by Dennis Dalman
Drew Danielson, 18, is back in Sartell for the summer after competitive snowboarding down the sides of many mountains way out west.
Some of his friends and acquaintances call him a “dare devil.” Some call him “crazy.” But Danielson always grins and laughs it off.
“I tell them I’ve been doing it for a long time, and I’m used to it now,” he said. “I know what I’m doing.”
He did, however, take a few spills. Last year he broke his collar bone; two years ago he broke a wrist.
Before returning to Sartell, in April Danielson did a telephone interview with the Newsleader while he was in British Columbia, Canada for a mountain snowboard competition. It was the North American Freeride Championships in Kicking Horse, British Columbia. He took third place in the Big Sky National Competition in mid-March.
Danielson competes in the junior category, and this is his last year before he ages out of the junior category, then joins senior competition.
He tried snowboarding in high school, and after a few tries he got better – much, much better. He is now ranked sixth among 15- to 18-year-old freeride snowboarders in North America.
In the winter and spring, Danielson lives in Tahoe, Calif. with a friend, a fellow snowboarder, along with that friend’s sister. He works at a snowboard shop in Tahoe.
Before moving to Tahoe, he was a member of the Big Sky Montana Snowboarding Team.
He spends summer and fall back home in Sartell. He is a senior at Sartell High School but completed a lot of his school work online while living in Tahoe. The online work was done via the University of Nebraska’s Online High School, which caters to students dedicated to the arts and/or athletics, and quite a few of them are avid snowboarders. He has already applied to two colleges. When back in Sartell, Danielson is a member of the SabreStorm Fishing Team.
Danielson now belongs to the Tahoe Palisades Snowboard Team, which has 20 members who all train together but compete individually. The technical name for mountain skiing and snowboarding is “freeriding.” A snowboard, strapped to the feet, is 159 centimeters long, wooden, with a metal edge and the bottom is another surface to help the board slide slickly on snow.
“The fastest I’ve gone is 60 miles per hour,” he said.
In freeriding competitions, snowboarders generally ride to the top of a mountain on a ski lift. Once at the summit, they snowboard down a slope (some of the slopes are dizzyingly steep). Snowboarders maneuver their boards in a sideways stance as they swoosh down the mountain side. It generally takes about 10 minutes to get to the bottom. The snowboarders are judged in five categories. The mountains are not just high snowy hills, far from it. One he snowboarded on in Montana is 11,000 feet high.
There are regional and national freeride competitions. Snowboarders can compete as often as they like in regional competitions and can participate in nationals up to three times a year. At year’s end, a competitor’s points are totaled from their top two regionals and top two nationals.
This year, Danielson competed in three regionals, all in California and in two nationals. Two of the regionals took place in Tahoe (second place in each of them) and one in Truckee (10th place). In one national, also at Tahoe, he placed second and in the other national (Big Sky, Mont.) he took third.
Danielson loves to be up in the mountains.
“It’s so pretty up there,” Danielson said. “I hope to keep snowboarding mountains for a lifetime.”