White: It's Sometimes Lonely at the Top

Bob Simon Profiles Snowboarding Superstar Shaun White

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When snowboarder Shaun White won a gold medal at the last Winter Olympics in Italy, he was nicknamed "il pomodoro volante" - the flying tomato - for his aerial acrobatics and his fiery mane of red hair. He has since become one of the most recognizable redheads since Lucy and a veritable rock star in the world of action sports - a white hot virtuoso on a snowboard who, at the age of 23, commands a multi-million dollar empire.

Now, all eyes are on White to bring home the gold again this coming month in Vancouver, and he gave "60 Minutes" correspondent Bob Simon a sneak preview of a trick he thinks will help him win.

To see it, he took us to his very own top-secret training facility, hidden high, very high, in Colorado's rugged back country.

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The only way to get there? Helicopter.

It's not a bad way to travel - the scenery was breathtaking.

Then, at about 12,000 feet, just over a tree line, there it was: the snowboarding super pipe White had been keeping under wraps.

Carved right into the mountain, this 500-foot long pipe was built by one of his sponsors, Red Bull.

And it's just White's pipe - he doesn't have to share the facility with anyone else.

We touched down, he geared up, and hitched a ride to the very top.

This is why Shaun White is in the San Juan Mountains: this super pipe in the snow.

But why would anyone want one of these planted right in the middle of some of the worst avalanche country in America? Only someone as driven and determined as Shaun White, driven to develop new snowboarding techniques which he hopes will win him gold at the Olympics.

For two months, with his own camera team in tow, White taught himself a dizzying array of moves. First, to avoid injury, he tried them out in this foam pit.

Then he tried them on the unforgiving 22-foot-high walls of his half pipe. The pay-off? A new trick - two flips, three spins, all at once - daring, difficult and until then, undoable.

Asked if he's scared when he does a trick like that, White told Simon, "I'm a little nervous. I mean, you can throw the same things into the foam pit as much as you want, but at a certain point, you still have to get that kind of gall to throw it onto the actual wall of the half pipe."

White's landings weren't always soft, or perfect. His composure wasn't either when he had rough landings.

But that's one of the perks of training in the middle of the wilderness.

"Why didn't you build a pipe or use a pipe in a……civilized place like Vail or Aspen?" Simon asked.

"Ya know, it's just a really competitive sport and to keep your tricks private and to keep them a surprise and show up and do something new that's kinda, gonna blow some people away would be really nice," White explained.

That's exactly what he's been doing these past few weeks in competition: adding height, rotation and inspiration to every trick, throwing down the gauntlet to any snowboarder who wants to take him on in Vancouver.

Asked how he assesses his changes for the Olympics this year, White told Simon, "I think my chances are pretty good. I'm not gonna lie."

"Will you be disappointed if you get anything less than gold?" Simon asked.

"I'm really disappointed at every event if I don't do less than what I wanted to do. So yeah I think so…," White acknowledged.

"Silver's a nice color," Simon pointed out.

"It is nice," he agreed.

"But not for Shaun," Simon remarked.

"Yeah. I guess so. My beast of burden there," White replied.

A burden perhaps, but his competitive drive has earned him the kind of fame and fortune usually reserved for big-time athletes in far more mainstream sports.

It's not at all what Cathy and Roger White were going for when they took their six-year-old son off skis and put him on a snowboard.

"He was crazy on skis. And so I thought, 'Well, we'll put him on a snowboard and he'll fall all the time, and I won't have to worry about trying to dig him out of trees,'" White's mom explained.

She viewed it as a safety measure.