Snowboarders go big in New Zealand

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Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club snowboarder Blake Eddington executes a stale fish in the Snow Park halfpipe during the team's summer training trip to New Zealand.

— Ariel Tredway had only one question Thursday afternoon, still jet-lagged from her Tuesday return from a month in New Zealand.

"Is it Thursday today?" she wondered, her mental clock still lost somewhere between the Southern Hemisphere and Routt County.

Tredway was one of six athletes from the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's pro/am snowboard team who spent July 25 to Aug. 22 on a training trip based out of the New Zealand South Island town of Wanaka.

What Tredway is sure of is that the experience will be invaluable in terms of improving her riding skills this winter.

"When I get back on snow, I won't have to warm up for that whole first month of getting used to the board," Tredway said. "Right as the mountain opens I will be able to compete."

Spencer Tamblyn agreed. As the head pro/am freestyle coach for the Winter Sports Club's snowboard program, Tamblyn acted as coach, mentor, chaperone and van driver for the group, which also included Chad Oliver, Steve Smith, Andrew Crowser, Blake Eddington and Matt Ladley.

"The biggest thing was their progression in amplitude and their energy levels in terms of riding and hitting full-size jumps," Tamblyn said.

Tamblyn praised the Snow Park ski area terrain. The "resort" is characterized by a single lift servicing an 18-foot-deep, 500-foot-long freshly cut halfpipe along with a healthy smattering of rail features and jumps.

"With the incredible shape of these jumps, the kids were really able to go much bigger, doing the tricks they learned here," Tamblyn said.

Renting a house near Lake Wanaka, the group would pile in a 10-passenger Toyota mini-bus every morning for the 40-minute drive to Snow Park.

While Tamblyn's group focused daily on skill development in different freestyle disciplines, four trip members took advantage of the opportunity to compete among the world's best at the Burton New Zealand Open from July 28-30.

"I've never had a chance to ride with the big names in a higher-level competition where the girls throw down - all the girls I've admired my whole life," said Tredway, who placed 14th in the event.

Tamblyn chose not to stress the role of the competition, instead emphasizing the importance of exposing the riders to exceptional terrain and immersing them in the international culture of the sport's elite athletes.

"This is the place to be for the top level snowboarders - from the pros to the U.S. team and their coaches," Tamblyn said. "It's unreal for them, to ride with (the pros) and hang out with them. When we first get on snow, the kids are going to be instantly comfortable and confident going into the season."

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