Scott Ferguson
scottferguson_kevinwright1_.jpg Kevin Wright, a junior at CU, will represent the CU Snowboard Team at the collegiate national championships, March 8 to 12, 2011, in Sun Valley, Idaho. Photo by Scott Ferguson.

M embers of the CU snowboarding club team aren’t exactly what some may expect.

They don’t skip class to go to the mountains.

They aren’t all Coloradans, nor California transplants. They aren’t solely 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 pay dues and send donation letters to family and friends. 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).

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 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, said that while skateboarding is pretty different from snowboarding, certain skills — such as doing rails — carry over into their sport.

CUST riders practice their jumps at jumpstreet indoor trampoline park and foam pits Woodward at Copper, a ski and snowboard program.

Kelly McFarlane, team president, said these practices help riders get more comfortable with the rotations of their jumps, as well as 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 said.

Weight training is also an important part in the process of avoiding injuries, McFarlane said. Before the snow season starts, the team spends about two months weight training, led by head coach Patrick Abramson. He said 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 said.

Abramson said he tries to “beef up” a lot of areas that are not only worked in snowboarding, but that are also easily injured. He also tries to build up riders’ cardio systems, which he said is important for members who aren’t used to Colorado’s high altitude.

“A lot of injuries come from fatigue,” Abramson said. “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 a 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 in the mountains.

“As much as everyone loves snowboarding, school comes first,” Abramson said. “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 said 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 comes equipped with an LCD screen, allowing riders to view footage of their runs for improvement.

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

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

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