A fan goes pro: Young Winter Park snowboarder gets to compete with his heroes
Jason Wolle isn’t just a snowboarder. He’s a fan.
A few weeks ago he found himself in Breckenridge, a discretionary pick for Dew Tour, surrounded by some of the world’s best athletes and innovators in his sport: the snowboarding halfpipe.
This was his first trip to the world stage, previously only competing in amateur competitions for the United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association (USASA), and Revolution Tour. But he’d finally made it. He was squaring off against riders he once considered heroes: Shaun White, Ben Ferguson, Ayumu Hirano, Danny Davis.
But they aren’t his heroes anymore. They are his competition. And that’s not the only thing different about this event.
“The thing about going from Rev Tour to a Grand Prix or even Dew Tour is that it’s just such a bigger event, “ said Wolle. “The media presence is huge, and all of the finals are televised. I think there’s more pressure. This is the first year that I competed against Shaun White, Danny Davis, and Ben Ferguson, some of the biggest names in snowboarding. And it was nerve-racking.”
Wolle came out strong, landing his first run with a score of 34. He fell in his second run, and finished 16th in a field of 23 competitors, a promising start to the 18-year-old’s first taste of elite level competition.
“Not too bad for my first-ever Dew Tour,” Wolle recalls.
Wolle grew up in Winter Park where he started snowboarding when he was just two-years-old, a result of his parents’ interest in the sport.
“My parents kind of put me on a board,” Wolle said. “My mom and dad said I should probably start snowboarding at a young age. I was also inspired just through watching the X-Games and other extreme sports. I was watching other people ride and I thought, I want to do that too.”
Wolle started slow, hitting the mountain one day a week with his family, before moving to two and three day weeks as his skills continued to improve. He began training at the Winter Park Competition Center, where he was introduced to the USASA, and began competing against other riders in local competitions in Copper, Breckenridge and Winter Park.
In his early years he competed in slopestyle along with half-pipe, but decided to focus on the pipe because of scheduling issues, and personal preference.
“Part of it was juggling two events,” he said. “Slope and pipe are different events, and often held on different dates, so it was really kind of a burden to travel so much for so many different contests…but the main reason was that I just liked pipe more. It was more fun, and because I skateboard a lot I was really into the transition aspect of it, and I was much better at pipe than slopestyle.”
Wolle said his training started picking up when he was 12 or 13, and he started winning competitions as soon as he hit 14. He was invited to start competing in the Revolution Tour after placing fourth at the USASA Nationals. He finished seventh overall his first year on Rev Tour, and took home his first podium, a second place finish at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania in 2016.
A little over a year ago he took second place at Mammoth Mountain in California, which finally lifted him into World Cup competition.
Following Dew Tour, he competed in his first Grand Prix at Snowmass in Aspen, where he succumbed to illness.
“Snowmass was a weird contest for me,” Wolle said. “I got sick, and I’m not sure if it was the flu or just a cold, but I was super sick contest day…so I didn’t score hardly anything, but it was still a great time. I guess the whole experience of just going to a Grand Prix like that, and having all of the best snowboarders in the same heat was the coolest part about it.”
On Jan. 20 Wolle competed in his second Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, barely missing out on the finals and taking 11th place, the best finish of his short career. He isn’t done yet this season. At the end of February he’ll go to Park City, Utah for another Rev Tour competition, before heading to Calgary and back to Mammoth at the beginning of March.
Even with a busy schedule, Wolle has set his focus on future ambitions, namely the X-Games and the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.
“Both of those contests I grew up watching when I was little,” said Wolle. “Throughout the years I’ve gotten more stoked, and it’s become more of a goal of mine to do those events. I want to go to the Olympics with the United States, and I want to compete in X-Games.
“Winning is always something I wanted to do, but just going is kind of my initial goal. Now that I’ve been doing these Grand Prix and Olympic qualifiers, it’s all seeming kind of real now. Before it was just a dream.”
When he’s not competing Wolle spends his time training in Copper with his coach, Jim Smith, and his summers at home in Winter Park, camping and skateboarding. He spent his freshman year at Middle Park High School, but began taking classes online in his sophomore year so that he could spend more time on the mountain. Wolle’s brother, Jackson, is a junior at Middle Park and is currently leading the basketball team in points and blocks.
Wolle said that he envisions himself going to college sometime after he graduates, and is considering being a doctor, or going into orthopedic surgery.
“Unfortunately I’ve been in too many hospitals and met too many orthopedic surgeons,” Wolle joked. “But they’ve always been super nice to me, and it’s inspiring to see how much they help people.”
Wolle said he’s also interested in staying in the snowboarding industry after he’s done competing. As a fan of the sport, he wants to make sure it’s left in good hands.
“One thing I want to bring to the table is global warming,” said Wolle. “Saving the planet is going to be a huge thing if snowboarding wants to stay in the mainstream. But I think I would just really want to help the sport progress, and not die out. That’s what I’m wishing for in the future.”
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