopestyle, snowboard slopestyle
Schedule: Friday, 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
email: [email protected]