Snowboarders Shift Focus Back To The Snow With Season Opener

By Brianna Tammaro | Nov. 16, 2016, 11 a.m. (ET)
Mike Minor returns to the snow after a strong rookie season with the U.S. team that culminated with a banked slalom world cup title in the men's SB-UL class.

After all the excitement this summer in Rio de Janeiro at the 2016 Paralympic Games, the world’s attention will turn back to the mountains as the U.S. Paralympics Snowboarding Team kicks off the winter season, Nov. 17-18, in Landgraaf, Netherlands with the world cup opener. The U.S. returns to the world cup circuit with banked slalom races as the team to beat, finishing the 2015-16 season as the top overall country and winning the Nations Cup. With all sights on the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, this season will set the stage for the ultimate race to PyeongChang. 

Before competition begins on Thursday, preview three of the storylines to follow for the 2016-17 snowboard season:

Returning talent: A familiar lineup of U.S. riders will return to build off a successful 2015-2016 season that crowned two world cup overall champions. Mike Minor (Waymart, Pennsylvania) and Nicole Roundy (Salt Lake City, Utah) will look to defend their world cup titles in the SB-UL and LL1 classes, respectively. 

Minor comes off a stellar rookie season on the snow, taking banked slalom victories in Landgraaf, Netherlands and Big White, British Columbia to capture his first crystal globe. He also added a snowboard-cross win in Les Angles, France, showcasing he’s a threat in both events as he heads into his second international season. Also highlighting the men’s side is Mike Shea (Castaic, California) who is the defending banked slalom world champion for the LL2 class and finished second in the world cup standings last season for both disciplines. 

Though she didn’t compete in the final leg of the season due to injury, Roundy was the lone American to win a snowboard-cross globe after wins in Les Angles and on home snow in Aspen. This season will see the return of rising star Brenna Huckaby (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), who took last season off to welcome her first child. After just two years of competing, Huckaby took home two medals at the 2015 IPC Snowboard World Championships, including gold in women’s LL1 snowboard-cross. 

Countdown to PyeongChang: As the one-year countdown to the 2018 Games kicks off in February, the path to PyeongChang will feature a few key milestones this season for U.S. athletes to prepare for what they could see next year in South Korea. Riders will ring in the new year in a big way at the 2017 world championships, racing for world titles in what will be the biggest competition before the Games. Two months later, the U.S. will get to try the snow in PyeongChang for the first time at the IPC Snowboard World Cup Finals in March, also serving as the Paralympic test event. 

New leadership: With a new season comes fresh faces as three new coaches will take the reins of the U.S. Paralympics Snowboard program led by head coach Patrick Holland. Holland, who competed on the world cup tour as a member of the U.S. Snowboarding Team, will be assisted by two-time U.S. Olympian Graham Watanabe and former Chinese Olympic coach Chris Clark. Though this is his first venture with Paralympic snowboarding, Holland is familiar with the world stage; he competed on the U.S. Snowboard National Team for five years and started in 31 world cup races.

Visit the IPC Snowboard website for full results from the world cup opener, Nov. 17-18, in Landgraaf.