In 2003, Monadnock Developmental Services in New Hampshire was awarded a grant by the Flutie Foundation to help their clients pursue athletic endeavors as a way to gain social skills. With the Flutie grant money and MDS support, Mount Sunapee was willing to open their weekend competition program to include Chris Abel - a then 8-year-old boy with ASD. Chris has been a competitive snowboarder ever since. Chris' mom Amee checks in with an update on his snowboarding career:
Dear Flutie Foundation,
After the lovely profile you did of my son Chris Abel, I wanted to update you on his latest successes.
As you recall, it was a Flutie Foundation Grant through Monadnock Development Services that gave him the chance to begin snowboarding--and snowboarding has been a place where Chris has gained respect from his peers and made friends. This year, Chris is a
sophomore at Keene High School (in New Hampshire.) Additionally, he has spent the 2nd and 3rd school quarters as a Winter Term student at Mount Snow Academy, which has allowed him to train 4 days a week, compete on weekends, or travel around the country to compete, while still meeting his academic requirements. Chris has maintained straight "A"s this year, while competing in 8 USASA Southern Vermont Snowboard Series events and 6 USSA Revolution Tour events and the Burton Global Open Series US Open event.
His USASA results earned him an invitation to compete in Halfpipe at the USASA Nationals at Copper Mountain in Colorado this past week. He finished 7th in the Halfpipe event for the Men’s Youth Division against a field of 66 of the country's top Youth Men!
Competing on Monday, April 4, the snowboarders faced aggressively cold conditions and gusting winds all through qualifiers with the sun warming things up for finals. The judges were impressed with the entire Youth Men division as competitors threw down, really stepping it up on amplitude, technicality and style. The competition format allowed two runs each for the 66 invited riders with the top 12 men progressing to the Finals. In the Finals, the riders again had two runs to impress the judges.
Danny Kass, a former USASA competitor who went on to take two silver Olympic medals, was at Copper Mountain to ride in the Monster Energy Drink’s Monster Mash (a pro/am event in its second year, running congruently with the USASA Nationals.) Kass is living proof that USASA shapes snowboardingʼs future stars. “The Nationals is where all the top competitive snowboarders started and learned the tools they would need to reach their highest achievements. I started my first nationals at age 12 and continued in it until I was 18,” said Kass. “It is exciting for me to ride and see the next generation of shredders on a long road to the X Games and hopefully the Olympics.”
Chris’ bid for National’s success was almost thwarted in the last 3 weeks due to equipment difficulties. Luckily, Mtn Riders board shop in West Dover, VT stepped in to sponsor Chris and worked with Lib-Tech’s local representative to get a new “Attack Banana” board under his feet in time for a busy competition schedule that included the US Open at Stratton Mountain, the Revolution Tour at Mount Snow and culminated in the trip to Colorado for USASA Nationals. Dropping regular into Copper Mountain’s 22-foot halfpipe, the Keene teen’s run was a Front 540, Back 360, Switch Back 360, Straight Air, Front 720, finishing with a Cab 540.
The USASA National Championships are representative of 35 USASA Regional Series throughout the United States. This season the USASA will organize more than 500 snowboard events hosted at more than 200 resorts nationwide. The 2011 National Championships is expected to attract more than 10,000 people to compete and watch the week of competition and daily festivities.
For more information:
Amee Abel - firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo courtesy of Jo-Ann Gerde