Breckenridge snowboarder Lauren Weibert bound for 2015 Deaflympics
For Lauren Weibert, the obsession with mountain life and snowboarding started at a young age.
“I saw it somewhere, probably on TV,” she said of her inspiration to switch from skiing to snowboarding as a 13-year-old. “All I could think was, ‘It looks so fun. I want to try that.’”
Now 26, the Breckenridge resident got her start at Hidden Valley Ski Resort in Missouri, a ski hill smaller than a single run at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area. There the interest quickly turned to the rails in the terrain park and eventually to railjams and slopestyle competitions. The love of snowboarding was what brought her to Summit County in 2008.
Born deaf, however, terrain parks and snowboarding in general offered Weibert different challenges, beyond the rail slides and big jumps.
Even snowboarding with friends can be trying. While she can read lips, out on the mountain it can be difficult to follow along. But it’s a challenge she embraces with a smile and a love for the sport.
“I have to look around more than most people,” she explained, sipping a tea at Rocky Mountain Roasters coffee shop in Frisco, where she works. “My head is always on a swivel.”
While a cochlear implant helps her hear, she has to snowboard without it in order for a helmet to fit comfortably.
In busy terrain parks, and during competitions, it’s especially challenging.
“It’s hard. It’s really stressful,” she said of competitions. “Basically, I don’t know what’s going on from the registration process to the awards.”
So why compete? Because it pushes her to try new tricks and step out of her comfort zone.
Still, the extra effort required to follow along in competitions as a deaf athlete has led her to step away from them to a degree.
That will change come late March when Weibert travels to Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, for the 18th Winter Deaflympics. She was recently selected to join the U.S. team and will compete in slopestyle, halfpipe and boardercross.
“I’m so excited,” she said of the opportunity to represent the U.S. “It’s going to be the first time that I’m going to be able to understand everyone.”
Weibert said she’s especially looking forward to the addition of slopestyle to the events.
“When the Olympics added it, I got really excited and thought the Deaflympics better have it.”
A spot on the U.S. team has been a long time in the making for Weibert. She was qualified for the competition in 2011, but the event was canceled due to organizational failures by the host city in Slovakia.
Weibert almost didn’t make it this time around because of a knee injury during last year’s qualifiers. She had torn her meniscus while shoveling snow in December 2013, and didn’t return to the slopes until the following February.
“The day after my doctor cleared me, I was snowboarding. It was amazing,” she said. After a submitting an application with a video, the U.S. team put her on the roster.
Asked if she’s ready, she said, “I feel great. My knee feels great. Every time I go, it’s better and better. I push myself every day.”
With no U.S. team funding, however, it’s on Weibert to cover the $4,150 in travel and participation costs. To help raise money, Rocky Mountain Roasters will hold a fundraising party Saturday, Feb. 28, at 7 p.m. The party will have a $10 entry fee. Food and drinks will be served and a GNU snowboard and other prizes will be raffled off. Donations can also be made through a Deaflympics Donation Fund Weibert set up through Wells Fargo, or on her http://www.gofundme.com site.
She said if she medals, she’ll hang it up at Roasters.
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