Shaun White sat in a lawn chair on the side of the mountain at Northstar California, a ski resort near Lake Tahoe, trying to think of a nice way to ask one of the young men grooming the hill to shovel some snow up onto the air bag, please. White was there in April to learn a triple cork 1440, a snowboarding trick that requires flipping three times in the air while moving through three different planes — horizontal, lateral and vertical — all while doing four 360-degree spins. Landing a triple cork is considered essential to winning slopestyle, a snowboarding event that will debut in the Olympic Games next month and that involves riding down a course filled with jumps and rails, sort of like those in a skateboard park. Because White had not yet mastered the triple cork, he needed to practice the trick by crash-landing into a giant yellow air bag. Judging from his emphatic cursing, the impact felt horrible.