SNOWBASIN -- Freeskier extraordinaire and Utah resident Tom Wallisch is looking at an iPad, reading aloud a series of numbers in rapid succession.
When Weber State University graduate student Courtney Allen informs him he has earned a perfect score, Wallisch pumps a fist in mock celebration.
"And they said I was only good at skiing," Wallisch says wryly before heading back out to the slopes.
This is a common scene this year in the medical trailer at the Winter Dew Tour Toyota Championships, where a team of students from Weber State is conducting research they hope will lead to more definitive methods of diagnosing concussions in athletes of all types.
For several years, students in Weber State's sports medicine program have helped take care of athletes injured during the course of the Dew Tour, both at the winter tour stop at Snowbasin and the summer stop in Salt Lake City. About a dozen students are on hand at Snowbasin this weekend.
Valerie Herzog, associate athletic training professor and director of the Graduate Athletic Training Program at WSU, said the experience is especially valuable because injuries are much more frequent in extreme skiing and snowboarding than in sports like football or basketball.
"It's great training for them, because they have to deal with trauma in sports anyway, but you could work in football for 10 years and maybe see one cervical spine injury, one subdural hematoma, a really nasty concussion and one or two organ lacerations," Herzog said. "And (at the Dew Tour), they're going to get several of those in a four-day period."
Jordan Utley, a WSU faculty member and director of the research project, said a half-dozen athletes came in with injuries in a one-hour period Thursday.
"We only had five concussions during the entire football season," Utley said.
The current problem with diagnosing concussions, she said, is that it's subjective. Because there's no way to say for sure, on the spot, that someone has or hasn't suffered a concussion, it's up to the medical staff on the scene to make the call.
"It's frustrating for the athletes when they're told they have to stop, even if they feel like they're good to go," she said. "Since we don't know for sure, we have to err on the side of caution."
The team's quest for more accurate and rapid concussion diagnoses is two-pronged. Part of the research involes a vision-screening test in which athletes read single-digit numbers arranged in different ways on a series of charts as fast as they can. The test is designed to help identify common concussion symptoms such as blurred vision and impairment of cognitive functions.
The other part involves blood work. The researchers are looking for specific indicators, or biomarkers, in the blood that would give a definitive answer as to whether an athlete actually has a concussion. Eventually, they hope to develop a process in which an athlete could have his or her finger pricked right after a fall, and the blood would be analyzed immediately on the scene.
The Dew Tour athletes come in for an initial reading for both tests, so there will be data for comparison in case they are injured and receive another screening.
"We have to establish a baseline, because every athlete is different," Utley said. "Some have more prior injuries than others."
They have also set up video cameras at various angles along the 22-foot-high superpipe to analyze crashes and determine potential safety improvements for helmets.
The students will take what they learn throughout the competition and present their findings at conferences as part of their individual thesis projects.
While concussion might not be the most common ski and snowboard injury, it's a hot topic in sports medicine these days, said Adam Hunsaker, a graduate student in exercise science working on the project.
"I plan on being an athletic trainer for a long time, so by getting this experience now, I can use it throughout my career," Hunsaker said.
In the end, Utley said, all the work comes down to the health of the athletes.
"It's all about reducing risk and increasing awareness."
At Snowbasin Resort
Friday, Feb. 10
Festival Village opens at 9 a.m.
10-11:30 a.m. -- Women's snowboard slopestyle semifinal
11 a.m.-noon -- Women's freeski superpipe semifinal
11:30 a.m-1:50 p.m. -- Men's snowboard slopestyle semifinal
Noon-1:30 p.m. -- Men's freeski superpipe semifinal
3:30-4:30 p.m. -- Gatorade Free Flow Tour, men's freeski slopestyle final
4:30-5:30 p.m. -- Women's snowboard superpipe semifinal
5:30-7:30 p.m. -- Men's snowboard superpipe semifinal
9-11 p.m. -- Mac Miller Concert at Ogden's downtown amphitheater
Saturday, Feb. 11
Festival Village opens at 9 a.m.
9-10:15 a.m. -- Women's freeski slopestyle semifinal
10:15 a.m.-12:30 p.m. -- Men's freeski slopestyle semifinal
11-11:40 a.m. -- Women's snowboard superpipe final
Noon-1:30 p.m. -- Men's snowboard superpipe final
2:15-3:15 p.m. -- Gatorade Free Flow Tour, women's snowboard
3:30-4:30 p.m. -- Gatorade Free Flow Tour, men's snowboard slopestyle final
5-5:40 p.m. -- Women's freeski superpipe final
6-7 p.m. -- Men's freeski superpipe final
Sunday, Feb. 12
Festival Village opens at 9 a.m.
9-9:40 a.m. -- Women's snowboard slopestyle final
10-11 a.m. -- Men's snowboard slopestyle final
Noon-12:40 p.m. -- Women's freeski slopestyle final
1-2:30 p.m. -- Men's freeski slopestyle final
2:30-3:30 p.m. -- Dew Cup awards
2:30-3:30 p.m. -- Gatorade Free Flow Tour, women's snowboard superpipe final
4-5 p.m. -- Gatorade Free Flow Tour, men's snowboard superpipe final
5:30-6:30 p.m. -- Gatorade Free Flow Tour, men's freeski superpipe final
For information, visit www.Allisports.com and the Dew Tour Facebook page.
OGDEN -- The Winter Dew Tour Team will offer complimentary bus service from the Ogden area to and from Snowbasin Resort during the Wintr Dew Tour Toyota Championships on Saturday and Sunday.
Winter Dew Tour spectators can park and ride free to the competition from Weber State University Dee Events Center and the South Weber Staker Parson parking lot (just west of the Weber Canyon Park n' Ride).
Shuttle buses will run on Saturday and Sunday, arriving every 15 to 20 minutes during peak times and every 30 minutes during nonpeak times.
The bus schedule:
Dee Events Center & Weber Canyon to Snowbasin
Saturday, Feb. 11 -- 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 12 -- 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
Snowbasin to Weber Canyon & Dee Events Center
Saturday, Feb. 11 -- 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 12 -- 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Riders are encouraged to check the transportation schedule for final confirmation on the concluding bus time of the evening. Although transportation is free, Snowbasin and Winter Dew Tour are suggesting a $2 to $5 donation.
The WSU Dee Events Center is at 3848 Harrison Blvd. in Ogden, and the Staker Parson lot is just to the west of the UTA South Weber Park 'n Ride at 2600 E. South Weber Drive, off of Highway 89.
For additional information, visit www.visitogden.com/dewtour.