In the end, only six snowboarders were left standing at the American Association of Snowboard Instructors Team Tryouts: Rob Baker from Aleyska, Alaska; Shaun Cattanach from Stratton Mountain, Vermont; Gregg Davis from Breckenridge, Colorado; Mikey Franco from Jackson Hole, Wyoming; and Chad Frost and Earl Saline from Steven’s Pass, Washington.
But by late Monday night, even they seemed a little wobbly. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Last week, more than 50 snowboarders from all over the country made the scenic drive up Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon to Snowbird for the first open tryouts in the AASI’s history.
The organization’s goal was to winnow the field down to the six snowboarders who had the riding skills of Terje, the charisma and humor of Letterman, Churchill’s strength of leadership, and the patience of my fourth grade math teacher. Plus, they had to be AASI Level III Certified and they had to know — without a doubt — just how long ten minutes is.
It was a tall order, and no one met every criteria, but after the field was narrowed to fourteen nothing but strong candidates remained, said Team Coach Randy Price.
The team would serve a four-year term where they would individually visit at least 30 resorts each season and convey a message of progressive snowboarding to the instructors and staff. The team members are, in essence, the instructors of the instructors, and their influence could percolate throughout North American resorts. Plus, they would liaise with the snowboard industry and once and for all dispel the myth that the AASI was a bunch of hard-booted trench diggers.
A fast-moving storm front kept things interesting on Sunday, the final day of the tryouts, and a spectrum of conditions had to be dealt with. From the top of the Little Cloud double, candidates faced low-visibility, windy conditions and icy, choppy, dust-on-crust snow, followed by 500 vert of soft-serve turns. By the time they got to the top of the Gadzoom High Speed Quad, things got really interesting in the rock-studded Slurpee zone where the falling snow turned to hail and wax made all the difference in the world. Swampy; the resort closed for the season the next day.
Sunday night the snowboard, Alpine, and Nordic teams were announced in a rather tense and drama-filled quarter hour. The winners went off to dinner to carouse and strategize. The losers, mostly quiet, drifted away and disappeared.
“Each of the six members stand out in different ways,” said Brain Spear, one of the selectors, after the roster announcement. “This is the first time the selection process was a matter of finding the best of the best. And I think this group will allow us to present a modern image of snowboarding to both the instructors around the country and to companies in the snowboard industry. Plus, each rider is forward looking and incredibly talented, and yet they’re still in the prime of their riding career and are willing and able to take their snowboarding in new directions.
“It wasn’t easy choosing,” continues Spear. “We the selectors didn’t have to argue, but it was a serious discussion where we looked at all aspects of each candidate. I’m satisfied that we got the best team possible.”
Team members will have four years to get to know each other better, but the process was well underway by the time Monday night slipped into Tuesday morning. Walla-Balla, dollar dives, wrestling, and Jäger; the spirit of the AASI Snowboard team lives on with new faces.