Freeskiing sensation is going back to high school


Tanner Hall, of Kalispell, Mont., competes in the men's superpipe during the Winter X Games at Buttermilk Ski Area near Aspen, Colo. on Thursday, Jan., 22, 2009. Hall finished in second place. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)

By PAT GRAHAM AP Sports Writer

ASPEN, Colo. (AP) — Tanner Hall made a mistake. He knows that.

The freeskiing sensation got kicked out of high school for smoking marijuana when he was a sophomore.

Hall never went back, pursuing a lucrative career on the slopes rather than a diploma.

It's a decision he still laments.

So the 25-year-old is doing something about it — heading back to school. Hall will start an intensive six-month program at a school near Heber City, Utah, to complete both his junior and senior years.

"When I get that diploma, it's going to feel like I won the X Games," said Hall, who's going for a four-peat in the skiing superpipe Thursday night at Winter X. "I'm ready to close that chapter and move on."

Skiing has been splendid to him. He's made movies, toured remote parts of the world, even started his own ski company.

He's also found success — lots of it. He's one of the most decorated skiers in Winter X history.

But the term "drop out" ate at him.

Hall said he failed a drug test for marijuana while attending the Winter Sports School in Park City, Utah, and was expelled.

Big deal, he thought at the time. He had skiing.

Who needs an education?

Turns out, Hall did.

"That was the worst decision of my life," he said.

Hall thought about simply going for his GED — a "good enough degree" as he calls it — but wanted the real thing.

"That way, if there is a day I wake up and do want to go to college, I can actually go because I've got a real diploma," he said.

He'll soon be sitting in a classroom full of teenagers, learning pre-calculus and history, possibly even a foreign language.

The Kalispell, Mont., native can't wait to begin.

"If you want to sit down with me in class all winter next year, come join me," he said, laughing.

Hall wasn't all that old when he burst on the X Games scene, winning his first gold in 2001 at 17. He has captured seven titles at the event, tying him with Shaun White for most at Winter X.

To win No. 8, though, he'll have to hold off the likes of Simon Dumont, his nemesis in the pipe. Hall has the consistency and technique, Dumont the massive amplitude.

"The thing a lot of people don't know about me and Simon is that we're really good friends. We're homies," Hall said. "When we're up in the gate, a lot of people think it's a big rivalry. But we feed off each other."

The challenge was thrown down in qualifying on Wednesday night, Hall pulling out a new trick — the double flip.

Dumont wasn't surprised by the move. The two train together in New Zealand during the summer and Dumont has seen the progression of the maneuver. Hall is a perfectionist and won't try any trick until it's completely clean.

"Simon looked at me and was like, 'I was waiting,'" Hall said. "I knew I'd bring it out at some point. I wanted to uncork it. I'm not holding back."

That's the approach he's now taking with his education. He's going all out for the degree.

Only this time, he won't have to worry about prom, acne or being socially accepted.

"It's tough growing up as a teenager," he said. "There are so many pressures. If you're not a football player, you're a dork. If you've got zits, you're not getting the hot girl. It's a hard thing. But if you've got a passion, whether it's skiing, soccer or mathematics, chase it with full bore. You can do whatever you want in this world. I'm living proof of what you can achieve if you really put your mind to it."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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