Snowboarders ride at 2015 USASA Nationals |

Snowboarders ride at 2015 USASA Nationals

AVSC snowboarder Sean Connelly works his way through the finish line of the dual slalom at the 2015 USASA Nationals.
Team AVSC photo |

With a marksman’s precision, Johnny Weiss carved through the slalom course at Copper Mountain that was still crisp on this spring morning.

Before a large crowd of spectators assembled for the 2015 USASA Nationals, the 11-year-old snowboarder earned his second medal in two days.

This one was gold, leaving the AVSC athlete (one of 24 here at Copper this week), stunned and elated.

On opening day, Weiss, who is also an accomplished skateboarder, used some of those same skills to earn silver in giant slalom.

“I can’t believe he got a gold and a silver,” said his dad, Jason Weiss, who was part of a large family celebration Monday at the finish line.

Conditions were challenging to the riders as they navigated gates on the Copperopolis trail.

“It was icy. Dust on crust,” said 10-year-old Davis Cook, as he held tight to his shark-faced snowboard. Cook was 11th in the GS.

The medal count for AVSC athletes on just the second day of nationals had already matched the overall haul from last year.

The 2015 nationals started strong with Aiden Chmura winning a gold medal in slopestyle for the 14- 15-year-olds, said head snowboard coach Miah Wheeler.

“That’s one of the hardest age groups,” Wheeler said, noting that this year’s field had 69 athletes.

Early AVSC medals included Chris Brockman, who was gold in the pipe, and Jack Laderer with bronze.

Top 20 slopestyle results by Jake Orzech and Hunter Hill were also noted. The AVSC team here consists of 24 snowboarders.

Next to the dual slalom course where Weiss prevailed and within easy view of the chairlift riders was a giant slalom race that this year drew athletes from South Korea, Austria, Canada and the U.S. competing for prize money and FIS points.

The ante has also been upped at USASA nationals for other reasons. Snow conditions elsewhere have raised the profile of its boardercross races, which attracted elite riders from the Hole Shot Tour.

Competing Sunday against able-bodied athletes, AVSC Adaptive snowboarder Mike Shea narrowly missed the bracket of 32 for boardercross, but rode well nonetheless in his first NorAm level event, Wheeler said.

The rapidly growing event of banked slalom — which drew several Olympic medalists to last week’s contest at Buttermilk — is also generating a lot of buzz at nationals.

An exhibition contest will be staged Friday on Copper’s Lower Bittersweet run with strict entry criteria. Banked slalom’s inclusion in the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, is helping to generate much of this interest.

All week at nationals, and on other parts of the mountain and throughout the day, halfpipe, slopestyle and boardercross competitions take place for five groups divided by age. Rail jams rage most evenings from 7-9 p.m., a happy ending to what can be a long day for athletes.

That’s especially true for five-event riders like Isabella Borenstein, competing in the 14- 15-age group, who was fresh from having landed her “back 3” near the bottom of the pipe.

Waiting in line behind AVSC teammate Kelanii Scarpaci, Borenstein said she likes the drop-in to the 22-foot Copper pipe, “which is steep, so you can get more speed going into it.”

Coach Jason Cook is stationed at the boardercross course all week.

“I understand the lines and translate them for the kids,” he said.

The Copper Mountain boardercross course has similarities to the one AVSC coaches built at Snowmass this season (and which will be utilized Thursday and Friday for the IPCA boardercross nationals), including its turniness and the dry snow conditions.

Competition continues through Friday for the snowboarding portion of USASA Nationals, which (1,250 athletes) is touted as the world’s largest event of its kind. Riders and skiers qualified through regional series, including the Aspen/Snowmass series run by Cook.

Next week, it’s the freeskiers turn, and AVSC is expected to field a competitive team for many of the same events.

Freeriding and freeskiing are the focus of today’s “Weekly with Walt” on GrassRoots TV, which airs April 1 upvalley at 7 p.m. on channel 12 and on channel 82 below Catherine’s Store.

The program is repeated throughout the week or is available online anytime by going to

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