How Mammoth Mountain Helps Develop World-Class Snowboarders

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Benjamin Wisner wanted to cover the slopestyle course at Mammoth Mountain’s famed Main Park with what looked like the world’s largest slide. Only one question stood in his way.

“Is this going to be cool?” asked Mammoth Mountain’s chief financial officer.

A one-word affirmative answer was all it took to get over $100,000 for the revolutionary air bag.

“It’s Mammoth, you know,” Wisner said. “We do what no one else does.”

In a sport obsessed with pushing boundaries, the resort’s forward-thinking culture and idyllic surroundings have produced some of Team USA’s best snowboarders and freeskiers thanks to its famed Mammoth Mountain Ski and Snowboard Team. The Wisner-run club has four former members of the Beijing Olympic snowboard team with reigning gold medalist Chloe Kim, halfpipe teammates Maddie Mastro and Tessa Maud and slopestyle snowboarder Dusty Henricksen.

“I owe my whole career to the Mammoth team,” said Maud, who will be making her Olympic debut. “I learned everything I know from them.”

American snowboarder Tessa Maud of Team USA competes in a practice run at Mammoth Mountain on January 5.

(Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Maud, 18, was named to Team USA’s rookie squad last year, giving her access to national team coaches, but she wanted extra support from the club and the coach who shaped his career from 7 years. So she returned to Mammoth and Wisner for her Olympic qualifying run.

“His ability to connect with an athlete is unlike anyone else,” said Maud of Wisner, who coaches Mammoth’s elite halfpipe athletes and helps the rookie halfpipe team at Team USA in addition to his role as manager of the Mammoth team. “I’ve worked with so many coaches over the years and he has such a great way of helping and supporting us and putting his heart and soul into his athletes.”

A decade and a half after becoming Mammoth’s head coach, Wisner still celebrates every stomped round and agonizes over every fall. It was by seeing his athletes achieve great races in competition that he began to train.

The married father of three grew up dreaming of surfing professionally before a friend introduced him to snowboarding at 17. When he realized that snowboarding meant there was no need to wait for winds, waves or tides, it was love at first sight.

Wisner, 44, started out as a lift operator when many of his resort’s instructors, who were also professional snowboarders, saw his talent for giving advice to snowboarders on lifts. They convinced him to try coaching.

It was the best combination of traveling the world as a competitor and sharing the sport he loved. His professional journey has taken him to the best mountains in Europe and North America. None compared to Mammoth.

With its bright blue skies, big mountain and superb snow on meticulously maintained parks, Mammoth is one of the most popular ski resorts in the country and the official training ground of Team USA for snowboarding and snowboarding. free skiing. The conditions attract top athletes such as three-time Olympic gold medalist Shaun White and two-time Olympic slopestyle champion Jamie Anderson.

American snowboarder Dusty Henricksen of Team USA competes in men's slopestyle.

American snowboarder Dusty Henricksen competes in the men’s slopestyle during the Toyota Grand Prix of the United States at Mammoth Mountain on January 8.

(Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

But the connection for the members of the Mammoth team runs deeper than that of those who just stop by to practice.

“This is my home,” said Henricksen, 18, whose 2021 victory in the X Games slopestyle competition was the first for an American since White in 2009. “Just the atmosphere, the park, everything is You can’t choose a better place, in my opinion.”

When he took over as head coach of Mammoth, Wisner elevated the program to America’s Ski and Snowboard Club of the Year in 2019. He did so by recruiting families to stay after taking the job, finding coaches from the United States and his native Australia and working 60-80 hours a week rewriting the training plan with a simple strategy in mind.

“I always ask my coaches, ‘What’s the new trend?

Sometimes they test different coaching exercises. They are exploring new waxing techniques to help riders go faster. Recently, the latest development in snowboarding and freeskiing has been airbags like the one Mammoth launched in 2017.

The 192-foot-long, 76-foot-wide “Progress Bag” is an inflatable slide that allows athletes to try bolder tricks with an added layer of safety. No one had put one on the snow until Mammoth unveiled it a year before the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.

As the Beijing Games approached, airbags in slopestyle and halfpipe training continued to revolutionize the sport.

Mastro used an airbag at Mammoth to practice her breakthrough double cripple, which she used to win the 2019 US Open Snowboarding Championships. The 21-year-old was the first woman to land the double backflip in snowboarding competition. halfpipe and is able to improve on his 12th place in Pyeongchang.

Mastro began training with Mammoth’s elite team full-time when she was around 13, sharing the halfpipe with Kim. The Olympians lead Mammoth dominance in the women’s halfpipe.

Maddie Mastro competes on the halfpipe during a Toyota United States Grand Prix event at Mammoth Mountain in January 2018.

Maddie Mastro competes in the halfpipe at Mammoth Mountain in January 2018.

(Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

All six women named to the USA Snowboard Team for the 2021-22 season came from Mammoth.

“We obviously loved it and had fun doing it, but a lot of us were super competitive,” Mastro said. “We push each other up the hill. We ride together every day and we all had very similar goals and desires, whether it was to do well in competition or to get certain tricks, so it was such a great energy and such a group to [be] pushing themselves up the mountain.

The next generation of Mammoth snowboarders ready to conquer the sport include Bea Kim, a 14-year-old from Palos Verdes, and Sonny Alba, a 15-year-old San Pedro native who won the 2020 US Open Junior Jam. boys, Wisner has high hopes for Levko and Lys Fedorowycz, brothers 17 and 15, respectively, who can do slopestyle and halfpipe.

The four emerging hopefuls competed in the United States Grand Prix at Mammoth in January, a World Cup competition featuring the best riders in the world. Wisner had another 13-year-old prospect who could easily have reached the women’s halfpipe final, but he won’t name her. He doesn’t want to overexpose her just yet.

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Wisner said. “Let your child grow as they grow. No one is the same; not everyone will be Chloe Kim at Chloe Kim’s age.

MAMMOTH, CA - JANUARY 20: Chloe Kim competes in the final round of the Women's Snowboard Halfpipe.

Chloe Kim competes on the halfpipe during a Toyota United States Grand Prix event at Mammoth Mountain in January 2018.

(Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Deliberate, long-term athlete development is what he called the club’s “secret sauce.” He knew Chloe Kim was going to be awesome the moment he spotted the young star aged 6, but he didn’t rush to force her into the spotlight in 2014 when the 13-year-old qualified for the Sochi Games but was too young to compete. People encouraged Wisner to petition to get Kim into the Games, which had a minimum age of 15.

Kim later told NBC Olympics that she was glad she couldn’t go because she wouldn’t have been emotionally ready for the Olympic stage at age 13. Four years later, she became the youngest woman to win an Olympic gold medal in snowboarding. Now 21, she is a repeat favourite.

After years of training together, Kim and Mastro were the first women to earn their spot on the 2022 U.S. Olympic halfpipe rosters, as they both made the top six in the FIS rankings. They didn’t even have to compete in the last American qualifying event, the United States Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, to secure their Olympic bid.

But Mastro didn’t miss a great homecoming opportunity. Standing shoulder to shoulder, the Mammoth team alumni were officially announced as Olympians of 2022 on January 8. Loud hometown cheers greeted them as they took the stage.

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