by | December 12 2023

Two Medals in the Matter of Days

As previewed in our last blog, three racers made the huge accomplishment of earning spots to compete in both the Vertical Challenge finals and the NASTAR national championship. We heard from Shirley in our last blog (can we link to our last blog here once it’s posted) about how she cultivated a passion for skiing and pushed herself to start racing. Now we will learn about what inspired Brendan to start boarding and his journey to both championships.

Brendan started learning to ski when he was around 5 years old. He took a lesson with a family member and continued to ski throughout elementary school. He joined his school’s ski club and he was paired up with a very experienced skier that convinced him to try a black diamond. Despite making it down successfully, Brendan decided skiing wasn’t for him. Fast forward 8 years, Brendan decided he wanted to try snowboarding instead. After a few lessons, and some falls, Brendan was hooked.

Brendan took a fast liking to snowboarding. He exclaimed how much he loves the cold. It is his favorite part of snowboarding and the winter. He had mentioned that he always loved sports, but never was involved with any winter sports, so it allowed him to try out snowboarding. Brendan described “There’s just something serene and majestic about being alone on top of a mountain. connected to nature in a way you simply cannot do surrounded by busy people. It’s certainly an escape.” As the years went on, he felt more confident in his ability and was enjoying the sport more every year. He explained, “The better I got the more it felt like I was one with the mountain, like surfing a wave. It has its own energy and when you can harmonize with it I don’t know if there’s a better feeling in the world…at least not that I’ve experienced.”

As Brendan gained more confidence in his boarding, he was increasingly intrigued by racing. Although, he never knew of an avenue to pursue racing, until he saw a Vertical Challenge commercial on the TV. He said he could not pass up this free opportunity for any ages or any abilities to try racing. He convinced his brother who he had been teaching to snowboard to join him and they headed to Ski Sundown, their local mountain. He was first introduced to NASTAR while going through VC’s registration process, which includes registering through NASTAR
first. That morning they headed to the mountain, grabbed their racing bibs, took some test runs, and headed for the race course. Brendan raced in the snowboarding category ages 30-34 as a 32 year old. Brendan shared that he was off to a great start, feeling the pressure of the other racer close behind his tail. He fell ⅔ of the way down the course, but this did not dampen his spirits.
Brendan stated that he “went to the bottom with a smile on my face.” It was easy to tell that he had an excellent spirit for a first time racer because he shared how much fun he had, despite falling.

After racing, Brendan and his brother headed over to the sponsor sampling tents to grab some free samples and enter in some raffles. The fun and exhilarating atmosphere consumed them, and despite missing their chance to win a raffle by one number, Brendan still had “a good feeling something positive was going to happen.” When it came time for the award ceremony, Brendan waited patiently and finally heard his name called for gold! He was the only one who raced in his
category, but this was still a monumental day for Brendan. He was able to race for the first time, bring home sponsor swag, bring home a medal, and receive an invitation to Jay Peak for the finals. Brendan was excited that he finally had an excuse to travel up to Jay Peak.

A few days after racing with VC, Brendan received an email from NASTAR. It stated that he had qualified for the National Championship. Astonished, Brendan thought it was a joke, but it was not. At first, he was torn because it was so sudden. The championship was in Aspen and only a few days after VC’s finals. He finally decided he could not pass up the opportunity to board out west, and was very pleased he was able to get many discounts to make it affordable.

He was very glad he decided to bite the bullet and do it because he said “it was a trip that will change my life forever.” Everyone was very friendly and came from many different backgrounds! He stated “I made some friendships that may last a lifetime. There were people from all age groups and a lot of them were simply doing it for the enjoyment, the friendships and the chance to take a trip of a lifetime.” He was able to take a lesson from an ex pro before his race and learn some racing techniques of how to use each part of his body individually to carve. Come race day, Brendan was more than ready and won his division again. Despite being the only one in his category, he felt he really deserved this win because of how much he learned and improved. He qualified for the bronze division and raced against everyone over 18 who qualified for that division. He stated that “This was a head to head race with professional level starting gates on a more challenging run. This is where I had the most fun. Out of the 30 people, mostly skiers, I finished 4th overall, just missing the podium and a cash prize. I was more than happy with that result.” He said that he “definitely felt like I belonged” and he said he knew he needed to continue racing.

Overall, Brendan stated that he “would absolutely recommend both of these events to everyone who had the slightest interest in racing slalom.” He said “This is something you obviously don’t need any racing experience for and it’s something you’ll never forget. It was totally free to try and you will meet people you will never forget. I just wish I had started this journey earlier.”
Brendan is excited to get back at it next winter!

Brendan is exactly the kind of racer the Vertical Challenge loves to welcome and foster through the program. The Vertical Challenge was completely foreign to him at first, seeing as he found us through a TV advertisement. He came for free with zero racing experience and he left with not only a medal, but some great racing experience under his belt. We always encourage first time racers with the slightest bit of interest, of any age or ability, to come to try it out at our events because we can guarantee you will always leave with something positive, whether that’s a medal, some fantastic sponsor samples, or some great memories.

Stay tuned for the final blog post of this series, featuring Robyn Loverro

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