Aspen snowboarder invited to Swiss park session |

Aspen snowboarder invited to Swiss park session

Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club athlete Jake Canter competes two weeks ago at the Woodward Copper Rail Jam. Canter, 13, was invited to a special park session in Saas Fee, Switzerland, this week.

Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club athlete Jake Canter had never been to Switzerland. In fact, the seventh grader had never been to Europe at all.

This week, that all changed. Canter, 13, a resident of Summit County who trains three to four days a week with AVSC, was given an opportunity that could do more than simply broaden his cultural horizons, it could be a stepping stone to his burgeoning snowboard career.

"I'm so excited. I don't have really any words for it," Canter said last week before heading to the airport. "Riding with most of my idols and learning new tricks — that's the goal. I just want to have fun and work on tricks and get them down before the crazy contest season."

Canter was one of 30 athletes invited to participate in "The Stomping Grounds" park session, held Monday to Oct. 22 in Saas Fee, Switzerland. While not an actual competition, it was meant to bring together some of the best big air and slopestyle athletes in the world to train on a course built by terrain park savants Charles Beckinsale and Brandon Dodds.

Of the 30 athletes attending, almost all are 2018 Winter Olympic hopefuls. Some, like Canadian Mark McMorris, have already been to the sports biggest stage. So for someone like Canter, who is nearly three years younger than the next youngest athlete invited, it's a pretty big deal.

His invite came partially through his recent success in competition and through his agent, Denver-based Jason "Ninja Jay" Isaacs.

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"It's a pressure-free environment for him to get on snow and be pushed by professional-level athletes to make sure that's really the route he wants to go," said AVSC snowboard coach Nichole Mason, who traveled to Saas Fee with Canter. "He's got the natural talent. He's got the drive. He's got the passion. He's got the work ethic. All of those pieces are sort of falling into place, and with him being as young as he is, we are just trying to find that balance, keep it fun and develop that deep love and passion for the sport."

Much of the next few years will be spent finding the right discipline for Canter. Mason said he's gravitated toward the half-pipe in recent years but is coming into his own with big-air jumps and rails. The chance to spend time with elite athletes on a premier slopestyle course this week and next in Saas Fee is sure to help make sense of that process.

"The plan that we have for him right now involves both slopestyle and half-pipe. We are not necessarily putting a lot of pressure on him, just sort of letting him explore his options and see where it takes him," Mason said. "He definitely has some time. We are very much still in a developmental stage with him and providing him opportunities to see what that next level is and what it's going to take to get there."

Canter, who also is a talented skateboarder, has a busy winter competition schedule planned out. His time in Saas Fee is simply a way to get a jumpstart on the winter season. This winter, two of the four total 2018 Winter Olympic qualifying events will be held, and getting to South Korea is at least in the back of Canter's mind.

"Doing the best I can," Canter said of his goals this year. "Last year I broke my arm before the U.S. Open, which was a bummer. So, hopefully, I really want to do super well at the U.S. Open, but I'll just be happy to be there again, instead of being broken."