Gerard family reflects on brotherly love that cultivated Red’s gold-medal talent
SILVERTHORNE — When Red Gerard and family moved to Summit County a dozen years ago, the then 7-year-old had no idea the snowboarding opportunity he was in for. As the family vehicle pulled along the southern inlet to Dillon Reservoir, near Summit High School, Red looked up at the telephone lines and the hill underneath.
“And I asked my brothers if that was the ski resort because I was so used to small hills back home in Ohio,” Red said. “I was not used to the stuff that we were going to go snowboard on. I slowly learned just how big the mountains were, bombing the whole hill and sliding onto my butt. I probably did that for a week straight before I learned how to link turns and stuff like that, and I was having so much fun doing it.”
A dozen short years later, Red has followed in the snowboard tracks of his brothers and other friends here in Summit County to become one of the world’s favorite snowboarders. An Olympic gold medalist and Burton US Open and Dew Tour champion before the age of 20, Red has put together a resume right up there with the greatest names in the county’s hallowed snowboard history. Over the past quarter century, Summit County has arguably been the snowboard capital of the world, with legendary riders from Justin Reiter to Todd Richards to Chad Otterstrom, and many more, calling Breckenridge home.
Red was selected as the snowboard winner of the Summit Daily’s Peak Performers project — which honors the Mount Rushmore of the county’s ski and snowboard history — on the strength of his gold-medal success in contests and his backcountry filming paired with his giving back to the community. Earlier this year, Red and the Gerard family cut the ribbon on the Red’s Backyard free hike-to rail park at Copper Mountain Resort. Inspired by the actual backyard parks Red and his brothers always have sculpted at their homes — from vacation cabins in rural New York to Blue River, Frisco and ultimately Silverthorne — Red’s Backyard is meant to provide kids with the kind of low-cost opportunity to snowboard with friends that Red always had growing up. But Red and his family said the ultimate idea is so much more: to reimagine snowboarding opportunities for kids across the country.
“It’s a pipe dream,” Red’s father Conrad said. “But, you know, who would have ever thought we’d have skateparks on public lands, rec centers that have skateparks across the nation? If we could get some northern communities to build rail yards in the cities, regular people that are of average means can get out there and learn to snowboard a little bit. How cool would that be?”
That’s the ultimate dream, Red says, to manifest skatepark-like snowboard parks on sledding hills across the country. But the first step he took at places like Woodward Copper this year was a good start. More than that, in a way, it completed the full-circle story of the Gerard family’s love for action sports and snowboarding.
Long before Red ever strapped into snowboard bindings, Conrad ran out one Christmas Eve in the mid-’90s to buy Red’s older brother Trevor a Burton snowboard from Alpine Valley ski area near their home in Ohio. That was the first domino that set off a chain reaction where Red’s older brothers Creighton and Brendan also fell in love with snowboarding and the adrenaline rush of action sports. It eventually led their parents, Conrad and Jen, to make the six-hour drive from Cleveland to Woodward in the pastures of Pennsylvania. To the Gerard boys, cresting the hills in middle-of-nowhere Pennsylvania and seeing the skateboard ramps and jumps in the distance was like stumbling across the land of Oz.
As the youngest brother, Conrad and Jen said Red’s youth in Ohio was one where he tried to do whatever his brothers were doing, no matter how daring. As a 2-year-old, he snowboarded down steps. Right before he turned 3, he was so jealous of his brothers lapping the family property on a Honda dirt bike that he figured out a way to ride the thing.
“He’d throw his leg over the seat and then throttle it and hop on as it was going because his feet couldn’t touch the ground,” Jen said. “He’d get it running and then jump on.”
So when Conrad and Jen decided to make the move to Colorado, the boy with endless energy was enthralled. Despite a five-year age difference, Jen said Red and his brother Malachi, or “Kai,” were always seeking thrills together. Looking up to Trevor and Brendan’s passion for snowboarding, Kai and Red became talented in their own right. When they weren’t snowboarding, they were mapping out all of the skateparks across Colorado with their parents driving them all around for weekend ride days.
All along, the Gerard boys snowboarded and skateboarded for the pure fun and passion of it. But eventually, the boys began doing more and more contests and competitions. Kai had pro dreams of his own before a broken pelvis led to a hip replacement. While sidelined, Kai developed his love for filming, which went hand-in-hand with Red’s talent. Never one to have a coach or compete in many contests, Red was taken under the wing of his older brothers, friends of his brothers and Summit County elders. He credits guys like Colin Walters, Adrian Gallardo and Chad Otterstrom with taking him to his first camps and first backcountry trips. Red still vividly remembers his first time riding backcountry powder and building jumps with Otterstrom near Vail Pass.
As for contests, Trevor was the one who told Jen that Red had something super special in him. But contests were never Red’s focus. Fun always was. Yes, he competed in contests like the United States of America Snowboard Association Nationals at Copper. But he was the kind of kid who would do a backflip, which wowed the crowd, but not podium because of rules against inversions. He’d much rather spend time at Woodward Copper’s barn and have fun there when he wasn’t chasing his older brothers and their friends around the mountain.
Red’s talent eventually led him to become a part of the U.S. Snowboard Team at just 13 years old. He soon was riding with the world’s best and won Olympic gold at age 17. But in January 2018, even though Red in was in line to qualify, he wasn’t enamored with the Olympics. He’d rather spend time snowmobiling in the backcountry with friends than turn his attention to qualifying. His parents had a chat with him at the Starbucks in Silverthorne to explain what the opportunity could mean for him. Looking back, he’s grateful they did.
The Olympic gold-medal win instantly shot Red to stardom, but he’s more grateful for learning to like contest riding. He credits his U.S. coaches Dave Reynolds and Mike Ramirez for teaching him to focus on the challenge, creativity and pride of putting together a run through a slopestyle course. And looking ahead to the next Olympic cycle, Red is more excited for the challenge of qualifying for Team USA.
“It’s such an experience,” Red said about contest riding. “… It just takes time. I truly believe 50% of it is your skill, and the other 50% is in your head.”
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