Louie Vito has competed at the Olympics and the X Games, won competitions on three different continents, and even appeared on Dancing With the Stars – all because of a 300-foot slope.
When you're born in Ohio and you want to cruise the slopes, you make due with what Mother Nature gives you, and in Vito's case that was Mad River Mountain. Closer to a water slide than it is a "mountain," Mad River rises 1,460 feet, but the vertical drop is only 300 feet. It's home to13 trails, a tubing park and one of the best snowboarders on the planet.
"Now, traveling everywhere I traveled and snowboarding everywhere I've been is really small, but for me it was just a great place and a great way to go snowboarding," Vito, 25, says.
Growing up in Ohio, Vito eventually moved to Vermont to attend Stratton Mountain School &ndash a boarding academy where students can focus on winter sports. Olympic gold medalist Ross Powers graduated from Stratton, as did Lindsey Jacobellis.
A four-time U.S. Grand Prix champion in men's superpipe, Vito qualified for the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, where he finished fifth.
"It's bigger than just you, it's bigger than just your sport even – it's your country," Vito said of his Olympic experience. "It's hard to explain unless you've been there because it's just a tribute – it's a real feeling representing your country on the world stage."
Vito planned on being in Sochi for the 2014 Olympic Games, but wasn't among the four qualifiers, which included Greg Bretz, Danny Davis, Taylor Gold and Shaun White.