Copper Mountain hosting USASA snowboard and freeski nationals |

Copper Mountain hosting USASA snowboard and freeski nationals

Kyle DeLong slides a rail feature during the 2014 USASA Nationals at Copper Mountain. The annual competition gives athletes age 5 to 60-plus an opportunity to showcase their talent on a big stage, beginning April 2 with snowboard slopestyle, halfpipe, boardercross, slalom and giant slalom.
Tripp Fay / Copper Mountain |

Some of the world’s future Olympians and X Gamers will be throwing down at Copper Mountain Resort for the next two weeks as part of the 26th annual USASA National Championships. The competition will start with snowboarding events this week, March 28 through April 3, followed by freeskiing, April 4 through April 7.

“We see so many athletes here that are up and coming,” Copper spokeswoman Stephanie Sweeney said of the event. “The level of competition is great. It’s the top amateurs in the country.”

Close to 1,900 athletes will participate in the two-week competition. In the past, participants’ ages have ranged from 5 to over 70. Athletes range from first-time competitors to those on the cusp of, or early into, their pro careers.

The grassroots-level series has served as a feeder to the pro level and Olympic competition.

Past competitors include Olympians and perennial X Gamers like snowboarders Taylor and Arielle Gold of Steamboat Springs, and Olympic gold medalist Kaitlyn Farrington. As for skiing, 2014 Sochi medalists Gus Kenworthy, Joss Christensen, Maddie Bowman and Nick Goepper can all trace their roots to USASA-level competitions.

“This is one of the important steps along the way,” USASA Rocky Mountain Series director Paul Krahulec said. “It will start the kids on their way to the next Winter Olympics.”

For U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association development manager Abby Nyberg it’s a place to catch a glimpse of young talent.

“USASA is where you get your start,” she said. “It’s a really big step in the development pipeline.”

Current U.S. Olympic Team snowboarders Taylor and Arielle Gold qualified for the U.S. rookie team shortly after competing at the USASA level. Now the two siblings are annual contenders at events like the X Games and Dew Tour.

While the younger divisions might just be getting their feet off the ground, the 15-and-up open division will showcase the brightest in ski and snowboard slopestyle, halfpipe, boarder and skiercross.

The snowboarding competition will also feature giant slalom and slalom, which will count for FIS points and as a NorAm-level competition. The open division slopestyle and halfpipe competitions will also count toward Association of Freeskiing Professionals and TTR World Snowboard Tour points.

In addition to splitting a $10,000 purse for each event, open division winners will become eligible for next year’s Revolution Tour and future Project Gold U.S. Ski and Snowboarding team junior training camps.

During the two weeks of competition, the halfpipe at Copper will be closed. Portions of the terrain park will also be closed for slopestyle. All events are free to attend with spectator areas at each venue.

In addition to USASA Nationals, Copper Mountain also annually hosts a stop on the pro-level ski and snowboarding U.S. Grand Prix and the U.S. Alpine Ski Team’s early-season Speed Center training facility.

“We are proud to be a home for training for all levels of athletes,” Sweeney said of the resort’s push to support winter sports.

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