MOUNT BACHELOR —
Some children caught plenty of air as they sliced through the halfpipe carved into the slope of Mount Bachelor on Saturday, while some needed coaches and parents to fasten their mittens and secure their goggles before dropping into the pipe. Some fit into both categories.
That is just how things go at the Central Oregon USASA Halfpipe series, a laid-back affair where snowboarders and free skiers as young as six can get a taste of competition. After all, even the most daring competitors have to start somewhere.
“(I’ve been snowboarding) since I was two, so this is my 12th year,” Cody Collins, 14 and of Bend, said between runs Saturday, the second day of USASA halfpipe competitions at Mount Bachelor this season. “(I’ve done halfpipe) ever since I really could, since I had enough skills to go onto an edge and go up each wall.”
Many of the competitors at Saturday’s event train with the Mount Bachelor Sports Education Foundation and have experience with a number of disciplines, including slopestyle, rail jam and (for the skiers) ski cross.
“Halfpipe is definitely a more friendly, jam-type (event), while slopestyle is really serious,” Collins explained. “There’s no one on the sides, there’s no one cheering. But here you have friends on the side of the walls. It’s a great community and a great time.”
Skiers and snowboarders get two runs per competition, and a panel of judges assess each ride based on amplitude (how high the competitor reaches on the wall), style, difficulty and variety of tricks to award a score out of 100. The judges’ scores are averaged, and each competitor is ranked within their age division based on the better-scoring of their two runs.
While teenagers tended to break out bigger and more complicated tricks, MBSEF snowboard competition coach Sarah Scagliotti said younger competitors can be just as impressive if they have enough experience.
“I think the biggest part is confidence, especially with the halfpipe,” Scagliotti said. “We don’t have a halfpipe all season to practice with, so a lot of the kids are pretty new to it when we actually do halfpipe competitions. The more you do, the more comfortable you get with the flow and how fast you need to go to get up higher and higher on the walls. There is definitely strategy in where you set your line down the pipe in order to get more speed.”
Scagliotti said she has noticed a large increase in the number of children taking up freestyle skiing in the past few years (Saturday’s field of 50 or so competitors was split fairly evenly between skiers and snowboarders).
“There was a big snowboard trend a few years ago, and that was the cool thing to do, and now it’s swinging back over to skiing,” Scagliotti said. “A lot of it has to do with what their friends are doing and what their parents are doing and what they feel good on.
“But skiing is growing, especially freestyle skiing. Snowboarding was cool because you could do freestyle snowboarding. But once they started realizing they can do the same thing on skis, skiing started to grow, and it’s continuing to grow in the freestyle world.”
Freestyle skiers Hannah Johnson and Annika Paz, both 14 and from Bend, agreed that their parents’ familiarity with skiing played a large role when they decided what sport they would take up.
“My family has always skied, and I think skiing fit my personality more,” Johnson said. “I just feel a little more free with it and capable of doing stuff.”
“My parents met in Vale skiing, so I’ve always been a ski baby, and my parents are kind of against snowboarding,” chimed in Paz.
Johnson and Paz said they are working on improving their form in competition, but the mental challenge of accomplishing a new trick can be as difficult as the physical movements.
“There are days when you’re like, oh, I’m going to go out and try a 360, but that little devil on your shoulder won’t let you,” Johnson said. “But the thing you have to realize is that it will happen eventually, you just have to be patient.”
For Collins, one of the best things about the sport of snowboarding is how different it is from most other sports.
“I like the freedom and how fun it is. With winter sports in general, I train with some of my friends, and we just ride around — there’s no designated rules you have to follow when you’re just riding,” Collins said. “You have this whole, open area to do what you want and try new things instead of sticking to one field.”