U.S. Paralympics Sno... Features Alex Tuttle Brings U...

Alex Tuttle Brings Unique Perspective As Coach

By Sheridan Powell | Oct. 09, 2020, 5:14 p.m. (ET)

Alex Tuttle takes a training run during FIS Snowboardcross World Cup Qualifications on December 18, 2009 in Telluride, Colorado.

Coach Alex Tuttle’s first introduction to snowboarding came at a young age. His mom had a job at the local mountain, which meant he got a free season pass as part of her employee benefits. And while no one else in his family skis or snowboards, Tuttle couldn’t get enough of it. 

Tuttle competed all throughout high school, and went on to be a member of the U.S. National Snowboarding Team for border cross. He competed on the X Games and World Cup circuits, earning a silver medal at the 2014 X Games in Aspen. 

“I raced for four or five good years,” Tuttle explained. “But injury kind of ended up taking me out of that.” 

And that’s when Tuttle made his transition from competing to coaching. He wasn’t a stranger to coaching, however. 

“I always had an interest and a passion to coach, so even while I was a competitor I would volunteer at home to coach the weekend program,” he said. “It was always a way to keep my own competitive passion going, because working with kids - their emotions are so raw and you can feel their energy. When they’re genuinely excited to snowboard everyday, it rubs off on you. It was definitely a positive for me in a lot of ways.” 

Tuttle’s first gig came at the Carrabassett Valley Academy in Maine, where he first worked as the head border cross coach and eventually transitioned into the program manager position. That’s where he was before accepting a coaching role with Team USA, working with the U.S. Paralympic Snowboarding team. 

The stories behind the scenes make the accomplishments all the more compelling

He admitted that although he was super excited to start, there was a learning curve when transitioning from the Olympic to Paralympic world. 

“It took me a while to put my finger on it exactly, but I think the biggest piece is the problem solving aspect. Coming from the able-bodied world as both an athlete and a coach, diagnosing problems was a lot easier. Or if I’m trying to teach a skill, I can expect every athlete to be able to perform it the way I show them,” Tuttle explained. “But with Para athletes, I might have five different impairments in a group that have five different limiting factors to the skill we’re trying to teach.” 

He explained that it’s really pushed him to do deep dives into equipment and mechanics, often getting creative with solutions to problems or methods of teaching. While the end result is often the same, the path to learning and mastering a skill might be completely different each time. 

However, that emphasis on flexibility and creative approaches has worked in Tuttle’s favor in regards to the postponement of the Games and cancellation of competitions. Tuttle emphasized the importance of athletes remaining flexible and diligent in their training, however that may look. 

“My outlook on it has been the same since the start: It’s an opportunity for us to grow as athletes in a way that we probably never would have been able to otherwise. The teams that navigate this the best are going to have the best success,” Tuttle explained. 

“We may not be able to train in the traditional way, we may not be able to compete on the same schedule we’re used to, but that doesn’t mean our athletics have to take a pause. This is a golden opportunity to make sure that our other skills and habits are fully developed so that when we do get back to the snow, we’re able to move forward and not really miss a beat.” 

In addition to his dedication to coaching with Team USA, Tuttle has also been working closely with a company in Maine to learn more about custom and adaptive boards. A relationship that first began when coaching at CVA, Tuttle has collaborated with the company to test boards, research adaptations and deliver that information to athletes. 

“We recognize that a Paralympic athlete doesn’t necessarily need a board that’s the exact same build as one an able-bodied athlete buys. Their bodies move differently, their leverage points are different and how they ride is different,” Tuttle said. 

While Tuttle brings creativity and a new outlook to the team, he admits that the experience has helped him to grow as well. 

“What really brought me over from coaching in the able-bodied world was watching these athletes overcome their own challenges to achieve these amazing results. It’s really inspiring in a lot of different ways,” he said. 

“There’s so many ways that these athletes arrive to the Paralympic world, each story is so unique. What they’ve gone through is so unique - whether it’s cancer or an industrial accident or something they were born with. The stories behind the scenes make the accomplishments all the more compelling.”