Take 5: Team Summit snowboard director Matty Voegtle
January 15, 2016
Certain ski towns simply scream prestige: Aspen, Deer Valley, Chamonix, St. Moritz. They've produced dozens of Olympians and attract most of the world's exclusive events, from World Cup races to the Winter X Games.
Yet, for every Aspen, there's a Powderhorn. The small, quiet ski hill found just outside of Grand Junction is a true local's spot, the kind of anti-resort that's frequented by Western Slopes residents, Mesa State college students and that's about it. Powderhorn isn't even on the Epic Pass, which these days might as well mean it doesn't exist for the majority of the skiing public.
Not like it mattered to Matt Voegtle. In 2001, when the native of Windsor moved from the Front Range plains to Grand Junction for college, he didn't even know there was a ski area nearby. Like most Colorado kids, he grew up on skis — water and snow — but it wasn't until discovering Powderhorn that he truly fell in love with snowboarding and started pursuing it as a serious sport, even if it wasn't quite a career path. Yet. He'd take park laps and teach snowboard school between classes for his physics major, then launched the first-ever Mesa State snowboard team. He was part coach, part competitor and he loved every minute of it.
After college in 2005, he decided to try his hand at competitive snowboarding and traveled the world for training. He made his rounds on the grassroots circuit before landing back home in Colorado — this time a bit closer to the epicenter of all things winter sports: Summit County. He coached and taught at Copper Mountain and Woodward for a while before attracting the attention of Team Summit Colorado, Copper's home ski club.
Last season, Voegtle (or Matty V. as he's known to his kids) stepped behind the reigns of Team Summit's snowboard program. It had been lagging behind peer programs for several years and needed new energy. This winter, the snowboard team nearly doubled, from 40 athletes last season to 73 athletes — the max allowed with a group of 13 assistant coaches. He and his crew oversee coaching for all the major disciplines: halfpipe, slopestyle, boardercross and the increasingly popular big-mountain scene. The team sent 11 athletes to the USA Snowboard Association National Championship last spring and earned two podiums, including a silver from new member Blake Moller, a 15-year-old Vail native who's already dominating in the pipe this season.
Shortly before the holidays — and right after competition season began with Moller's win at the Revoluion Tour qualifier in Copper — the Summit Daily sports desk talked with Voegtle to hear more about his background on water skis, his vision for the program and why a summer in El Colorado, Chile was almost as important as discovering Powderhorn.
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Summit Daily News: You're a Colorado native but relatively new to competitive snowboarding. How did you get into that world?
Matt Voegtle: I started snowboarding when I was 14 and skied before that, but snowboarding was a surprise when I went to Mesa State. I grew up water skiing, like serious competitive waterskiing. That's what my parents did. We leased a lake for a while, but we lost that lease when I went off to school. I went out there expecting to mountain bike a lot, but I didn't even know there was a mountain out there for skiing.
SDN: How did you go from falling headfirst into the sport to teaching and coaching?
MV: It's something I've always done naturally, mentoring people younger than me. I played lots of sports in high school and have always gravitated to coaching. For me, it's the adventure side of snowboarding that got me the most. I started meeting people that took the opportunity to ski and snowboard and teach around the world — New Zealand, Chile, elsewhere. I've done a lot of that myself.
SDN: Where have you been able to travel because of snowboarding?
MV: I did a season at a place called El Colorado, and that's in Chile. That was a ton of riding. I wasn't teaching there — just working at a bar and working on my own riding. I came back and did lots of big-air comps that winter after. I competed a lot before I went (to Chile) and had some results, but I headed down there in the summer of 2005 to just get better. I was down there for me. It was a major step forward for me.
SDN: How do mesh your world travel experience with your position at Team Summit?
MV: Everything I've done is about work. It's about goals: going to South American and coming back to compete, going through the cert process to get higher and higher. I also spent a summer in New Zealand, which was a huge benefit for me. But every time I've put work into something, I see something coming out of it. I want these kids to see that, want these kids to know that, if they put the work in, they will get the results.
SDN: How has the freestyle snowboarding changed since 2005 when you were competing?
MV: It's a lot different. The stuff I competed in was a lot of grassroots stuff, unsanctioned stuff, where you sign up and ride for a day. The USASA thing was significantly smaller. There wasn't much organization — it didn't lead to much else after — so, these days, there's a much more developed process. What I was doing was really grassroots. That's just the best way to explain it. At the end, when you finished, there was no grand finale, no national championship. Now, we're talking about once you move on from USASA, you go to Rev Tour and will spend two years there before moving on to Grand Prix. You may spend your entire career there without ever making it to Dew Tour or X Games.
SDN: Do you think that organization and a clear pipeline have helped the sport? Are there more chances now for athletes to reach their goals?
MV: Absolutely. You even look at something like sponsors, Sprint and Chevy and those guys. It's that kind of support that helps our kids potentially have a career in snowboarding. It's also allowed for more small companies to come up than when I was competing. It's paved the way for new companies and opportunities.
SDN: The Team Summit snowboard program has exploded in size since you came on as director. What happened there?
MV: I think we got a lot more organized last year, (and) part of that was the coaches. We have a lot of very qualified, very experienced coaches, and I think a lot of the kids saw progression because of that. It was visible on the hill, and that's why a lot of kids are joining. Since I've been in, we've had very little turnover with coaching. The people who approached me to coach have tons of experience. I was turning away people who were well-qualified, (and) that's a great place to be. We're turning into a breeding ground for success. That was the plan.