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Auburn Ski Club helps ‘boarders reach new heights

By: Eric J. Gourley Journal Sports Writer
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For high school snowboard squads in the Sierra Nevada run by coaches with little or no on-mountain experience, the Auburn Ski Club’s snowboard program has proved a valuable asset. Placer High senior Caty O’Connor, who will shoot for her third state championship next week at Mount Shasta, has been active in the club for five years. “All the high schools involved are definitely benefiting from people with more experience,” said O’Connor, who competes with the club’s accomplished travel team in addition to racing for the Hillgals. “The high school coaches around here definitely know enough, but ASC coaches, this is what they know. It’s what they do.” Dylan Omlin, a former professional snowboarder, has coached the ASC riders for more than a decade. “Because there is no money, a lot of these high schools are being run by a volunteer mom or a math teacher who have no on-the-hill experience,” Omlin said. “We staff a couple guys at their races. For the schools that come through us, we pretty much are their high school training.” The club also instructs gifted beginners as young as 6 and features several progressively challenging teams that eventually filter into the competition squad for veteran riders. Some of them travel worldwide as part of the Burton Global Open Series, which kicked off in New Zealand last August and includes stops in Europe, Japan and Canada. Athletes like O’Connor and Kristen Harvey of Truckee travel with Omlin to many Grand Prix events, U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association competitions and Olympic qualifiers. “There are probably about 10 of us on competition team,” said Harvey, who helped launch Truckee High’s snowboard team three years ago. “We just basically travel around all season. There are lots of competitions in Copper Mountain, Colo. We’re going to Mount Hood in Oregon soon. It’s really cool. We’re like our own little family.” Four of those high-end riders will be in action through the weekend when the Revolution Tour makes its third stop of the season at Boreal. The event features athletes competing for almost $30,000 in prize money in halfpipe, slopestyle and boardercross competitions. O’Connor hits the hill today in boardercross, where she’ll be joined by Harvey and Ryan Stassel, an Alaska native who trains and travels with ASC and has had some of the club’s best results this winter. O’Connor will be back on the mountain Sunday for slopestyle alongside Stassel and Bryan Shuey, an Incline Village native and Olympic halfpipe qualifier. Shuey will also take on the halfpipe Saturday.