Vail Valley teen defending his national snowboard title
COPPER, Colorado – By the time you read this, young Ryan Wachendorfer will be defending his national snowboarding title.
Ryan just turned 15, a tender age for a national champion.
He won the 2010 USASA National Snowboarding Championships at Copper Mountain. This year’s nationals run Monday and today.
And it’s been quite a year between Copper Mountain competitions.
Most weekends find him competing somewhere. January saw him at the Burton European Open Junior Jam in Laax, Switzerland, where knocked boards with the world’s best. He finished third.
He’s competed in the national championships for the past five years.
Each of those years he’s been ranked in the top five nationally in his age group.
That attracted the attention of the U.S. Olympic snowboard team.
Ryan has been targeted for his Olympic potential and is training with the U.S. Olympic snowboard team. That saw him in Mammoth last May, and Park City last October.
The nationals is a five-part competition: halfpipe, slopestyle, boardercross, slalom and giant slalom.
To win last year, Ryan was among the elite in all five disciplines. He also took the gold medal in the halfpipe.
Chuck Wachendorfer, Ryan’s dad, is chief operating officer of the Lennick Aberman Group. They help college and professional athletes, corporate executives and others improve their decision-making skills when they’re under pressure.
“I grew up in Boulder and the goal was to have my kids on skis early,” Chuck said.
Ryan was 3 years old when he strapped on his first set of skis. Almost immediately he displayed a tendency for independent thought.
“When he was 4 he told me skiing was for babies and old people,” Chuck recalled.
Fine, Chuck said. They’d try snowboarding.
So, Chuck walked his young son down to the Lionshead ski school to enroll him in a couple snowboard lessons. To his and Ryan’s dismay, they learned that kids couldn’t take snowboard lessons until they’re 7.
“But dad, you promised!” Ryan said, in a way that only young children can.
Frustrated and disappointed, they strolled through Lionshead trying to figure out what’s next.
They walked by One Track Mind and on a whim stopped in. There were three or four people working in the place and no other customers.
Chuck asked if anyone could teach his 4-year-old son to snowboard. One guy piped up and said he’d just taught his 3-year-old daughter, so 4 year old Ryan should be no problem.
After a quick investment of 25 bucks and a lift ticket, Ryan was getting his first lesson. He hasn’t slowed down since.
He was Level 9 when he was 7 years old, which means he was throwing tricks that defied physics. He wandered over to Ski and Snowboard Club Vail where came under Ben Boyd’s coaching. Right now, he trains with the International Snowboard Training Center out of Frisco. The lessons stuck.
He’s been sponsored by Nike since he was about 9 years old, and recently added Salomon, Bonfire and Smith to his sponsor list.
These days, he’s a freshman at Battle Mountain High School, where he’ll be missing a couple more classes.
“Battle Mountain has been very supportive in scheduling,” Chuck said.
They accommodate him one last time this season. The national championships began Monday at Copper Mountain.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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