CU snowboard team finds perfect balance

Members of the CU snowboarding club team aren’t exactly what some people might expect them to be.

They don’t skip class to go to the mountains. They aren’t all Colorado kids and California transplants only concerned with “shredding the gnar.” And they don’t just work out at the top of mountains.

The University of Colorado Snowboard Team (CUST) has 55 members who join the team by paying dues and sending donation letters out to friends and family members. Riders come from New Jersey to New Mexico and everywhere in between. In total, the members are from 12 different states and one foreign country (Prague, Czech Republic).

The team provides a unique experience for riders, teaching them about avalanche safety and allowing them to take snowmobiles into backcountry terrain. But before they can get to the mountain, they have to do a lot of dry-land training.

The riders have skating and trampoline practices in addition to weight training. The unique combination of dry-land training helps the riders build strength, balance and aerial awareness.

Luke Schultz, CUST vice president, says that while skateboarding is pretty different from snowboarding, certain skills, such as doing rails, carry over into their sport.

CUST riders practice their jumps on trampolines at jumpstreet and foam pits Woodward at Copper. Kelly McFarlane, team president, says these practices really help riders get more comfortable with the rotations of their jumps and alleviate major injuries that can happen when practicing on hard and icy snow.

“Any spins that you’re going to do on a trampoline – that aerial awareness – is going to transfer over into snowboarding,” Schultz adds.

Weight training is also an important part in the process of avoiding injuries. Before the snow season starts, the team spends about two months on weight training led by head coach Patrick Abramson. He says the coaching staff tries to get riders as strong as possible before they start practicing on the snow.

A typical CUST workout includes biking, rowing and core, shoulder, quad and hamstring exercises. Abramson tries to “beef up” a lot of areas that are not only worked in snowboarding, but are also typically injured. He also tries to build up riders’ cardio systems. He says this is especially important for members who aren’t used to the altitude.

“A lot of injuries come from fatigue,” Abramson says. “You start to get tired and then you start to get hurt. So, we really try to get people stronger than they’ve ever been, so they’ll learn faster and get less injuries.”

Once the snow season starts, the team holds practice at Keystone and Breckenridge, where they ride in terrain parks with jumps, rails and superpipe. The team has practice five days a week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., but students build their schedules so that they go to class on days when they aren’t at the mountain.

“As much as everyone loves snowboarding, school comes first,” Abramson says. “This is my ninth season doing it, and coming from the outside, I was like ‘Oh man, I’m going to have a bunch of people skipping class trying to go snowboarding if the snow’s really good.’ It’s not like that at all.”

McFarlane says the combination of intermediate and semi-professional riders on the team creates a great community that helps push everyone to become better. The team van has an LCD screen in it, allowing riders to view video of their runs and see what they’re doing right or wrong.

Schultz says team members not only progress as snowboarders, but also grow in their own education.

“It’s almost like the experience that pro snowboarders get, but we’re getting the college experience at the same time, so it’s the perfect balance,” Schultz says.

By Marlee Horn for the Colorado Daily

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