Imagine this: Grasping two 4x4-inch posts buried in the snow to sling yourself onto the course in the early days of the Rocky Mountain Series boardercross races. There was nothing else newfangled about it: It was a simple racing starting gate.In 2005, the series inherited the Gravity Games gate which served well until skiercross arrived. Skis - longer than snowboards - compromised the start. The ski tip pressured the gate, causing it to bind. The "surprise" start was impossible. "Skier participation is growing annually and is about 40 percent of the USASA membership," said Paul Krahulec, regional series director. "When the skiers showed up, wanted to race boardercross, compete in pipe and slopestyle, we took them in. At first only a handful - now half of the field in freestyle contests are skiers. Wild, huh?"Today, the evolution continues, as the series now uses an Olympic gate - the same gate that will appear at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. It came from Germany's Settele, who delivered the gate on the most appropriate day - Christmas Day - in time for it to be used in the January camps and races. "We set our sights on purchasing the same gates that will be used at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi. ... All we needed to do was raise $18,000 to pay for it. I figured it would take a year to raise the funds. We started fundraising online - and to date more than 70 percent of the total has been raised," Krahulec said, adding that the gate was shipped in advance thanks to a down payment. To complete the total, Colorado businesses and athletes have contributed. Still, $5,000 remains, and the series is seeking additional donations.Donek Snowboards, a U.S. board manufacturer, donated money, as did many of the elite athletes from the International Snowboard Training Center (ISTC). In part, Donek wants to help, and in part, its presence can encourage American athletes to get back on U.S.-made products. Vista Jeep in Silverthorne is another high-level sponsor, providing the series with a 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Compass Signs donated labor to add sponsor logos to the vehicle. The Rocky Mountain Series produces title athletes annually. Out of 166 medals awarded at the 2012 national championships, Rocky Mountain athletes earned 93. Dozens of professionals have started their careers in the series - like Arielle Gold of Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, who took bronze at the Winter X Games superpipe and gold at the World Halfpipe Championships in Stoneham, Quebec. "The USASA Rocky Mountain Series has played a huge role in building my career as a snowboarder," says Gold, 16 years old and shooting for an Olympic medal in 2014. "I basically grew up riding in their contests. In my opinion, that is the primary reason I am now able to compete at the professional level. They have all different age divisions where kids can compete against others their own age for as long as they like. Countless professionals have roots coming from this series. With a track record like that, I can only imagine what we will see come out of it in the future!"Other successful Rocky Mountain Series athletes include U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team members Eric Willett, Brett Esser, Bobby Brown, Matt Ladley, Maddy Schaffrick, Taylor Gold, Spencer Shaw, Faye Gulini (2010 Olympian), Jackie Hernandez (NorAm champion), Brooke Shaw, Hagen Kearney, Emilia Wint, Aaron Blunck, Lyman Currier and former U.S. team member Zack Black. NorAm champions Chloe Banning, Ziggy Cowan, Kim Krahulec and Mick Dierdorff are also among the elite ranks of the series. Rocky Mountain Series hosts include Copper Mountain, Breckenridge, Vail, Winter Park, Howelson Hill, Eldora and Frisco Adventure Park for athletes from the ISTC, Team Summit, Winter Park Snowboard Team, Ski & Snowboard Club of Vail, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, Eldora Ski & Snowboard Club and Team Breckenridge Sports Club.
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