Nationals next stop for Hale
When Grass Valley resident Nolan Hale was 8 or 9, he took the $300 he won from a raffle and bought his first snowboard.
The racer has been parlaying that investment ever since.
The two-time all-state snowboarder, who recently won the Giant Slalom competition at state and placed third overall in combined events, will now return to Mammoth Mountain to compete in the United States of America Snowboarding Association nationals, March 18-23.
Hale was ranked 13th at last year’s nationals in the 14-15 age division. This year, the 16-year-old will compete against snowboarders from all over the country in the 16-17 age division. Hale estimates that 1,000 snowboarders will be competing, with more than 100 snowboarders in his division. A strong performance at Mammoth could earn Hale a shot at junior Olympic competition.
In preparation for this year’s national tournament, Hale said he has upped every facet of his snowboarding this year. He has gone to better equipment, right down to a different wax. This season’s training routine had him snowboarding every weekend since the snows first arrived in the Sierra Nevada mountains, including intense training with snowboarding coaches at Squaw Valley and five USASA competitions. Hale won two of those events and placed second in the other three.
The trip to Mammoth will be the second in less than a month, as California’s state competition was held there as well.
“I am totally happy that (nationals) will be held there,” Hale said. “Mammoth has a great mountain, and at that elevation, it just keeps really nice.”
Hale has been competitively snowboarding for three years and has been actively involved in the sport since his parents Thom and Kim first introduced him to it as a recreational activity eight years ago.
Thom and Kim are mainstays at his competition, often helping out by serving as Nolan’s lookouts and advisors from their vantage point near the end of the runs.
“We really try to promote this sport, because we are sick of the stereotypes of the kids who snowboard,” Thom Hale said. “Nolan was an all-star Little Leaguer for five years. We knew he was a great athlete; we were just waiting for him to find his niche.”
Nolan likes to contrast the two sports when trying to explain the personal appeal of snowboarding.
“Snowboarding is all about individual expression,” Nolan said. “Playing baseball, everybody does the same exact things. But in snowboarding, you can cut your own line in the snow. And there are different kinds, from big mountain snowboarding, to halfpipe, to slalom.”
Hale watched the Winter Olympics on television and was amazed with the amount of coverage the sport was given.
“The Olympics wiped out the stereotypes that snowboarders are druggies,” Hale said. “Nobody was doing drugs, and these kids showed they are real world-class athletes. So I totally support that more people are interested in the sport.”
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