Article written by guest blogger Susan Strayer (http://www.mountainmomandtots.com/)
March 18, 2014
This past week I experienced my first ever snowboard race thanks to Team Utah and Sundance Resort. Every year this duo hosts the Team Utah/Sundance Banked Slalom in mid March, inviting Team Utah Chapters and individual participants from around the state to compete in a fun and exciting race.
“The mechanics of banked slalom are a lot like boarder cross,” said Olivia Olsen from Team Utah Snowbird. Raphael Chanut from Team Utah Snowbird agreed saying, “Boarder cross is essentially banked slalom with more people and bigger features.”
Jeremy Jolley, Team Utah Park City coach, has organized the event for the past four years. “It’s about getting kids excited about the sport,” he said. “This year’s race went really well, except for the icy morning conditions.”
The ice caused several skiers and boarders to wipe out and miss gates, including Brenna Huckaby, Team Utah Adaptive Team member and above knee amputee. “The ice run threw me off the berm. This course is not really AK (above knee) friendly.” Despite the challenging conditions, Brenna was able to complete her second run and once the sun warmed up the snow the course improved.
When I got my chance at the starting gate, I was surprised at how nervous I felt. I thought of some tips from boarders Olivia Olsen and Anna Miller who told me they handle race nerves with “visualization, yoga breaths, and music.” It obviously helped – I improved my race time by ten per cent on my second run and achieved my goal of not falling.
Boarder Anna Miller said “It’s nice to get the opportunity to race like this. To me if I’m not having fun snowboarding it’s not worth it.” Olivia Olsen from Team Utah Snowbird agreed, “This is just a fun time to ride with friends.” With ninety-nine competitors in the different divisions (Junior Ski, Junior Snowboard, Women, Open) there was plenty of opportunities to mingle with friends and make some new ones.
At the end of the day, the competitors, their coaches and families gathered around an amazing prize table to celebrate. Awesome sponsors including Skullcandy, Rossignol, Anarchy, and Nitro donated prizes for both winners and participants.
Team Utah and Sundance have done it again. This year’s banked slalom race was great event that was fun for all.
“Boardercross is fast, sketchy, head to head racing, baby!” said Team Utah Boardercross rider Hunter Wilson last week at the Canyons resort. He and his teammates train five or six days a week to master the art of going fast under the direction of head coach Jon Casson.
Even though this is Casson’s first year at Team Utah, his program is well established thanks to more than 14 years of coaching athletes from all over the US, Australia and New Zealand out of Steamboat Springs, CO. When the opportunity came to bring his technique to Utah’s terrain, Casson made the move and brought along an impressive coaching team.
(Team Utah Boardercross Coach and Olympian Graham Watanabe)
Assistant coaches include World Cup champion and two time Olympic athlete Graham Watanabe, World Cup rider Cody Brown and Team Utah founder Lane Clegg. Watanabe began coaching full time this year and told me, “I was kinda surprised that it’s just as rewarding to coach others to success [as to achieve success myself].” As rider Olyvia Weston puts it, “These are best coaches around.”
“Good Boardercross racers comes from being a great all-around rider,” said Casson. “Our team focuses on versatility – riding on any terrain at any time, confidence and adaptability.” Their focus on aggressive riding has already paid off for teammate Jarryd Hughes (AUS) who came home with a World Cup Win from Lake Louise Canada on December 21, 2013.
Other World Cup riders include Mick Dierdoff and Jenna Feldman. Current Olympic Gold medalist in half pipe, Torah Bright also joins Team Utah Boardercross as a guest athlete at World Cup races in her attempt to be the only athlete to qualify for the Olympics in three snowboarding disciplines. Roger Carver (previous World Cup athlete and Junior Olympian), Rosie Mancari, Duncan Campbell, Cole Schreiber and Alyssa Dolgin all compete this season looking to earn future World Cup slots.
With riders from all over the country and several from Australia, the boardercross team has a busy schedule ahead. They race in Andorra January 10-12, 2014 followed by Veysonnaz, Switzerland January 17-18, 2014. Follow that up with the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the X games in Aspen, Colorado and NorAm races in Canada and the US, and it’ll be tough work ahead for this crew. From the looks of it, they’re up for the challenge.
Riding in the backcountry can be an amazing experience, but can also put you in harms way if you don’t respect the dangers of natural terrain. Know before you go, or don’t go! Avalanche danger in Utah is a very real thing, we love our shredding community and hope everyone enjoys the snow and mountains, but stays as safe as possible as they do it.
This free class is an excellent opportunity to gain some valuable snow safety knowledge.
There will be 8 class room sessions held at Treasure Mountain Junior High School in Park City, on Mondays from 3-4 pm starting on January 13, 2014. There will also be a practice day held in the backcountry, date and location tbd.
Team Utah Snowboarding is all about bringing athletes to the next level in the sport, but the Adaptive Chapter of Team Utah, is already there. This group of shredders not only trains and competes in world class competitions, they do it with only one leg.
From the outside, Team Utah Snowboarding’s Adaptive Chapter may look like any other group of serious boarders, but most of the riders are above (AK) or below knee (BK) amputees, or both. In connection with the National Ability Center, these riders have come from Australia, Spain, Belgium and all over the US to train and compete with Team Utah.
As one of the first and longest running adaptive snowboard teams in the world, Team Utah and the National Ability Center’s snowboard program is world class, and so are its athletes. Coach Todd Johnson said, “We travel to most US World Cup events. Our current schedule has a World Cup in Colorado then Canada then back to Colorado after the Sochi Games where Team Utah should have quite the Paralypic representation.” In addition to these competitions, coach Travis Thiele will be accompanying several athletes to a World Cup competition in Spain.
National team members and hopefuls include Nicole Roundy (AK), Cristina Albert (BK), Megan Harmon (AK), Lucas Grossi (BK), Dan Monzo (BK), Tyler Burdick (BK) and Joe Chandler (arm).
In addition to the strong US showing, several Team Utah members are training to ride for their home countries: Denis Colle (BK, Belgium), Aitor Puertas (AK, Spain), Ben Tudhope (CP, Australia) and Damien Thomlinson (AK and BK, Australia).
While managing snowboard equipment as well as a prosthetic may sound challenging, these riders do it with ease, and speed. The team’s focus is boarder cross and coaches Stu Rea, Todd Johnson, Adi Smith and Travis Thiele have a lot to take pride in with these amazing boarders.
At the end of my time riding with the adaptive team, I had the privilege of meeting Brian Bartlett, an amputee and extreme skier himself, who now spends his time designing sports prostheses through Leftside Industries, Inc. It was fascinating to see how a sports prosthetic worked, and made me all the more impressed with these athletes.
After riding with Team Utah’s Adaptive Chapter I have no doubt these riders will be a force to be reckoned with at competition time. I’m sure of this – missing a limb doesn’t mean you’re missing speed. These riders can rip!
Susan Strayer is a writer, outdoor blogger and wanna-be pro snowboarder. Read more at www.mountainmomandtots.com.