Ryan Wachendorfer reflects on his final season as a rookie
SEE Him Fly
Who: Edwards halfpipe snowboarder Ryan Wachendorfer
Where: Copper Mountain
When: April 5
What: USASA National Championships
More info: USASA.ORG
VAIL — Ryan Wachendorfer knew 2016/17 was going to be a good season when he received his Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships invite in October.
Every other year, he’s had to wait until the last minute.
“I never had an official invitation, but I’d be the first one in the office begging for a spot,” he said with a laugh.
Back home in Eagle County this week after traveling to Spain for the World Championships, the 21-year-old has had a chance to reflect on this season, and the fact that he’s no longer a snowboarder who gets his Open invite at the last minute.
“It feels really good,” he said.
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Aside from that early invite, highlights this season for Wachendorfer included a second place finish at the Grand Prix World Cup in Mammoth in early February and a competition spot on the snowboarding team that traveled to the World Championships, where he made finals and finished ninth. Local shop Base Mountain Sports helped him get there.
“I’ve had so much help from sponsors helping me get to events, and my parents and coaches,” he said. “It’s definitely not easy.”
Wachendorfer moved to Edwards at a young age and started working with Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. He has spent the last decade or more taking road trips around Colorado and the U.S. with his father to attend competitions.
“It really started when I was 9, my dad was taking me to competitions every weekend,” he said.
Wachendorfer attended St. Claire of Assassi, Vail Mountain School, Stone Creek Charter School and Battle Mountain High School before settling on Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy. While there, he excelled in math.
“He was a top student in AP Calculus,” said principal Geoff Grimmer. “When he got accepted to Colorado School of Mines, that didn’t come as a surprise to me. That’s a place that really honors mathmatics aptitude.”
Wachendorfer graduated in 2014 and also made the U.S. Snowboarding Halfpipe Rookie Team that year. He decided to focus all his energy on snowboarding and credits the U.S. team atmosphere with much of his development.
“I definitely progress the most and learn the fastest and am most motivated to try new tricks when I see other people trying new stuff,” Wachendorfer said. “I think without the team environment, the progression of snowboarding would not be where it is today.”
While at the team headquarters in Park City, athletes are exposed to all facets of the U.S. Ski Team and U.S. Snowboarding. Wachendorfer said seeing the level of training for some of the athletes from other disciplines, like Alpine and Nordic skiing, has also been an unexpected source of motivation for him.
“Taking home workouts from alpine skiers is something completely different than what you would normally do, but it helps you branch out and try different stuff,” he said.
Grimmer says that attitude sums up Wachendorfer’s personality.
“Two of Ryan’s main qualities are he is humble and he is hard working,” Grimmer said. “And he had those qualities at age 16, which isn’t something you often see in classrooms.”
COPPER COMP APRIL 5
One of the most humbling experiences possible is standing on a podium next to Shaun White.
Wachendorfer got to feel what that is like earlier this season when he finished runner up to White and a few points ahead of Louie Vito to sandwich himself into second among those two giants of the sport. That was at the Grand Prix in Mammoth, where Wachendorfer also beat out Scotty James, who would go on to win X Games in Aspen and the Olympic test event in Korea, and Chase Josey, another regular on the podium.
“I was really at a loss for words,” Wachendorfer said. “But it was good just proving to yourself that you can do it.”
One of his goals was to get on the podium at a major event, which he did then. Another goal is to make the U.S. Snowboarding Halfpipe Pro Team, which he has to do this year as he will no longer be eligible for rookie team status next season. He’s working on a heavy run with six hits and four doubles, which he nearly landed at the U.S. Open.
With math on the mind, Wachendorfer says the tricks come together fine if you get enough air. To get enough air, he’s gone back to the basics a bit.
“I’ve been working on clean lines and carrying more speed through the whole run,” he said.
For those hoping to see the local compete one more time this season, Wachendorfer plans to enter the USASA National Championships at Copper Mountain on April 5.