A senior at Lindbergh High, Ellison began snowboarding when he was 11 years old and has been racing for the past six years. In that short time, he garnered Top 2 finishes at the NASTAR [NAtional STAndard Race] National Championships in 2013, 2014 and 2015. He also has placed in the top 10 in multiple races, including third place in 2015, in United States of America Snowboard Association [USASA] snowboard competitions. In all, he has five Top 3 finishes in the USASA Midwest Best division, as well as 12 Top 10 finishes.
“I am currently the top racer in the state of Missouri,” Ellison said.
His passion for snowboarding led him to the Hidden Valley Ski Team where, in 2014, he assisted in developing the first year of the HVST Snowboard Team. Now certified to coach, Ellison said he wants to pass on his passion for snowboarding and competition to younger athletes.
“It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to teach others and watch them improve, and pass my love of the sport along,” Ellison said, explaining that he has a philosophy that will help young snowboarders grow in the sport. “Success comes in steps, so you may not always be successful in your first or second or even third time. But the important thing is to have fun and exhibit good sportsmanship, which are both more important than just winning.”
The snowboard team is open to youngsters who already have the fundamentals of snowboarding and want to learn to advance those skills into racing at regional or national events.
Ellison’s addition brings to two the number of certified racing coaches for the team. Phil Pennell, also a nationally ranked snowboard racer, debuted the snowboard racing program for HVST last season with Ellison among its first members.
“We generated a lot of excitement in the region when we announced last year that we added a snowboard racing component to the Hidden Valley Ski Team,” said coach Dave Coulter. “It is our goal to develop a high-quality, highly competitive snowboard race team from St. Louis.
“I would like to see every athlete I coach have fun and improve their riding ability. If that happens, I think I’ve succeeded in what every coach hopes to do.”
Currently five boys, ages 9 to 16, are on the team. The team allows boys and girls ages 3 to 18 to participate, so there is room for more athletes. If that happens, more coaches also will be needed.
“It can be very challenging at times,” Ellison said. “With the ski team having over 90 kids, and 12 coaches, you can split them up into groups by their ability. With me being the only snowboard coach, I have to have all ability levels in one group. I may have one athlete barely starting to learn a skill, while I have another who has mastered it, and I have to balance coaching them at the same time.
“We mostly focus on the fundamentals of snowboarding, as that is what helps the athletes progress the most. We typically move into racing technique towards the middle and end of the season.”
The practices usually consist of taking two to three runs to warm up. Then the team either moves into drills to focus on a specific skill, or “running gates,” which is the term used for racing.
Hidden Valley hosts NASTAR races every Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Racers can see how their times rank against snowboarders in their age bracket across the country.