Howard looking for the best birthday present ever |

Howard looking for the best birthday present ever

Provided to the TribuneCorley Howard of South Lake Tahoe comes off a jump in the lead at last year's X Games

Not many people can say they are headed off to compete in the Winter X Games later this week in Aspen, Colo.

But probably nobody else can say they are competing in the X Games on their birthday.

Corley Howard, a South Lake Tahoe skier and member of the Kirkwood Freeride Ski Team, will turn 27 years old when he competes in his third X Games on Friday in skiercross.

And if he wins … well, let’s just say it will be quite a party.

“It’s the big show, so there is lots of media and they really overdo it,” Howard said. “There is tons of V.I.P. treatment with food, video games and whatnot. For me, the biggest part is being able to boot up with some of the greatest skiers in the world.”

Howard is no stranger to the X Games. Last year, he placed sixth overall in the skiercross and made the finals, finishing as the No. 2 skier for the United States. Although he’s been skiing for 20 years, Howard has only participated in skiercross for the past six years, making him a relative novice to the event compared with some of the competition he will face.

“The people who are skiercross at the X Games come from a high level (including ex-Olympians), so they’ve been on the program since they were kids,” said Howard, who works as a terrain park supervisor at Kirkwood. “I’m the only one out there who has a full-time job. I pretty much pay my own way.

“For me to be there, I’m kind of like the dark horse,” he added. “They have to watch out for me now.”

Howard does have some sponsors. Dynastar sponsors him on the North American Freeride Team, and Justin Befu, owner of Creation clothing store and Creation Productions videography, has also lent his support.

He expects sponsorship and recognition to increase if he finishes well in the X Games, which he says is the pinnacle of events for snow-sport aficionados.

“A lot of companies base everything on the X Games, and it depends on how you finish,” he said. “As an athlete, you want to do well, because just going is almost like a free pass.

“The X Games is everything for skiers and snowboarders,” he added. “It is viewed in millions of homes all over the world, and it gets bigger and bigger every year as far as who is going, where it will be and the money.”

Overall, Howard likes his chances at this year’s event, but he says just being invited is gratifying.

“I’m feeling pretty good, but I have to worry about qualifying,” he said, adding that only 30 men and women in the world are invited to compete, with 26 moving onto the race. “What I’m worried about mostly is my timed run. If you get a good qualifying time you’ll get a good gate selection. The races are won or lost in the start. If you get a good start gate, you’re likely to get a good finish.

“This year, we’re going to try to do it a little bit better and have some fun, make the best of it.”

Two other local athletes are also heading to the Winter X Games. Jimi Tomer of South Lake Tahoe will compete in the slopestyle event and Elena Hight of Zephyr Cove will serve as an alternate in women’s snowboarding.

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