Vail Daily column: Excitement builds around snowboarding
Since its inception, snowboarding has gone from a fringe counterculture sport to an Olympic mainstay as one of the most popular spectator events. It provides a spectacular display of athleticism, requiring as much skill, conditioning, determination and grit as any winter Olympic sport. In 2002 snowboarding joined Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s list of competitive snow sports as a full time offering, changing the name of the organization from Ski Club Vail to Ski & Snowboard Club Vail.
Fast forward to 2013 when three current SSCV snowboard athletes and one alumna competed in the Sochi Olympics, with SSCV athletes Kaitlyn Farrington and Ayumu Hirano taking home gold and silver, respectively, in halfpipe. In 2014, SSCV was named the USSA Snowboard Club of the Year and one of our coaches was named USSA Domestic Coach of the Year.
The Future is bright
In keeping with SSCV’s motto, “For the kids,” and in addition to the SSCV snowboard team’s recent unprecedented accomplishments, snowboarding continues to evolve in support of the community’s pool of talented athletes, from the one-, two- and three-day-a-week, six-year-old Mini-Shredders to the full-time high school athletes in halfpipe, slopestyle, boardercross and racing.
Chris Laske was appointed this summer to the position of snowboard program director at SSCV.
A native of Michigan, Laske grew up wakeboarding, snowboarding and skateboarding. In 1997, he began his coaching career in snowboarding and wakeboarding, sports which are very synergistic in nature. As a competitor, Laske won pro national titles, and as a member of the USA World Wakeboard Pro Tour he took home gold, ranking among the top 30 in the world.
His passions eventually brought him back to full-time coaching. He started a wakeboard school and continued coaching snowboarding in the winter. Laske has cultivated world-class wakeboarders and world-class snowboarders. Many of Laske’s athletes crossed over between these two sports with the seasons. Trampoline training has also been an important part of his programming in both disciplines. Ski & Snowboard Club Vail is privileged to have Laske working with the next generation of snowboarders in the Vail Valley.
Laske’s team is complemented by veteran SSCV Head Snowboard Coach Brady McNeill, who just celebrated his 12th year at SSCV, coaching from development to Olympic level athletes. Not only does SSCV Snowboarding have the longtime expertise of Brady, but SSCV is also thrilled to have former U.S. Snowboard Team member Brooke Shaw join the staff as a boadercross/race coach with halfpipe experience, along with Pat Markiewicz, longtime snowboard coach and colleague of Laske’s from Michigan. Pat’s main priority will be working with the younger full-time athletes mid-week and overseeing the part-time/weekend development level athletes.
Next generation highlights
Two athletes come to mind in the next generation of SSCV snowboarders for their athletic and academic commitment and the leadership roles they play on the team: Jack Coyne and Dylan Okurowski. Both Coyne and Okurowski have come up through the ranks at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, Coyne a longtime local and Okurowski a transplant from New England four years ago. Both SSCV full-time athletes, Coyne is an eighth grader and Okurowski a ninth grader at Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy. Both boys are leaders in the SSCV Snowboard Team.
Coyne has grown up in our program learning how to balance academics with sports and training. He has become a true leader on the team and a great example of what is possible when you commit to your passion. Coyne pre-qualified for the Rev Tour for the upcoming season in halfpipe and slopestyle from his results at last season’s USASA Nationals. It was at nationals that Coyne was able to prove that he is one of the best teenage boys in the country, taking first in slopestyle and second in halfpipe in his age group (12-13 Breaker Boys). Coyne has a great attitude and strong work ethic and is also a talented skateboarder.
Okurowski has been part of SSCV for four years having moved here from Massachusetts. The coaches have seen him grow a great deal in his four years with the program, both on and off snow. He holds a 4.0 GPA and leads the team in commitment in the gym and in on-snow progressions. He was the USASA Rocky Mountain Series winner for slopestyle and rail jam in the most competitive USASA series in the nation. He has also pre-qualified for the Rev Tour this season by finishing top thirty in the overall Rev Tour standings last year, his first year competing in Rev Tour.
I am excited to watch the talented young group of Snowboard athletes develop to their full potential as snowboarders and young men and women under the leadership of Laske and his caring staff. From groms to Olympians, SSCV emphasizes our core values of character, courage and commitment leveraging sport to learn life values.