19-year-old halfpipe snowboarder Zoe Kalapos will compete at Burton U.S. Open
February 18, 2017
VAIL — When the Burton U.S. Open rolls into town on Monday, Feb. 27, one of the locals to look for will be 19-year-old Zoe Kalapos. And if she looks familiar, then it may be because you recognize her from a little television commercial for Subaru and National Geographic, set to air this month.
Kalapos moved to Vail six years ago to join Ski & Snowboard Club Vail with her younger brother, 16-year-old Ian. It was quite a sacrifice for their family, with dad coming to Colorado with the kids and mom staying back in Michigan working to support the move.
"She would fly out and visit us on the weekends," Kalapos said. "It was hard."
It was the only option in progressing the kids' careers, though, as they were winning all of the events they were entering back in Michigan.
After a few years in Vail, Kalapos made the U.S. Snowboarding Rookie Team and started to take things to the next level. Then she blew out her knee.
Beginnings and endings
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"I hurt it really bad going too big and landing in the flat bottom of the pipe," she said. "I had to miss a year and a half of competition."
During the break Kalapos graduated from high school at Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy, was accepted to college at Westminster in Utah and received microfracture surgery from Dr. Tom Hackett at The Steadman Clinic in Vail. She came back strong, making her first appearance at the Rev Tour in Copper in 2015 and winning the next Revolution Tour event in Mammoth in 2016.
"My knee feels really strong now," she said. "When I first came back, the confidence and mental side of it was a much bigger issue than the actual snowboarding. Girls I was beating before I was injured were now beating me. It was hard to overcome but lately I've been getting better with it."
A reunion amongst competitions
She went on to make finals at two Grand Prix events, which represents the highest level of competition on the national circuit and received her first-ever invite to the Burton U.S. Open last year.
This year, after five years of the family living apart, Kalapos's mom was finally able to move out to Vail and rejoin the family full time.
"We haven't all lived together in a long time, it's so nice being back together," Kalapos said.
While Kalapos's main focus is always snowboarding, she's more focused on the individual elements of her riding than obtaining specific competition results.
"I want to start linking a lot more tricks in the halfpipe — frontside and backside, Cab and switchback — and adding more spins or an invert," she said.
Of course, as her snowboarding focus becomes more consumed with the halfpipe, she occasionally longs for those days of free-riding with Ski & Snowboard Club Vail.
"I think I used to be a better all-around rider when I was in the club, because now with the U.S. Team I ride solely with pipe kids so we're super focused on pipe," she said. "But my pipe riding has definitely progressed."
To the younger kids trying to balance it all out, she offers a single piece of advice.
"It's easy to get caught up in results and what other people are doing, but if you focus on everyone else you can't do your personal best," Kalapos said. "Don't take things too seriously."
Look for Kalapos here in Vail at the U.S. Open halfpipe qualifiers on March 2.