Brian Rice soars to new heights in Warren Miller film￼
The Copper-based snowboarder previously trained with Ski and Snowboard Club Vail and is a student with the Eagle County School District’s World Academy
Brian Rice has monumental goals. The primary one is to attend the 2026 Winter Games in Italy and become the first African American snowboarder to compete in the Olympics.
Over the past few years, as the 17-year-old professional snowboarder tracks toward this goal, he’s had a number of significant milestones, moves and achievements. This includes training with Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, moving to Copper Mountain from Detroit, competing in his first World Cup, earning a number of medals around the world in Big Air and Slopestyle events, and this year, becoming one of the featured athletes in Warren Miller’s 2022 feature film “Daymaker.”
Rice is currently a student with the Eagle County School District’s World Academy online school — making the switch from Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy this school year — and is on target to graduate this December. The switch, Rice said, allows him to travel, snowboard and “live my life and still get an education” due to the online curriculum and learning space.
Rice began snowboarding at age 5, taking his first runs in the ditch in his front yard, but quickly graduating to ride at Boyne Mountain in Michigan. He fell in love immediately, he said.
However, it wasn’t until age 11 when he had his first competition that he began to envision a future and career in the sport.
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“I remember the day,” Rice said. “I remember I didn’t do super well, but I remember I loved the combination between completion and snowboarding, which is something I had already fallen in love with, but when I put those two together, it just kind of clicked.”
After dominating the competition in Michigan across multiple snowboarding disciplines, Rice set his sights higher. He and his family first moved to Copper Mountain for 6 months in 2018 when he was 13 to compete in the USASA Rocky Mountain Series. It was also the same year that Rice joined the Jim Dandy Ski Club, the first U.S. Black ski club, and became supported by the National Brotherhood of Skiers Olympic Scholarship Fund.
Over the next few seasons, Rice began to travel the world to compete and establish himself in Colorado. Rice joined Ski and Snowboard Club Vail for the 2018-2019 season, living with a host family in Vail for the 2019-2020 season until the pandemic prematurely ended the season, and returning to Copper with his mom for the 2020-2021 season when he would train in his third and final season with SSCV’s elite full-time athlete program.
Today, Rice splits his time between Colorado and Michigan and trains as part of One Team LLC with Coach Nichole Mason. He kicked off the season with his World Cup debut in Chur, Switzerland, where he finished No. 24 overall at the FIS Big Air event. He is now sponsored by Copper Mountain as well as Burton and Monster.
Rice describes his own brand as “exhilarating” and rides as “Flyin’ Brian,” a nickname that describes his daredevil flip and spin style and was given by, surprisingly, his dentist who saw a picture of him “flying through the sky,” he said.
“To a lot of people, I’m special because of my skin color and they’re not wrong. But I feel like I’m more special because of the energy I have to offer, the excitement I have everywhere I go, and the smile that I put on other people’s faces,” Rice said. “Those are just some of the things that I think make me special as an individual.”
It was this energy that Rice believes made him the perfect candidate to participate in Warren Miller’s 73rd feature film.
As part of the film, “Daymaker” follows the National Brotherhood of Skiers annual summit — which in 2022 took place in Snowmass but is returning to Vail this year for its 50th anniversary — as well as emerging talent that the group supports, including Rice as well as riders Bryce Welch and Ava Keenan. This emerging talent is part of the group’s goal to place Black skiers and riders on the U.S. Team.
“I think Warren Miller was looking for a little bit more action or something in my ballpark,” Rice said. “So here I am, in a Warren Miller movie.”
The experience of filming his first movie, Rice said, was both shocking and “really special because I grew up watching those movies.”
The movie debuted earlier this fall and Rice said that getting to see the audience’s reaction to his riding and tricks for the first time was “really cool.”
“It’s definitely one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing,” he said. “When the audience sees me on the screen, it’s not what they’re used to seeing. When it goes from people skiing Chesapeake powder to me doing double and triple corks and real tricks and having a good time, it throws them off, but in a good way because I catch them by surprise.”
While “Daybreaker” can be streamed online with Outside+, a local screening of the film is taking place Saturday, Dec. 3, at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are on sale now at WarrenMiller.com.