Snowboard club uses skateboarding tools to train in off-season |

Snowboard club uses skateboarding tools to train in off-season

Connor Schlegel, front, and Logan Hill get their first taste of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail's new pump track in Minturn. The snowboard cross athletes say the skills building feature offers an intense workout that also prepares them for a typical snowboard cross course.
John LaConte |

With a good push out of the starting gate, and good pumping skill, a skilled snowboarder can find success in the sport of snowboard cross.

Pumping skill, the ability to use gravity to carry momentum over bumps, is a concept that has led to the creation of new parks around the globe in recent years.

EagleVail opened a small pump track for bikes in 2015, and Eagle opened a large one in 2016. The new Minturn bike park contains a pump track, and the new Frisco skate park contains pumping features, as well.

But a true hard-surface pump track was not available in Eagle County, until recently, when Ski & Snowboard Club Vail invested in one for the athletes in their budding snowboard cross program.

“We’ve always used the Edwards skate park, which is great, but there really isn’t pumping features there,” said snowboard cross athlete Connor Schlegel. “It’s just rolling through the corners, and you also have a lot of people getting in the way, which is awesome, but makes it hard to use as a training tool.”

‘Get the holeshot and keep it’

Last week, Schlegel got his first turns on the club’s new pump track.

“It’s an awfully good training mechanism,” he said. “You can do 20 miles if you wanted, it would be 700 laps.”

Snowboard cross coach Phil Reynolds said the pump track, in combination with another idea he has to put a starting gate practice area near the Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy, will give his team an opportunity to better train in the off-season.

“We have a pretty good design coming together,” Reynolds said.

Snowboard cross athletes might not get on the mountain until mid December in Vail, “and that’s with some luck,” Reynolds said.

Practicing pumps and starts in the off-season can be crucial to having a good start once competition begins in the winter.

“If you can get the holeshot and keep it, you can win at this sport,” Reynolds said.

Budding program

With a goal of graduating athletes onto the U.S. Team, where they hope to make it to the 2022 Olympics, the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail snowboard cross program is nurturing a young crop of athletes.

Schlegel, who lives in Edwards with his grandparents, graduated from Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy in 2020 and qualified for the Youth Olympic Games last season, competing in Switzerland.

He will compete on the North America Cup this season along with Logan Hill, who also graduated from VSSA in 2020. Hill moved to Eagle County during his freshman year of high school, hoping to take his skills in snowboard cross to the next level.

“My dad moved out here with me, and my mom goes back and forth to work in Michigan,” Hill said. “I travel back and forth in the summer time, but in the winter I’m here full time.”

The group convinced 19-year-old snowboard cross athlete Cam Poklop to join the club this year, as well. Poklop is now living with Schlegel after moving from Massachusetts.

“There’s a chance at a U.S. Team spot, it’s a Hail Mary, but that’s what we’re aiming for,” Reynolds said.

Program director Chris Laske said the skateboard training tools give the athletes a good workout while also making that workout more fun.

Laske also installed a skateboard mini ramp in the Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy auditorium this summer.

“The ramps definitely help the kids stay interested in training the summer,” Laske said.

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