Danny Davis' Peace Park (see above) is a reinvention of what transition riding on a snowboard can look like, with hips, rails, and massive jumps in a re-imagined 22-foot pipe. It stands as a stark statement from a rider who says he's hoping to push creativity in snowboarding as far as possible, while also heading into the Olympic team selection process with big goals.
"The Peace Park session was an opportunity to think out of the box and outside of the U-ditch, because I was getting bored going up there every day and watching everybody do the same stuff, and to be doing the same stuff myself," Davis says. "I mean, this season I'm going to pretty much do a similar run to what I did four years ago. It's still going to be competitive, and that's terrible! Now I'm trying to figure out how to bring some of that energy and creativity I found in the Peace Park back into the confines of the halfpipe."
Davis has always been a snowboarder's snowboarder, bringing creativity, style, and laid-back vibes to his pipe runs that counterbalance his competitive drive. Four years ago Davis was a favorite to make the U.S. Olympic team, poised to be Shaun White's biggest rival heading into Vancouver
The rest is unfortunate history: Davis bested White in a Grand Prix and then went on to win the Dew Tour event at Snowbasin in Utah. During the celebration over his Dew Tour win he crashed on an ATV, fracturing vertebrae in his back and breaking both his pelvis and his Olympic dreams. White went on to win his second Olympic gold, following up on his Flying Tomato legacy from Torino four years prior and kicking off a reign of halfpipe domination that has continued ever since.
Davis calls that incident his "stupid crash," distinguishing it from other injuries he's suffered that come with the territory, like the pelvis injury that sidelined him for much of last season. A legit snowboarding crash is one thing; a revelry-induced spinal injury quite another.
As the U.S. Olympic team selection process for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics is now underway, Davis is looking for some redemption and says he's taking everything much more seriously this time around. Well, sort of.
"First and foremost for me is having fun, always, but the truth is that I'm also a very competitive guy beneath the surface and always have been," Davis says. "The Olympics are very much on my mind."
He's tempered his trash talking, and says he has nothing but respect for White, who finished second at the Dew Tour and is seen as a favorite heading into Sochi.
"To see everything he's accomplished and how far he's pushed himself and everyone else is inspiring, and I have to give him props," Davis says. "He's a better guy and a better rider than I've sometimes given him credit for."
Still, he thinks there's room for much more progression and creativity in snowboarding, and says White is still beatable.
"The best reminder I got from the Peace Park session, heading into this Olympic year, is that going big is where it's at -- just getting as much speed as you can take and going as big as possible," he says. "You look at Shaun and guys like Ayumu Hirano and they're just blasting, and that's where I want to be. Everybody can do double corks now, but if you're not doing them 15 feet out it almost doesn't matter. It's just not that rad."
At his recent pre-season training session in New Zealand with Torah Bright and other riders, Davis also focused on his switch riding game.
"Switch airs, switch backside spins; Every kid's going to go upside down twice, but nobody's going to throw a huge switch backside air, because they can't," he says.
Will the judges at the Dew Tour, U.S. Grand Prix, and Olympics take notice? "Screw them," he says. "You've got to take control of your sport. You've got to do what you know is rad or it's not even worth it."
And if they don't take notice? Davis is trying to keep some perspective on that, too.
"I just want to have fun and have a good season," he says. "If that involves the Olympics, even better, and if not, I'm fine. I'd just love to do well and be a good halfpipe rider again. For the first time in four years, and the Olympics isn't the only goal. I would love to do well at X Games for one thing. I've never even made it to finals at X Games! I'd love to do well at the U.S. Open. I haven't done well there in a long time.
"And I'd like to get back into slopestyle too, be an all-around snowboarder, and practice what I preach. I'm excited to race the banked slalom, and I'm excited to film, go on some trips and get some pow. I'm healthy again, finally, and I'm just psyched to be back at it."