Extreme snowboarders are wimps in my book. If you want a real challenge, mental and physical, try matching up with a grade-school kid on the slopes for a week.
Five days of Alpine racing, boardercross, slopestyle, and halfpipe events nearly killed me–and not once did I put on a numbered bib. My task was to keep up with my six-year-old son John at the 1999 USASA Nationals in Telluride.
The Nationals were a step into the past for me–back to the 60s and 70s, to a youth spent ski racing–a passion eventually leading to a spot on the U.S. Ski Team. But the best memories are of family and friends, the camaraderie of ski competitions organized by volunteers, most of them parents.
It's funny that the “new” sport of snowboarding best resembles the “old” format I remember–absolutely everyone of all ages welcome, check your attitude at the door.
At one point, John got bored and wandered into the start area of the Open (expert) Class boardercross race to get a better view, but no one blew a fuse. An official did ask him to step back so the gate wouldn't hit him. Officials and racers alike ignored the curious kindergartner, letting him enjoy the best seat in the house–just inches away from the big guys, his heroes. No one got uptight and yelled or cussed him out.
I hope it's a lesson John remembers fifteen years from now when a little kid with a runny nose wanders into his start area. I also hope the USASA Championships are still the same when that day comes–I'll be the creaky old sucker dragging up the rear of the Kahuna class (ages 50 to 60).