The new year started off cold and snowy. I traveled to Mammoth Mountain in California with hopes of getting in some productive training. Unfortunately for me but fortunately for everyone else, Mother Nature kept the conditions very white which made training days few and far between for me, this was a huge disappointment but weather is a huge factor in my job as a professional snowboarder so I have learned to change my pace and adapt. The contest season is grueling and whether or not you are as prepared as you want to be the contests come at you quick. I’ve learned over the years to make the most of every opportunity to train because you never know when you will miss out on training because of weather and other factors beyond your control.
Even though I didn't get all of the training I wanted it was time to head to Copper for the first contest of the season. The Grand Prix is always an exciting event for me; I won the last three Grand Prixs and it’s an event that I always enjoy. This Grand Prix was especially unique because it was the first time in history that a snowboard contest was part of both the FIS and World Snowboard Tour. I have pushed hard for this and it feels really good to see times like this when snowboarding seems to be going in the right direction. Politics aside a contest is a contest and when it’s time to go to work I am in my element. The week started off okay, the course wasn't as dialed as we would have liked due to lack of snow but the crew at Copper did an amazing job with what they had and conditions improved throughout the first few days of practice.
When it came time for qualifiers I was prepared to compete and put down my runs. My first run was going really well until I went to the bottom of the landing on my BS 12 and had an awkward fall. I’ve been in that position many times before; it was going to come down to my second run to make it to the finals. This is a high-pressure situation because if you aren't in the finals then you don't have the opportunity to get on the podium. I have only missed the finals a few times in my career and that is not a fun place to be. Dropping in to my second run the pressure was on and I did a switchback 9 on the first jump, it wasn't quite right and I should have fallen but I held on because I had to. I went on to finish my run and I squeaked in to the finals. Earlier in my career I would have likely given up on the switchback 9 and not finished my run; it wasn't perfect, I dragged both hands and came really close to falling. My experience is what made me hold on and follow through with my run. I had the mental strength to finish strong because I knew that I had to in order to move on to the next round. After that I was on the bubble for about an hour and in the end I qualified for finals towards the back of the pack. I always feel very relieved after making it through to the finals. Often times the competition is harder during qualifiers and I have always put the most pressure on the preliminary rounds. I am happy just making it to the finals and whatever happens on finals day is what is meant to be.
On the morning of finals the Colorado weather was in full force – temperatures in the negatives, snow, wind… typical finals day weather. We had to wait till the end of the day to compete and conditions continued to deteriorate throughout the day. I always make sure to be prepared for any conditions and this day was no different. I was able to put down both of the runs that I had planned to regardless of the conditions and take home the victory. This was my day and I was able to take home the win for the U.S. at the first Olympic qualifier which was an awesome feeling. Winning in your home country is always a great feeling and I am very happy to be starting off this winter strong for myself and for Team USA.
There is never much time to enjoy your victories when you are a professional snowboarder because you've got to get your bags packed and on to the next event. Next up is Stoneham, Canada for the second Olympic qualifier. I will be updating you all soon… Wish me luck!