Steamboat Springs In between business trips to New York City, Salt Lake City, Seattle and Portland, Ore., Matt Ladley was confounded when tasked with figuring out why exactly he chose the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.
He first rode with the club in fifth grade and made it a full-time thing by sixth grade. Now 20 and on the U.S. Snowboarding A Team, Ladley couldn’t pinpoint one particular thing that swayed his decision. But he did offer
“I loved it,” Ladley said. “That’s why I was so stoked. At that age, I was able to ride on the mountain during the day and ride Howelsen during the night. For me, it was a dream come true. I came from riding a few times a year in Chicago. Coming out here was a mountain bigger than anything I’d ever seen. We’d just go out and free ride.”
Ladley is leading the way for a blossoming Winter Sports Club snowboarding program that is starting to see some of its earliest riders realize big-time success.
In addition to Ladley, Maddy Schaffrick and Taylor Gold are on the U.S. Rookie Halfpipe Team. Arielle Gold is on the verge of the halfpipe Rookie Team, and Chloe Banning and Mick Dierdorff will get World Cup starts in snowboard cross this year.
Then there’s 13-year-old Nik Baden, who some consider one of the “next big things” in snowboarding.
Each of these riders started with the club at an early age.
“First, they have so many good coaches,” said Dierdorff, who hopes to make multiple World Cup starts this season. “They make everything so fun. They’re great at progressing kids and teaching the fundamentals. They teach you how to snowboard the way you should, and they’ve produced lots of snowboarders with lots of skills.”
There are other reasons for the Winter Sports Club program’s success, including the facilities. With easy access to Steamboat Ski Area during the day and Howelsen Hill at night, snowboarders have a luxury not many others have.
“Howelsen has been integral to the development of these kids,” said Ashley Berger, the pro/am freestyle head coach. “It makes our program unique. It’s just a really great tool.”
Berger, who has coached with the program since 2005, said another big part of the program’s success lies in its versatility.
She said the program caters to not only athletes who want to reach the highest levels of the sport but also ones who just want to snowboard.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Baden said. “It’s laid back in ways, but at the same time, they can help you and be really competitive in some ways.”
The program isn’t likely to see much dropoff, either. With the success at the high end like Ladley filtering down to riders like Baden, a big part of the future of snowboarding looks like it’s right in Steamboat.
“It’s just how much fun the coaches make it,” Dierdorff said. “Every day we go out, there is no pressure. You’re just happy to be there. You push each other, and before you know it, you start progressing to this level.”
To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com