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National Team Role Models Kept Tyler Divilio On Track In World Championships Debut

By Al Daniel | April 06, 2023, 3:40 p.m. (ET)

Tyler Divilio competes at the 2023 FIS Para Snowboard World Championships in La Molina, Spain. (Photo: Luc Percival)

“Glad you’re here,” Tyler Divilio heard from Noah Elliott as the U.S. Para snowboarding team assembled for the world championships last month in La Molina, Spain.


The feeling could not have been more mutual.


Though their classifications differ — with Elliott representing the LL1 division, Divilio the UL — Elliott’s presence in Spain for Divilio’s international debut represented a callback to their first meeting five years prior.


Building on their introduction at the 2018 Hartford Ski Spectacular in Breckenridge, Colorado, Divilio filled the time between events in La Molina by reviewing race lines and fielding advice from Elliott, a two-time U.S. Paralympian with two Paralympic medals to his name.


“I’ve been chasing around Noah for a couple of years,” Divilio said. “Nowhere near his level yet, but I would love to be there someday.”


Snowy days have always been a part of Divilio’s life. Growing up on Long Island, his devout-skier parents took Tyler and his brother on biweekly 12-hour round trips for weekends of wintry recreation in Killington, Vermont.


Divilio started dabbling in skiing at age 2, then converted to snowboarding at 5. He admits frustration affected him early on, cutting his first lesson short. But soon enough, a second try spawned an adventurous streak.


At age 10, Divilio relished a journey to Lake Tahoe, where loftier mountains and denser snowfall were more to his liking. Later on, the slopes of Whistler, British Columbia, one-upped Tahoe’s atmosphere.


Eventually Divilio would make a second home of those western peaks. If any moment marked the transition from a hobby with his family to a Paralympic dream, it was late in his Breckenridge outing when he and his father scaled an unprecedented 13,000 feet.


“Definitely one of the steepest terrains,” he said.


With Elliott and fellow Paralympians Brittani Coury and Michael Spivey in attendance, that trip also introduced Divilio to some of his sport’s top athletes. All three made their Paralympic debut in PyeongChang, with Elliott winning a gold and bronze medal, and Coury taking home a silver.


As a fellow UL snowboarder, Spivey was able to offer Divilio practical advice on pole handling and weightroom or dryland drills. Meanwhile Coury, a staple on the ultracompetitive Team Utah Snowboarding, told Divilio more about the training opportunities he could gain from moving farther west.


Divilio and his parents initially figured he would take to the familiarity of Vermont, but Coury’s persistent pitches convinced him to explore the University of Utah.


Sold by an online glimpse of Utah’s engineering major, he explored the college. Once he was accepted, his parents supported his long-distance move.


“They understand what I’m trying to do if I can’t come home sometimes,” said Divilio. “They understand that I’m training.”


Divilio wasted no time relishing the opportunity to learn from his peers. Because Team Utah Snowboarding merges its adaptive and able-bodied squads in practice, Divilio says, “I know there’s always going to be someone faster on the team.”


The since-retired Coury and three-time Paralympic gold medalist Brenna Huckaby — who moved to Utah from Louisiana during high school and has since won three Paralympic golds and, most recently, three medals in La Molina — set a straightforward example.


“If I can at least see them, then at least I’m getting faster,” said Divilio, who did not flinch or pout on day one with the club, even though his seasoned peers “were at the bottom before I could blink.”


“Hopefully one day,” he added, “I’ll be able to keep up with them the whole time.”


In the meantime, following his world championships debut in Spain, his eagerness to get better continues. Through video and demonstration, fellow UL rider and two-time Paralympian Mike Minor is counseling him on his pull from the gate.


“I’m just trying out a one-arm pull, but I definitely think the two-arm pull could be in my future,” he said.


Minor’s La Molina gold in the team slalom and silver in the dual banked slalom hint at where that could lead. As for Elliott, who won three medals there, Divilio had motivating words to return.


“I told him, hopefully, one day I’ll be able to chase him around the mountain and freeride with him,” Divilio said.

Al Daniel

Al Daniel is a freelance features writer and contributor to USParaSnowboarding.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. You can follow him on Twitter @WriterAlDaniel.