Dillon halfpipe snowboarder Chase Blackwell begins first season on U.S. Pro Team
Wednesday was Chase Blackwell’s off day in between early week training and Thursday’s qualifying round at the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain Resort.
It, however, was also the 19-year-old U.S. Pro Team snowboarder’s test day.
At 4 p.m., while freeskiers decompressed from Wednesday’s qualifying round at Copper, Blackwell was over at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge completing a math exam.
Taking advantage of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team’s college grant program, Blackwell is attending classes this semester at Colorado Mountain College’s Dillon and Breckenridge campuses. After taking a year off from school, the Dillon resident is much like any other college freshman across the country — finishing up fall courses on algebra, writing composition, philosophy and public speaking.
“All of my classes are pretty fun, they aren’t too stressful, nothing is over the top,” Blackwell said. “I can still snowboard, can still get my work done and go to school, and whatnot.”
Fewer than 20 hours after he finished his algebra test, Blackwell is scheduled to drop in at 10:35 a.m. on Thursday as heat No. 1’s fifth competitor. It’ll be Blackwell’s first official competition as a member of the U.S. Snowboard Pro Team, a spot he earned thanks to a successful 2017–18 season which was highlighted by a fourth-place finish at last January’s Mammoth Mountain Toyota U.S. Grand Prix World Cup event.
Through the fall and early winter, as the Dillon resident prepped for the 2018–19 International Ski & Snowboard Federation World Cup season, Blackwell traveled to Dillon on Tuesdays and to Breckenridge on Mondays and Wednesdays for his CMC courses. But with the World Cup halfpipe season commencing at Copper on Thursday, there won’t be any spring semester CMC classes for Blackwell, who is aiming for World Cup finals and podiums through the remainder of the season. He should be a top U.S. competitor, whether it be 10 miles from home like this weekend, or halfway around the world at Secret Garden, China, in a couple of weeks.
Blackwell’s first year on the U.S. Pro Team began in May and June with training at Mammoth Mountain in California before Blackwell took time off and relaxed by wake surfing and dirt biking in his hometown of Longmont.
“I really just try to find the balance,” Blackwell said. “Skateboarding and wake surfing, you are not binded in or anything, but you are using the same muscles in your legs (as snowboarding). You’re getting all of the feeling back, but also your mind is not on snowboarding pretty much in that moment at all. You are kind of just having fun, just enjoying what you’re doing.”
His off-snow escapades continued in July at Copper Mountain at the 686 Woodward Week, and then in August he traveled down to Chile to judge a youth snowboarding contest.
In October, season prep got real for Blackwell during a trip with the U.S. Pro Team to the Stomping Grounds Park training venue at the glacier at Saas-Fee, Switzerland. In Saas-Fee, Blackwell worked on his frontside 1260s (three and a half horizontal rotations) and some cab 1260s that he may incorporate into his halfpipe runs this year. As for this week, Blackwell said it’s about chipping away at his halfpipe run he put together last year, which featured a backside 540, a frontside double-cork 1080, a switch Crippler, a switch Japan, a cab 1080 and a frontside 1080.
“I’d say my cab 10(80) has a little bit more style in it than my front double 10(80),” Blackwell said. “But also it’s all about amplitude.”
To Blackwell, though, it’s important day-to-day to approach his professional life on-mountain differently than his personal time away from it all, when he may be listening to vinyl LPs on the record player he purchased last year.
“When I’m at home, enjoy being at home,” he said of his philosophy. “When I’m on snow, get it done. Don’t slack. Don’t take anything for granted. I wanted to make the most of every situation I was on snow — ride the most, hiking pipes — just trying to put in work whenever I was on snow.”
As for this season, once he has his run from last year dialed in again, Blackwell said he’d like to plug in some new tricks and also potentially put together a new run, as he’d like to switch things up from run to run or contest to contest.
However this year turns out, Blackwell is one of a group of several young U.S. halfpipe snowboarders who are eager to break through and lead the country toward the next four-year Olympic cycle.
“Everybody is just pumped to get back on snow,” Blackwell said, “and pumped to kick the season off.”
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