Snowboarder Jarryd Hughes gets air in the Rabbit Ears Terrain Park on Saturday at Steamboat Ski Area. Hughes is on a roll in snowboard cross events, racking up a series of top finishes.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Snowboarder Jarryd Hughes gets air in the Rabbit Ears Terrain Park on Saturday at Steamboat Ski Area. Hughes is on a roll in snowboard cross events, racking up a series of top finishes.

Jarryd Hughes bursts onto snowboard cross scene

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— Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club snowboarder Jarryd Hughes can’t remember exactly where he placed in his first snowboard competition.

Really. He could have finished last, and he has no idea.

Hughes, who grew up in Sydney, picked up a snowboard just a day before his first competition.

He was 6 years old and had skateboarded for a couple of years. But grabbing the longer board that was designed for the white stuff was appealing to a young Hughes.

“I don’t remember where I finished,” Hughes said. “I know my team won. But it just came natural.”

It’s continued to come natural for Hughes.

The 16-year-old recently has made a big splash on the snowboard cross scene, going from being relatively unknown to one of the brightest competitors in the country.

Hughes recently finished 10th in the first World Cup start of his career. The week before, Hughes finished third at the Canyons Grand Prix snowboard cross event in Park City, Utah. The race serves as the largest snowboard cross event in the U.S. outside the Winter X Games. It also is considered the U.S. National Championships.

“I can’t think of a 16-year-old who has performed with those results at this level in a long time, if ever,” Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Snowboard Director Jon Casson said. “He’s exceeding expectations. I just like to see that he’s having fun. We want him to continue having fun and loving snowboarding.”

For Hughes, the competitions marked the biggest finishes of his career.

“That was a huge, huge moment for me,” Hughes said. “I was going against riders I only dreamed about riding with. I was lucky. It was nerve wracking. When the finals came, I was like, holy crap. I just wanted to stay calm and be the first out. I was definitely nervous, but I kept that in the back of my mind. They’re just people, so I just wanted to beat them.”

Hughes grew up competing in Australia and had made the junior national team by the time he was 13.

He would come to Steamboat with the national team to train at Howelsen Hill. Eventually, Hughes decided his winters would be spent in Steamboat.

“It’s great here,” he said. “Everything is set up right here.”

It’s not tough for Hughes to get in all the training he wants. He leaves Steamboat for Australia’s wintry slopes in April.

He’ll spend his time there training on snow until returning to Steamboat in December.

At this point, Hughes said his finishes are more about luck than anything else. He said the real test is whether he can do it consistently.

He has two World Cup events left from March 13 to 18 in Italy.

The difference, he said, between being lucky and being the best is finding that consistency, something he plans to prove he can do.

“When you do it consistently, that’s when there are expectations,” he said. “Right now, I don’t set expectations that exceed my ability. But I have goals. One goal is to get to the Olympics in Russia. Another is to be a world champion and an X Games gold medalist. I mean, really, anything is possible.”

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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