Future bright for local snowboarders

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The future of snowboarding can be found in the dreams of 12-year-old Grant Murray and 10-year-old Maddy Schaffrick.

It's displayed every time they launch out of a halfpipe or ride in the terrain park.

That's why Murray and Schaffrick were among the hundreds of athletes invited to take part in last weekend's Sports Illustrated Kids nextSnow Search at the Keystone Ski Area.

Both riders, along with fellow snowboarder Taylor Gold and skier Jackson Coe, were invited to take part in the unique competition after qualifying at an event held at the Steamboat Ski Area earlier this year.

"It was awesome," Murray said. "It was a great experience and just a whole lot of fun."

Murray and Schaffrick were named to the nextXsnow Team, a select group of riders born between 1991 and 1996 that organizers think best represent the future of skiing and snowboarding. The selected riders received a plaque and will be featured on a poster of the "2005 Sports Illustrated nextXsnow Team."

"It's very different than any competition I've been to," Schaffrick said. "It wasn't about finishing first; the judges looked at a lot of different things and how well you did in all of the events."

After three days, the judges compared the cumulative scores of more than 150 athletes who had been tested in events ranging from big-mountain riding to the terrain park. The judges also considered factors such as attitude, style and personality in choosing the best representatives of the next generation of skiers and riders. When the final scores were tallied, Murray and Schaffrick had made it into the top 25.

"It feels great," Schaffrick said. "Now I know that I can handle anything. It makes me want to work harder to be more like some of the other kids that are on the team. ... I want to get to their level."

Still, both riders agreed that making the team was secondary to competing in the one-of-a-kind event.

"It was just a lot of fun," Murray said. "The jumps were huge, and nobody was scared to try new things."

Murray, who competed in the nextSnow Search last year, said the event was so much fun that he is already looking forward to going back to the next one. Thanks to his top-25 finish, he has qualified already.

--To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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