Silverthorne teen snowboarder Ellie Duchow tabbed to compete at Mammoth Mountain Grand Prix |

Silverthorne teen snowboarder Ellie Duchow tabbed to compete at Mammoth Mountain Grand Prix

Ellie Duchow, of Silverthorne, is competing in the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix in Mammoth Mountain this weekend.
Hugh Carey /

Ellie Duchow received the biggest news of her young snowboarding career while taking a quick break from her AP history homework.

Last week, while hitting pause on Summit High School coursework and checking her email, the 17-year-old from Silverthorne found a surprise email waiting in her inbox — an invitation to compete at next week’s Toyota U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in California.

The invite came as a shock to Duchow, who has found success over the past couple of seasons at Rev Tour and NorAm-level events. They are a step down from the elite-level Grand Prix competitions on the International Ski & Snowboard Federation’s World Cup circuit.

“I opened the email and it was really exciting because I’ve always dreamed of going to this event,” Duchow said. “I worked super hard to get here, and now it’s happening.”

It’s happening nine years after the Lake Forest, Illinois, native first learned to snowboard on the tiny 180-foot hill at Raging Buffalo Snowboard Ski Park & Snowtubing in suburban Chicago. Back then, Duchow was one of many local kids introduced to winter sports by the local Snowflake club. But Duchow soon progressed beyond learning simple turns and, after one year, she’d passed all of the club’s lessons. That’s when she knew she wanted to pursue snowboarding more seriously.

A couple of years later, the 10-year-old began competing in local entry-level United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association events in Illinois. In eighth grade her snowboarding passion led her to live for a winter with a host family in Bend, Oregon, where Duchow spent the season progressing her skills at Mount Bachelor. A year after that, Duchow’s family made the decision to move to Summit County to give her the best chance to reach her snowboarding dreams.

Those dreams will soon become reality for Duchow when she competes against the world’s best women’s slopestyle snowboarders at Mammoth Mountain. That group of the world’s elite may include such names as Jamie Anderson and Spencer O’Brien, revolutionary women’s riders Duchow grew up idolizing.

“They are like the pioneers of this new generation of women’s snowboarding,” Duchow said. “They’ve really taken it to the next level. All the people I’ve looked up to my whole life, I’m just going to have fun at this next contest and hopefully make finals. It’s really crazy to think you are competing against all the people you’ve seen on TV through the years.”

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One of those people is groundbreaking women’s snowboarding legend Barrett Christy, a member of the first U.S. Olympic Snowboarding Team at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. On Tuesday at Vail Mountain Resort, Duchow had another welcome-to-the-big-leagues experience when she rode with one of her new sponsors, the GNU Snowboard Team while they filmed video for next year’s GNU product line. As part of the process, Duchow got the chance to ride with Christy around Vail’s Golden Peak near the pomp and circumstance of the Burton U.S. Open.

“She just always tells us to keep it fun and make snowboarding fun,” Duchow said. “And it was really fun, we just rode through the park and we did a little bit of exploring around the mountain.”

When she gets to Mammoth on Sunday via a four-hour drive from Reno, Nevada, Duchow will continue to dial in her frontside and backside flat-spin 720s. They are the biggest and highest point-scoring tricks she’s been able to land in competition and practice. In fact, over the past couple of weeks at Copper Mountain Resort, Duchow has been working especially hard on the park jumps off of the Union Creek lift to have confidence on that backside 720. She hopes it’ll be her final jump trick at Mammoth after a cab-540 and a frontside 720. As for the rails section of the slopestyle course, it’ll be wait-and-see for Duchow until she glimpses the course’s layout and riding conditions.

Looking ahead, Duchow’s ultimate goal is to earn a spot on the U.S.’s Pro and Olympic women’s snowboard slopestyle teams at some point. To get there, it seems the next step is adding an extra 180-degree rotation to her 720.

“I think if I can keep consistent, hopefully at the end of this year I’ll be able to learn a (900),” Duchow said. “I tried one last year, and almost got it, but I need a little more — to do it a couple more times. I think, mentally, you have to be really prepared, because it’s a bigger trick. A lot of it is mental. If you have the skills to do it and you’re ready, you’re probably ready.”

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