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For Love Of Snowboarding Peggy Martin Keeps Showing Up

By Bob Reinert | Nov. 17, 2020, 9:30 a.m. (ET)

Peggy Martin poses with her snowboard in front of the slopes. 

When it comes to achieving success in life, Peggy Martin has always been guided by one simple principle. 

“You know, I always thought if you don’t show up, nothing’s going to happen,” Martin explained. “So you’ve got to show up. ‘There’s a race today? OK, here I am.’”

Martin, now 56, has been showing up for more than three decades. It all began on that day in 1986 when she first saw a snowboarder streaking down the slopes at the Breckenridge Ski Resort in Colorado.

“I didn’t know what it was,” Martin recalled. “I started to see it more and more, and I just wanted to do that.”

Martin was working as a ski instructor at Copper Mountain then, but she had a broad athletic background that included volleyball, basketball, softball, baseball and — appropriately — skateboarding. She was certain she could handle snowboarding.

“The learning curve was a little harder than I was anticipating,” Martin said. “It actually made me angry. It’s very hard for me to become angry.

“This was kicking my butt. It just made me try harder and harder and figure it out and get better and better. That was my motivation.”

Martin continued to show up and never gave up. Soon, she was competing at the Copper Mountain and Rocky Mountains snowboard racing series. There were few women competing back then, and she achieved immediate success.

“Now it started to get bigger, like the next year or two,” Martin said. “Then I would compete against girls who had been racing a few years longer than I had. So I was trying to catch up with them.”

Her lack of experience wasn’t the only obstacle Martin had to overcome. While snowmobiling in northern Wisconsin in 1986, she was involved in an accident that resulted in nerve damage that left her without the use of her left arm. 

Still, Martin had no intention of leaving her athletic life behind.

“I mean, that’s just who I am,” Martin said. “It’s just part of my DNA makeup. But I was out of commission for a while. There was a lot of pain.”

Martin had been pursuing her pilot’s license and had hoped to make that her profession, but she needed two functioning arms for that.

“Now what?” she remembered asking herself.

She landed a job with Frontier Airlines at its Denver headquarters.

“I’m an air traffic dispatcher. We do the flight planning,” said Martin, who lives in Golden, Colorado. “My greatest fear in life was to sit at a desk for work. But I got to stay in aviation, so I’m happy about that.”

And Martin continued to snowboard. Among her career highlights was competing in the world championships at Breckenridge.

“I ended up fifth in the Super-G,” Martin said. “Let’s say 25 women competed, and I was fifth. I was the only one on the list without a sponsor.

“You’ve got to start at the bottom and work your way up. So that’s what I was doing.” 

If I can do it and be competitive, why not? Right now, I’m just having so much fun.

In local Colorado races, Martin — then in her mid to late 20s — noticed how the sport was changing. 

“I was racing against 14-year-old girls,” Martin said. “There’s always been a big gap in my age just because of the timing of how old I was when snowboarding began.”

That gap didn’t recede when she stumbled upon Para snowboarding while riding a chairlift at Copper Mountain. Looking down, she saw a snowboardcross course being ridden by Para athletes.

“I’m like, ‘What? Wait a minute,’” Martin said. “After my injury, I was never a part of the adaptive groups. I just lived my life like normal. I didn’t know anything about it.”

By the time she had found her way to Para snowboarding, Martin was in her early 50s. She participated in her first world cup event in 2017.

“It’s still real new to me,” said Martin, who was quickly accepted by her much younger competitors. “I don’t think or do anything like my age. I have a young mind. Pretty soon they forget how old I am.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Martin won a silver medal in the dual banked slalom at the world cup event in March at Hafjell, Norway. 

Despite racking up world cup points, Martin currently can’t compete at Paralympic Winter Games, where upper-limb snowboarders currently are ineligible. She may never get the chance.

“My window’s getting smaller and smaller, right?” Martin said. “The older I get, the smaller my window is. So I’ve got to take every chance I can to do what I can when I can, because pretty soon, I won’t be able to.”

Martin noted that some people probably wonder why she continues in the sport at her age.

“It’s just so much fun,” Martin said. “If I can do it and be competitive, why not? Right now, I’m just having so much fun.

“And my competitors and the group I’ve met through the para sports (are) amazing. I see some of these athletes — it’s amazing how well they do. It’s very inspiring.”

Bob Reinert

Bob Reinert spent 17 years writing sports for The Boston Globe. He also served as a sports information director at Saint Anselm College and Phillips Exeter Academy. He is a contributor to USParaSnowboarding.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.