Aspen’s Chris Klug letting it ride | AspenTimes.com

Aspen’s Chris Klug letting it ride

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Copper Mtn Race To The Cup 11-19-08
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ASPEN ” Chris Klug stepped off a bus near Sardy Field at 3 a.m. on Dec. 22, exhausted after a lengthy flight from Switzerland and subsequent shuttle ride from Denver. As he negotiated four-foot snow drifts in clogs and dress pants on his way to the North Forty, the professional snowboarder couldn’t help but smile.

His misplaced luggage was an afterthought.

It was good to be home.

In the week that followed, Klug reveled in powder and visited his favorite haunts on local mountains. He celebrated the holiday with friends and family, among them his wife of two years, Missy. He regrouped and recharged.

Time flew. It always does at home.

Now is the time that Klug usually dreads. Leaving family and friends. Spending months on end away from his beloved Aspen. Coping with the hassles of international travel.

Something was different this year, however. As he prepared for his return to Europe to compete on the World Cup circuit (he flew to Munich, Germany, on Friday and is slated to race in Kreischberg, Austria, on Monday and Tuesday) he experienced little, if any, of the typical apprehension and grief.

In truth, Klug said Friday in a telephone call from Austria, he was unexpectedly excited.

“I usually have such a hard time getting on that plane, especially heading to Europe,” he added. “I tell you, I was so fired up to come here and race.

“Maybe it’s because I’m riding so well. I trained hard in New Zealand and Oregon and am riding great … Second, probably, I’m starting to reach the twilight of my competitive snowboarding career. I’m really cherishing these last few years.”

This season is Klug’s 18th on the competitive circuit. He still remembers racing for the first time, on a board with no metal edges and a leash attached from the toe to his forearm.

“It seems like I started my career just the other day,” he said. “It sure has gone by fast.”

So fast in fact that Klug, a rider so used to charging and so used to overcoming obstacles, now openly ponders slowing down for good.

Don’t expect him to reach that finish line just yet, however.

“You know what? I still love doing it, and that’s the reason I’m still out there,” he said. “I still love racing. I love the whole scene and competing alongside the best riders in the world.

“I feel as good as I did when I started. I’m excited about getting in the start gate, grabbing those start handles and going for it.”

Following the 2006 season, Klug seriously considered walking away. He was newly engaged and preparing for a September wedding. Priorities were shifting.

He said he was tired of finishing in the middle of the pack. He knew he needed to either evolve or retire.

“I had to take a look in the mirror and see if I wanted to retire,” he said. “I competed a long time and had great successes. Being in the middle of the pack and not constantly knocking on the door of the finals is not where I want to be.

“It’s a long grind at times. You’ve got to enjoy it. Life’s too short ” I certainly realized that with the liver transplant. … I wasn’t ready to step away.”

Klug made the decision to undergo a complete equipment overhaul and refine his technique, knowing full well that such drastic changes would take time to pay off.

He bided his time in 2007, then had a breakout performance in 2008. Klug won the NorAm overall title after finishing second and third in parallel giant slalom and slalom, respectively, at March’s NorAm events at Mount Hood Meadows in Oregon.

The success continued earlier this fall. Klug took seventh in a PGS at Copper Mountain, which featured 10 of the World Cup circuit’s top 16 riders. Had he not spun out a few gates from the finish on his second run, Klug likely would’ve cracked the top five.

“I’d really love to climb on the podium this year,” Klug said. “I’d love to perform well at the World Championships. It may be my last time in Korea.”

While he’s eyeing the Far East, Klug also has his sights set on the Pacific Northwest. If all goes according to plan, he’ll be making a trip to Vancouver for the 2010 Olympics.

It would be the 2002 Olympic bronze medalist’s third trip to the Winter Games.

“I’m going to give it everything I’ve got, then we’ll see,” Klug said. “It would be cool for sure. It would be a great way to possibly end my competitive career. I’m focused on trying to get there, then I’ll do everything I can to ride fast.”

For the time being, Klug said he is enjoying the ride ” no matter where it takes him.

“I don’t know if I have one, two or three years left. All I know is I’m closer to the end than I am the beginning,” he added. “It’s still fun and still a challenge. … I’m 36 going on 16, so I still fit in just fine.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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