Dillon teen snowboarder Chase Blackwell nominated to 2018-19 U.S. snowboard halfpipe pro team
Riding with the country’s best in an Olympic year meant 2018 was about snowboard self-actualization for Chase Blackwell.
And at the end of the campaign, the 19-year-old Dillon resident has officially moved up from U.S. Snowboard’s Halfpipe Rookie Team to the country’s eight-man Halfpipe Pro Team.
Blackwell’s nomination to the pro team was announced last week but he found out in April via a phone call from Rick Bower, the U.S.’s longtime snowboard halfpipe coach.
“He called me up when I was in Austria and said: ‘Hey, man we’d love to have you on board.’” Blackwell recalled. “And I was like: ‘Hell yeah!’”
Heading into this summer, Blackwell joins a group of eight of the country’s best halfpipe snowboarders. The list includes veterans he’s looked up to for some time, such as 2018 Olympians in Bend, Oregon’s Ben Ferguson and Hailey, Idaho’s Chase Josey.
“I’m super pumped to ride with them,” Blackwell said. “I’ve learned so much from them. Ben is going the biggest of anyone, and I think, ‘I need to go as big as Ben.’ I’ve realized that I can ride with those guys, that kind of thing. That I can hang, and I think that’s what a lot of people tended to realize this year.”
But the group also includes young snowboarders Blackwell has ascended the elite youth ranks with. The pack includes Blackwell’s good friends Jake Pates of Eagle, Ryan Wachendorfer of Edwards and Toby Miller of Truckee, California. The final members of the team are Ferguson’s younger brother Gabe and Steamboat Springs’ veteran halfpipe shredder Taylor Gold.
“We are all super close,” Blackwell said.
Blackwell’s bump up from rookie to the pro team comes after a 2018 when he and Miller felt throughout the season that they were on the verge of the call up. This season cemented Blackwell’s halfpipe talent and potential to U.S. snowboarding’s decision makers and capped a multi-year span since 2014 during which Blackwell bounced back from a serious injury on Copper Mountain Resort’s halfpipe.
Back then, in 2014, the up-and-coming Blackwell was knocked unconscious and broke his clavicle, humerus and scapula.
But while sidelined from the snow in the wake of the incident, Blackwell’s competitive fire was fueled further.
“I was ready,” he said. “I was sitting on couch while it was snowing feet, sitting there watching all these people learn this stuff, and I was out of it. So I tried not to waste time. It took me a couple of weeks to get my tricks back, but from there it was go-time. Start charging. Don’t let whatever happened in the past hold you back.”
A few years later, Blackwell is learning and throwing down some of the biggest tricks his top U.S. teammates include in their runs. This past year, Blackwell’s typical run through the halfpipe consisted of a backside 540 (rotating to his snowboard’s backside while executing one-and-a-half full 360-degree rotations) into a frontside double cork 1080 (two inversions and three full 360-degree rotations) into a switch crippler (an inverted 540 performed on the frontside wall of the halfpipe) then a switch japan, then a cab double-cork 1080 before finishing with a flat-spin frontside 1080.
Blackwell’s mastery of the core of this routine saw its shining moment at January’s U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, California, where the then 18-year-old earned a fourth-place finish with a score of 74.00. He credited the performance to his increased emphasis on consistency of execution.
Heading into next year, though, Blackwell is already thinking about and working on progressing that run by taking the switch crippler and the flat-spin frontside 1080 and replacing them with a pair of 1260s (three-and-a-half full rotations). Instead of the switch crippler, he’s thinking about a cab double-cork 1260, and instead of the flat-spin frontside 1080 at the bottom of the halfpipe to close his routine, he’s considering a flat-spin frontside 1260.
As for the snowboard style he’ll bring to the pro team, Blackwell says he tries to make his runs almost look, in one way, “sleepy” — similar to how the Ferguson brothers and Danny Davis glide down the pipe. But then there’s the dangerous side of his style that evokes more of a white-knuckle, daredevil feel.
“That sleepy kind of easy style, which is so fun to watch, but also I kind of want a little ragged edge in it,” Blackwell said, “That, ‘Oh, he might die, but he landed it’ — making it look too good and making it look scary good, finding that happy medium.”
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