This winter, for the first time in nine years, Hannah Teter will not be a member of the U.S. Snowboard Team. In a surprise and unrelated move, Scotty Lago will be.
Teter's decision to turn down a place on the national team was confirmed by both Teter and U.S. Snowboarding halfpipe coach Mike Jankowski. Teter, the 23-year-old Olympic gold medalist from 2006, said in an interview at Copper Mountain that she decided last summer to quit the team, partly because the year after an Olympics is less important contest-wise.
"I'm just kind of taking a break," she said. "We're going to have a fun year: do a couple contests, shoot with Burton a lot (including a trip to Japan), but not really get too crazy with contests."
Teter had just finished an hour-long training session at the time of her interview, and she remains plugged in to the competition scene, despite her independent status.
"I'm kind of missing it," she said of being on the national team. "I had to wait in line for an hour and a half just to get my credential here so I could ride the pipe. We never used to have to wait in line."
Teter said she'll compete in four events this winter: the Breckenridge Winter Dew Tour this weekend, the Winter X Games, the European Open and the U.S. Open. She said it's also possible she'll enter the European X Games. To fill the U.S. Team void, her brother Elijah will be coaching her, she said.
"I'll be back on the team next year," Teter said. "I'm just taking a break this year."
That's what many people expected Lago to do, coming off his Olympic bronze medal (and subsequent frosty experience with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association) and with his all-around talents in high demand among filmmakers.
But last week, Lago approached U.S. head coach Jankowski and said he'd be interested in a sponsorship. The two took a chairlift ride to iron out the details, and as the U.S. Team sometimes does with premier riders, Lago received a partial sponsorship with minimal obligations.
"I have an obligation to wear a sticker. That's pretty much it," said Lago, 23. "I really wanted to get back on the team and I just told him I've already made my schedule and I'm sticking to it, but I'd love to have their help for any contest I do. Because having their support, their coaching, their wax tech, it's huge. And I kind of missed everyone, too."
Lago's interest was music to Jankowski's ears.
"One of the most flattering things you can have as a coach and organization is to have someone like Scotty Lago come up to you and say, 'I want the sticker. I want the coaching and I want you guys to take care of me like you always have,'" Jankowski said.
Lago's contest schedule, which began with a third-place finish at last weekend's Grand Prix, includes the Breck Dew Tour, the X Games, the U.S. Open and big-air events in Japan and Austria. His biggest opportunity, however, has nothing to do with a pipe. For the months of January and March, Lago will be filming with Travis Rice. "I think it's going to be two months in Jackson," Lago said, "which I'm pretty excited about because he knows Jackson and I'm looking forward to getting a good video part and to show that I can make a video too."
Until then, he'll be working on some "ideas" he has for jumping, including a switch double backside rodeo 1080 that he tried but didn't land in Beijing.
"I've tried it twice," Lago said, grinning. "The first time was last year; I landed it in powder on a Smith trip in Idaho. When I tried it in Beijing, it was on a hard jump. I know it's something I can perfect. I just need a good jump to kind of catch up. Almost catch up to where everyone is. Taking that whole year off jumping, the progression of jumping went right along with halfpipe. I'd love to get out and prove myself with jumps as well."