The freckle-faced 7-year-old with fiery red hair was invited to test out the U.S. Open halfpipe nearly two decades ago before the professional snowboarders went to work.
Although too young to compete, he still left fans in awe that day in Vermont with a dazzling run.
Some things just never change.
Now, just like back then, Shaun White can captivate an audience with his daring tricks.
White will defend his halfpipe title this weekend at the U.S. Open snowboarding championships as the competition moves out west to Vail, Colo., after a 30-year run at various mountains in Vermont.
As always, White will be the boarder to beat at the event where he once turned heads as a kid, when he took a practice run before the big names competed. After his performance back then, fans asked for his autograph.
Not really knowing cursive, he simply scribbled his name in big, block letters – SHAUN WHITE.
“First time I signed an autograph,” White said in an email.
The Olympic gold medalist has certainly perfected his signature over the years, much like his signature tricks in the halfpipe.
“I remember being at the bottom of the pipe after my run and someone gave me something to sign. I drew a blank,” White said. “I started just printing my name, crossed out one of the letters and wrote it again.”
And now the 26-year-old White is by far the biggest name and star attraction.
The Open, an event backed by the Burton snowboarding company, has long been a favorite proving ground for boarders, ever since Paul Graves and his buddies came up with the concept of the National Snowboarding Championships in 1982.
Whether the Vermont-based event took place at Suicide Six or Snow Valley or Stratton, spectators always turned out in large numbers to watch the best of the best. This will take some getting used to: switching to the hills of Vail, with the men’s and women’s slopestyle finals Friday and the halfpipe finals Saturday.
“The move to Vail is bittersweet but mostly sweet,” White said. “Vail has an amazing setup so I know they will make the Open special and an event riders want to come to.”
While Hannah Teter is thrilled by the move to Vail, a part of her also remains sorry to see the event leave the Green Mountain State.
“It was always a huge deal to go to that,” she said. “I thought of that as the biggest contest in the world.”