How Grass Valley resident Elijah Teeter transitioned from competitive riding to competitive coaching
March 7, 2018
Elijah Teter is a former professional snowboarder, a coach for Olympic medalists and a world traveler.
Ask him, however, and he'll tell you that he is first and foremost a family man.
Considering his roots, it's not hard to identify the blend of athleticism and family that has defined his career, and that continues to shape him today.
Elijah has lived with his wife in Grass Valley since 2011, but the 34-year-old was born and raised in Belmont, Vermont, 15 minutes away from the local resort. It was there he first learned to ski — and later to snowboard — both with his family and as part of a school sanctioned activity that would be the envy of every child: when he was in third-grade, his school mandated that Fridays were not for the classroom, but for the mountain.
That early and regular access set Elijah on a path that he still walks to this day.
"It's all about the opportunity to snowboard," Elijah said. "If the opportunity is there and you're taking advantage of it, you're giving yourself the best bet for success."
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Not only did Elijah take advantage of that opportunity, his brother and sister did too. That decision would eventually carry all three to snowboarding fame.
Elijah began his professional snowboarding career in 2002 when he won Junior World just after graduating high school. Following his victory, Elijah relocated to Tahoe in search of more powder and more victories.
There, he moved in with his sister Hannah. Though she was three years his junior, Hannah had already begun to make a name for herself as a member of the U.S. snowboarding team. Elijah followed her lead — and the lead of his older brother, Abe — and earned a spot on the U.S. roster, as well.
"We had three or four years when we were all traveling around together," Elijah recalled. "We had good family vibes, and it was easy to keep each other grounded. We were really fortunate to be traveling together as family."
As he continued to develop his own skill on the snowboard, Elijah began to notice the skills of other snowboarders — in particular, the ways he could help those skills flourish.
"Even as a professional rider, I would always help out fellow riders," Elijah said. "I wanted to see the best riding from everyone, even my competitors."
Though he only took note of that coaching mentality during his time as a professional rider, Elijah has been a coach since the first time he hit the slopes with his little sister.
"I've always tried to be a mentor for my sister since she was young," Elijah said. "I was always making sure she was stoked and on the right path."
That sense of sibling duty became more official as Hannah became more recognized around the world for her talent in the halfpipe. In preparation for the 2006 Torino Olympic season, Elijah augmented his sibling duties with formal coaching duties, a decision that would culminate in her gold medal halfpipe run in Italy.
Though he continued to compete professionally, Elijah took on more responsibility in his sister's career. He helped her earn silver at the 2010 Olympic games in Vancouver, in which he also competed.
It would be the last competition of his career as a snowboarder, and the start of his career as a snowboard coach.
Coaching the pros
Following his retirement from professional competition, Elijah began to look for more opportunities to coach. Still in Tahoe at the time, newlywed Elijah and his wife also began to look for somewhere to call home.
"One of my best friends said 'you gotta check out Grass Valley,'" Elijah recalled. "We went down and bought a house without knowing anything about the area."
"It's our home now," he added. "We love the community here."
Adding a mortgage to his life was enough incentive for Elijah to seek steady employment, something he hadn't had in his eight years of professional snowboarding.
"As a pro boarder you have ups and downs, but it's certainly not an income," Elijah said. "It's definitely not steady."
Elijah reached out to a few contacts and landed a job at the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy, where he worked as a general instructor for his first year.
By year two, however, he was recognized for his skill with elite level athletes, and was given the top students to coach as he saw fit. By year three, he was working with the pros, including Kaitlyn Farrington, whose gold medal halfpipe ride at the 2014 Olympic games in Sochi pushed Elijah into the upper echelon of snowboarding coaches. It was at those same games that he was awarded the Olympic Medal Best U.S. Snowboard Halfpipe Coach.
Among his athletes was also Ayumu Hirano, the Japanese wunderkind of the Sochi and Pyongyang Olympic games in 2014 and 2018, in which he earned silver both times.
"Coaching him was different with the language barrier, but he could express himself just fine," Elijah said. "And as a coach my job is to make things straightforward and simple anyway. I know what needs to be done and I just give the advice. In the end it's up to them to decide."
Right now, Elijah is in Vail doing what he does best: pushing elite athletes to the top. During this upcoming week of the Burton U.S. Open, Elijah will be working with Ayumu Hirano, 2010 U.S. Grand Prix Champion Louie Vito, and his first client of all: his sister Hannah.
"It's all about family," said Elijah, who cites his wife as his biggest inspiration. "Hold onto them always and they'll lead you through everything."
As for his glory days as a rider, Elijah doesn't get too nostalgic. He'll still hit the slopes occasionally, but following a few painful accidents in his career — including broken ribs and a broken collarbone — he's content to enjoy the sport through his athletes.
"At the end of the day, it's about them having fun on the snowboard," he said. "Snowboarders are in it for those wonderful days with friends and family, having the time of their life. As long as you're stoked, you're bound for success."
Michael Rohm is a freelance writer. He can be reached at email@example.com
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