Local riders land top finishes at Copper

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— Damon Butler just wanted to lay down a clean run during a slopestyle event in Copper Mountain last weekend.

By the end of the day, he had executed two solid runs and, in the process, took a step toward achieving his goal of earning a spot at the U.S. Snowboarding Association nationals in April.

Butler said he was conservative on his first run before letting loose on his second effort. He added a backside 500 and a switch 300 on his last air to earn the victory in the Master’s Division for riders between the ages of 30 and 39.

The win in the first of three qualifying events that make up the USASA’s Rocky Mountain Series gives him an edge as he looks toward the nationals.

“You get to nationals by winning your division,” Butler said. “That’s what I’m hoping to do this winter.”

He’s aiming for similar results in Winter Park on Feb. 13 and 14 and at the final event of the series in Copper Mountain in early March. The 32-year-old Butler, who has been snowboarding for the past five years and got serious about competing last winter, said the series is a chance to keep pushing himself to new levels.

“You expect to peak when you are 18 or 19,” Butler said. “But I’m in my 30s, and it seems like I just keep getting better. This series is an opportunity to grow and to keep improving my skills.”

Butler competed in the halfpipe last season but said he kept hurting himself trying to land the tricks many of the top riders were doing. This season, he’s switched to slopestyle and is happy with his decision.

“Slopestyle is more creative for me,” Butler said. “It allows me to land some pretty big tricks and to do more than I could do in the halfpipe.”

Butler isn’t the only local rider taking advantage of the USASA’s Rocky Mountain Series this winter. Jon Casson, the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s snowboard program director, said the events are a regular stop for some of the club’s most promising athletes.

Last weekend, riders from the Winter Sports Club enjoyed several top results, including first-place finishes from Nikolas Baden, Caleigh Greene and Arielle Gold.

Baden finished first in the slopestyle and halfpipe events for the Menehune boys (10 to 11) division, and teammate Spencer Vaughan was fifth in the slopestyle and third in the halfpipe.

Greene topped the slopestyle event in the girls Menehune division, and Gold won the Breaker girls (12 to 13) division in the halfpipe. She was also fourth in the slopestyle event.

Other top finishes came from Natalie Geer, who finished second in the women’s halfpipe event in the open class; Harrison Weinberg, who was 13th in the Junior (16 to 17) boys division; and Shaq Torrella, who finished seventh in the men’s open skier class in slopestyle.

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