Riders run gates at USASA’s first event of year | AspenTimes.com

Riders run gates at USASA’s first event of year

AVSC staff report

It was the perfect day for a competition. Balmy December temperatures, a cloudless sky and more than two dozen friends and friendly rivals gathered for the first event of the season in the Aspen/Snowmass USASA series.

Snowboarders ages 8 all the way to 50-something hit the gates Dec. 15 for a pair of two-run giant slaloms in Snowmass' Spider Sabich Race Arena.

Firm, but not icy, snow provided a great track that remained fair for all starters, a field size that will pale in comparison to races later this season.

"We really encourage younger kids to do all the disciplines. It makes for a well-rounded snowboarder," said Tyler Lindsay, AVSC's Snowboard Program director. "As they get older, they start to specialize a little bit more."

While the vast majority — Lindsay estimated about 90 percent — eventually will choose freestyle, there's still interest in gate running, even though it may seem antithetical to the sport.

But there's a role model in our midst.

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Aspen's Chris Klug was the winner of the bronze medal in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

His courageous runs came just 18 months after he received a liver transplant.

On Sunday, at this first local competition of the 18-event series, the focus was as much on fun as it was form.

"It's not about winning. It's about camaraderie," said Brian Connelly, who stood on the side of the course with his wife, Lise Adams, to cheer on their 11-year-old son Sean.

One of the beautiful things about USASA — United States of America Snowboard Series — is that it offers so many regional events that athletes need not travel to in order to take part in high-level races. (And in spite of its name, the series also has freeskiing categories.)

"It's extremely important to have competitive offerings at home. It allows kids to experience competition on a regular basis without having to spend a ton of money on travel, lodging, lift tickets and everything else that goes with it," Lindsay said.

Across the country, 34 different series feed athletes into the USASA Nationals, which last year attracted about 2,500 skiers and riders to the finals at Copper Mountain.

Based on Sunday's results, MJ Mirano, of Woody Creek, qualified for nationals because of his double-gold win in the men's 12-13-year-old division.

Isabella Borenstein was another double winner.

Full results were not available by press time but should be posted soon. Go to http://www.aspen usasa.com. There you'll also find information about the rest of the USASA series.