Between a shining coin of sun and the bright ribbon of snow below, Olympian snowboarder Ross Powers flipped, twisted and soared to Gold Medal victory at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, snagging the win out of thin air—literally.On his first run above the snow chute, Powers launched 15 feet in the air, his body parallel to the snow.
The 23-year old flying object, who celebrated his birthday the day before his big win, led an historic U.S. medals sweep at the men's snowboarding halfpipe event, starting fourth in the two-run final round, and scoring 46.1 points out of a total of 50. It was the first American Olympic Winter Games sweep since the men's figure skating event in 1956 in Cortina, Italy.
Snowboarding may be the hippest sport at the Games today—only natural considering its hipster history. In 1965, Sherman Poppen, a skier from Michigan came up with the idea of binding a pair of skis together, dubbing his invention the "Snurfer"—a combination of 'snow' and 'surfer.' Picking up the trail, Jake Burton Carpenter created the 'snowboard' and sparked the culture that nurtured Ross Powers, who began competing when he was eight years old and was national champion by the age of 16. Ever a master of perfect timing, Powers captured the Bronze Medal at Nagano in 1998, the year snowboarding debuted as an Olympic sport.
Want to learn to fly like Ross? While snowboarding looks to the uninitiated (newbies) like skiing's (really) crazy cousin, some experts say the sport is actually easier to learn and gentler on the body. According to Kevin Delaney, international snowboarding champ and technical advisor for board-it.com, whether you're 3 or 83, you can confidently pick up the board with some common-sense fitness tips (and some padding in all the right places!).