Shaun White
Shaun White wins SuperPipe gold at the 2009 winter X Games

Shaun White’s Project X

Shaun White
Alicia Carr

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Last winter, snowboarder Shaun White, 23, spent some time riding a clandestine halfpipe—”the best ever”—built just for him behind Colorado’s Silverton Mountain. Known as Project X and funded by Red Bull, the 22-foot-deep superpipe incorporated a foam pit for White to bail into as he concocted five new moves for the Olympics. An hourlong special on the project airs January 30 on NBC. You can follow White in Vancouver on Twitter.

Shaun White

Shaun White Shaun White wins SuperPipe gold at the 2009 winter X Games

OUTSIDE: Why did you need a secret halfpipe? Everybody so knows what you’re up to.

WHITE: It wasn’t planned like that; I wasn’t sneaking around. I’d go to local mountains and get swarmed. In Park City, one of my friends got cut off by a kid in the crowd who was watching us. He flew out of the halfpipe and broke his wrist. Tony Hawk has a private ramp. And motocross guys learn tricks in a foam pit. If those guys don’t stick their landings, they get severely hurt.

Did you miss having competition around?

If you pick somebody else to compete against, you’re only going to be as good as that guy. I’m competing with myself. I had a wish list of six tricks and learned all of them. Five have never been done before.

Silverton’s not Southern California, huh?

The town was wild. It was like the movie Tombstone—hitching posts for tying up your horse at saloons. The house we rented had no doors inside. My room was next to the bathroom. I got to know the people I was hanging out with in a strange, strange way.

You’re 23 now. Who’s the next Shaun White?

Some 15-year-old who’s at home watching the Olympics. Somebody who’ll do our tricks in a totally different way. I hope that kid is far away. It’s like, C’mon, man! I just learned these things!