Vail snowboarder Retzlaff wins USASA nationals in slopestyle
In snowboarding, a long road leading to different events and accomplishments takes top athletes through a world that can feel like an adventure fantasy at times.
This year, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athlete David Retzlaff had one of those fantasy seasons — participating in his first World Cup, his first Grand Prix, his first Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships and making finals in a video contest against some of the top names in the sport. On Thursday, Retzlaff added the accomplishment of a national championship title to the magic carpet ride he’s been enjoying.
“He’s been on fire,” said coach Ronnie Barr with the local club. “And the run he landed at nationals was amazing, one of his best ever.”
Retzlaff performed three different rotations on each of the course’s three jumps, going switch frontside or “cab” off the first jump, regular frontside off the second and regular backside off the third. He added another 180 degrees of rotation to each trick, going from a 900, to a 1080, to a 1260 to end the jump section, heading into the rails in the switch stance. A flawless barrage of tricks on the rails and his score, a 95, had topped the field.
The four-figure payout, in addition to the FIS points earned on the day, was enough to send Retzlaff into next season feeling ready to continue his trajectory into the top echelons of the sport.
But first he has to spend all summer in Michigan painting houses.
Such is the plight of the working-class competitor, who says his summer earnings, in addition to a little help from his parents (“Which I’m really lucky to have,” he adds), should be enough to keep him going next season.
With slopestyle snowboarding being the most competitive discipline of the sport, especially in the U.S. where the talent pool runs especially deep, Retzlaff can only hope to continue to up his rep and his FIS points enough to catch the attention of the U.S. Team, which provides resources to a select few athletes who are named to the national team each season.
“Hopefully I can keep getting Grand Prix and World Cup starts and keep proving myself for the next year,” Retzlaff said.
Retzlaff, 19, came to Colorado four years ago to join Ski & Snowboard Club Vail and pursue his dreams of becoming a competitive slopestyle snowboarder.
This season, Retzlaff became the first-ever slopestyle snowboarder from Vail’s program to compete in front of the hometown crowd at the Burton US Open in Vail, a dream come true moment. The season has been a whirlwind since then, in addition to competing in his first ever Grand Prix (the Grand Prix are U.S. Snowboarding’s “home events,” World-Cup level competitions held on U.S. snow each year) and winning USASA nationals, he has competed in a number of local rail jams and other events along the way, as well. On Friday, Retzlaff won the big air competition at the Silverthorne First Friday jam and next he heads to Mammoth Mountain in California for Holy Bowly, an annual event renowned by professional snowboarders for its inspiring atmosphere designed to promote creativity and smooth transition riding.
“I’m really looking forward to that, and then it’s back to Michigan the next day,” Retzlaff said.
This summer, Retzlaff will try to deviate from his normal grind of non-stop painting and cross fit to try to get back on his snowboard a little more often.
“I’m hoping to spend more summer days on my board than I ever have before,” he said. “If I can get out to Mammoth and Mount Hood for a couple of camps that are affordable I’m going to do it.”
As a final project, “I am looking for an outerwear sponsor,” he said. “So if I can find a way to highlight my season and what next season may have in store, I’m also going to try to work on that.”
However, in one more consideration of all that’s required these days to make it in the snowboarding game, “I don’t know how much I’ll be able to get together, though,” he said with a laugh. “I was so busy on the road competing, I didn’t have time to film very much.”
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.