X Games medalist snowboards on Lake Michigan

(Dave Lehl )
March 05, 2014|By Emily Brown | RedEye

Red Bull athlete Louie Vito competed in the 2010 Winter Olympics; he’s an X Games medalist and an ESPN co-host. And he was in Chicago just a few weeks ago to take advantage of the snowy weather. (Hey, at least someone has found a positive side to it.)

Along with snowboard photographer Dave Lehl, Vito came to Chicago specifically to take a perfect photo snowboarding on Lake Michigan with the skyline as the backdrop. The shot was taken Feb. 13.

“We wanted to get a unique, cool shot,” said Vito, 25. “There aren’t a lot of [snowboarding] Chicago pictures. It’s different than what people are used to.”

The pair spent two days in the city, sightseeing and planning the perfect shot. Vito managed to reach a height of 12-15 feet in the air on the jump, but he said he would have liked to be higher. The weather didn’t just affect the height of the jump; it messed up the construction of the ramp, too.

“It took awhile to build,” Vito said. “It was so cold the snow didn’t form together easily. After a couple speed runs, I hit it and dialed it in to make sure it was perfect.”

Once Vito was “dialed in,” the snowboarder and photographer spent another hour and a half on the ice perfecting the shot.

Between a bad jump, not grabbing hold of his board at the right time or the camera flash not going off, plenty of dynamics factored into getting the perfect shot.

They ended up with the perfect shot, but was it legal?

Not necessarily.

“We didn’t hurt anything,” Vito said. “It’s all good fun, it’s a beautiful city. As long as you’re not damaging anything, they’re [the cops] pretty good about it.”

“That’s always a concern of ours in urban situations,” Lehl said. “Usually a cop will spot us and put an end to it. There was actually a security guard watching us, and he said ‘That was great!’ He was excited about it.”

With only a two day trip, they weren’t able to scout out as many locations for photographs as a typical trip. But they did end up shooting in two spots.

The second spot they found and shot at was on the beach near Navy Pier.

“There was a sunken walkway leading out to the beach,” Lehl said. “[Vito] jumped over the walkway and in the air was 20-23 feet off the concrete.”

Vito, originally from Ohio but now a Salt Lake City resident, has been snowboarding since he was 5 years old. He competes in the halfpipe event in competitions. In this year’s Winter X Games, Vito competed and co-hosted the games for ESPN. He’s the first athlete to compete and host in the same event. This summer he’ll exclusively co-host the X Games on ESPN.

Aside from his gig at ESPN, Vito is a Red Bull athlete. The company is one of his many sponsors.

“Red Bull sponsors athletes to get to do cool things,” Vito said. “We have an event coming up [Red Bull Double Pipe] in Aspen in a couple weeks. I’m a brand ambassador. They’re a great supporter of action sports.”

Will we see Vito back in Chicago on the ice next winter?

“I love Chicago,” he said. “I’d come back and hang in the city and get a different shot. There are plenty of places in the city to get a good shot.”

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